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Secrets of a Restaurant Chef – Getting to Know Your Knives

 

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I have often said that I have the best job in the world. I get to create food for people that nourishes their body and soul.  I can make or break an event (I always try my best to make the event!).   I make jaws drop in amazement and I can give you moments of memorable ecstasy, with food.

I get paid to think about and create food.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

In my job, I cook for thousands of people a week.  Sometimes, I feed the same group of several hundred people, 3 meals a day for several days in a row.  Now, imagine going home and making dinner for just you, your husband and an errant teenager (the rest of my kids are out of the house).  It’s sort of funny to go home and whip up dinner for 2 or 3 or maybe a few more on Shabbat when I just finished making hundreds of meals.  But, for me, it is the calm after the storm and I love it!

I cook a lot in people’s homes as a private chef and to give cooking lessons and presentations.  There are a lot of beautiful kitchens out there and I am surprised that many home cooks do not enjoy their kitchens.  I wanted to share some chef secrets that will help you enjoy cooking at home.

Buy several pieces of good quality equipment.  I am not talking about spending a fortune on expensive mixers and copper pans.  I am talking about purchasing several good knives and a good cutting board.  A chef’s knives are the tools of the trade.  Just as an artist covets their brushes and a craftsman holds dear to their tools, we chefs take our knives very seriously.

Knives

  • Most people hate cutting/cooking because they do not like to struggle with food.  Usually their knives are the culprit.  A good knife will make cutting easier, safer and faster.
  • A good knife will last a lifetime— I always say that your children will fight over the knives after you are long gone.
  • A good knife is not cheap.  A cheap knife is not a good knife.
  • You do not need to buy a “knife set”.  Most sets are priced attractively and include one or two great knives and then a bunch of knives that are odd sized and not very useful (thus the attractive price).
  • Most homes only need a chef’s knife and a paring knife.  With kosher kitchens, that makes two chef’s knives and two paring knives.  If you are a die-hard home cook, then you can add boning knives, cleavers etc… P.S. a well-constructed knife can be kashered for Passover.
  • Do not buy knives from cute college kids selling them during the summer.  Instead, buy the kitchen scissors. The scissors are OK the knife, probably not.

How to hold your knife properly:

Grip the kitchen knife with the last three fingers of your dominant hand.  Slide your hand upwards towards the blade.  Grasp the bolster of the blade with your thumb and forefinger. The bolster is the balance point and finger guard on the actual blade.  Your thumb should rest on the bolster on one side, while your index finger holds it firm on the other side.  Rest your last three fingers comfortably on the kitchen knife handle.  Let your index finger and thumb control the knife.  Hold the item to be cut in your other hand, curling your fingers under themselves and advancing the item with your thumb.  Rest the blade against your fingers and chop.

Take excellent care your knife and keep it sharp.

The basic rule on which knife to use is: if you are cutting a large item, use a large knife and vice versa.

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About Chef Laura Frankel

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I am a chef, restauranteur, cookbook author and mother, you can find out more about me on my blog: ChefLaurasKosher.com

 

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6 Responses to Secrets of a Restaurant Chef – Getting to Know Your Knives

  1. avatar says: Amy

    You certainly made my event when you catered my wedding! Guests still talk about the food, almost 2 years later. I have a question: we have pretty good knives (Wusthoff Classic) that are still sharp. But when they start to dull, how should I sharpen them? And how do you tell if your knife is getting too dull?
    Thanks,
    Amy

    • Hey Amy! how are you?
      when you need to press to hard and the knife is slicing cleanly get those knives sharpened. you should be able to slice very cleanly through a tomato. if there is resistance-get them sharpened. in Chicago, you can go to Northwestern Cutlery or in Skokie at Superior Knife Company. have fun!

  2. Oh,great questions Amy, I will make sure Chef Laura writes us back. I loved this article too and I bought good knives, Wusthoff Classic too, and I hone them regularly and sharpen them yearl, probably not enough, but I still wonder sometimes if they have seen a better day.

  3. Chef Laura,

    Bless you, for addressing this so-important topic. When I was in cooking school, this was exactly what I was taught. In fact, I loved working with knives so much, I was the “teacher” to the first year students in how to sharpen and steel their knives.

    I had a Wustof Classic in cooking school, but as a wedding present received a knife set (I know!) of Henckle knives. I actually miss my Wustof chef knife…

    • i have a Wustof knife Sarah that is like my trusty stead. i reach for it and it feels good in my hand, but recently a sleek and gorgeous Shun Japanese knife with a birch handle and carbon blade caught my eye. it is sort of like a car, you drive and enjoy the one you have, always with an eye on the next model.
      my hairdresser loves her scissors the way a chef loves a knife and i respect that. it should be an extension of your hand and work with you-not against you.

      be well

  4. avatar says: Sizzling

    Me I love my knives too……what do you guys say about ceramic knives? is there a difference it cost like 90 box a knife! any experience?

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