Being a big home cook, I’ve learned the heard way that the first cut is the deepest. The combination of a dull blade and clumsy fingers is a recipe for disaster, I’ll tell you what.
Earlier this year, Ian and I wanted to up our knife game in the kitchen. After gifting him with a pair of beautiful but intimidatingly sharp chef’s and paring knives, I decided that knife skills classes wouldn’t be a bad idea, too.
After putzing online for a bit, I decided to sign us up at Brooklyn Kitchen. With two locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as a number of classes held throughout the month, it was an obvious choice. Besides, it was also the least expensive, relative to places like the ICC’s knife skills classes.
For convenience’s sake, I opted for knife classes at the Gotham West Side Market location. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, this new market of shops and pop-up counters of grade A grub is not dissimilar to Chelsea Market, though not as big or crowded. Definitely a plus for the neighborhood, and for us, closer to my place in Harlem.
Tucked in the back of the market is Brooklyn Kitchen, which stocks not only foodstuffs but also a slew of kitchen supplies for chefs and bartenders, while in the corner is a working teaching kitchen. While Ian brought his knives so he could get the feel of them, it’s not required as the Kitchen provides them.
First things first: good food starts with good knife skills. It’s the first lesson any aspiring chef or culinary school student learns, in the kitchen or in the classroom. We got the fundamentals: parts of the knife, how to hold it and what to do with your other fingers. Mostly, you need a good grip on the handle and the blade, while your other hand assumes a bear claw position, so you don’t accidentally lob off finger tips.
Protect your fingertips: remember to bear claw.
Then comes the cutting. Leading with carrots, we perfected how to chop through starchy items without the amateurish sound of blade hitting board. We learned how to cut batons, plateaus, dices and mince, using celery, green peppers and onions, respectively. In two hours time, we became more confident through the guided learning, our technique that much better. In no time, Ian and I had cut through our veg—the perfect beginnings of a soup, which you get to take home.
While I’m not a knife noob, I left the class feeling a bit more polished in my skills. I benefitted from the instruction mainly in the efficiency of my cuts; it was a realization that I wasted so much veg because I didn’t cut it properly.
Our instructor, a gregarious working chef, also showed us how to properly used a paring knife, and what is offered at the second level of knife skills classes, which focuses on prepping meat. In less than two minutes, he broke down half a whole chicken, showing us the speed and efficiency of knife mastery (see lead image above). Ian and I plan on attending that class in the coming months, if only to prep for the impending zombie apocalypse. Hey, you never know.
Brooklyn Kitchen | Manhattan | 11th Avenue between 44th and 45th Street
Update: Well, that’s a bummer. The Gotham Market location of Brooklyn Kitchen is closed. Visit their (thankfully, still open) W-burg location instead.