3 Things I Learned at Knife School

by Amber N. Yoo, M.B.A.

This past weekend, we had a fun team outing!  We met up at Great News! for a chef’s class on knife basics. The 3-hour class, taught by Executive Chef Katherine Emmenegger, covered the anatomy of a knife, the correct form for handling a knife, how to chop basic vegetables, and proper knife care.

I don’t by any means consider myself a good cook, but I enjoy the creativity and focus that is inherent in the cooking process. The knife class seemed like a good foundational class for an amateur like me. As our receptionist put it before the class, “I can’t wait to chop like Bobby Flay.”

I doubt I’m a match for Bobby (yet), but we certainly learned a lot from Chef Emmenegger. (We joked that even Dr. Yoo learned a few new tricks with the knife!) My three biggest takeaways from the class include:

1. Triangle Stance – Stand facing the cutting board with your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure your chest is perpendicular to the cutting board, not at an angle. Your arms should form a triangle with your chest, with one hand holding the knife and the other holding the vegetable.

2. Rocking Motion – Hold the knife with a “pinch grip,” meaning your thumb and forefinger pinch the base of the blade. Your other three fingers grip the handle. Position your vegetable and start with the tip of the knife touching the cutting board. Then, glide the blade through the vegetable, all the way to the heel. Lift up, push the vegetable forward and repeat. If you are applying pressure on the handle, you are doing it wrong. Focus on your thumb and forefinger guiding the blade through the vegetable. With a chef’s knife, this should produce a rocking motion.

3. Honing & Sharpening – Honing maintains the angle of the blade. Sharpening sharpens the blade. I’d always heard that knives require sharpening after every use. Wrong! Knives need to be honed often, but only need to be sharpened occasionally. Check with your knife’s manufacturer to see the recommended care.

Overall, it was three hours well spent and we had a great time! If you want to go, Chef Emmenegger teaches this same class regularly. The class is about $50 and when we attended, we received a 25% discount on knives sold in the store.