Essential Knife Skills @ Sur La Table

November 5th, 2006 · 6 Comments

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Yesterday I went to Sur La Table for a Knife Skills class. I’d never actually been inside the store, but have loved their catalogs and have ordered online from them in the past. The set up is like this: The store is all on the first floor and the classroom is on the second floor. The classroom is set up really cool. The instructor is up front facing the class with a big counter and stove/oven and the class faces him at workstations. There is a huge mirror above the instructor so you can see what’s going on and there is also a video camera with 2 screens, so everyone is guaranteed to see what’s going on. The maximum class size is about 15 people.

Our instructor was Ben Randall, who is a trained restaurant chef. He was really nice and friendly and really knew his stuff. He took the time to answer any personal questions you had and to go around to stations and make sure everyone knew what was going on and could do it. The class was some lecture, some instruction and some hands-on, which was a good mix. All-together the class was about 2 1/2 hours. We learned all about high-end knives (we used various Wusthof and Shun chef and paring knives in class), how to purchase, hold, use, sharpen, and store them. Some of my friends have been to knife classes in the past and really enjoyed them and said that learning this fundamental skill helped them a lot when cooking everything. I found this to be true. People think they know how to use a knife. You just cut stuff, right? But there really is some learned skills involved.

I was afraid that at Sur La Table that they’d be salesy and try to push product, but they really didn’t. Then again, they gave everyone in class a 15% coupon for that day and 10% for the week at the store and I don’t think anyone walked out empty handed. I figured that as long as there was stuff I needed and I had the opportunity to walk around the store with a trained chef and ask him “now what do you think about this? and how do you use it?” that I might as well take advantage. Beats standing there in front of a stack of something and not knowing what to get. We also got a certificate for a free sharpening, so I took my 8″ Mac Chef knife in since it was getting dull. Overall, I thought it was a really great experience. It was a fun & different way to spend my Saturday and I think it will really help out when I’m cooking.

Dallas says that now whenever we cook together I’m going to be in charge of anything that needs to be minced, diced, brunoised, batonneted and julienned.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • James

    What did he say about sharpening? I’ve heard that steels are worthless, and then again, I’ve heard that steels are all you need (but only if you know what you’re doing).

  • rachelle

    About the steels – he said that microscopically the knife blade comes to a point and then there’s a filament that goes out from there and that keeps it seaming sharp. He uses a steel before every cooking project, but really all it does is keep that filament in shape – it folds over when you use the knife. so, he uses the steel every time then if he goes and cuts and it skips or seems dull then he uses the sharpener. Which sharpener you get depends on what knife you had.. he showed us a Wusthoff, but I had to get one made just for Asian knives because the angle is different. He cooks every day and says he uses the steel every day and then sharpens about ever 2 weeks. Also, he said if you get that whetstone thing that you’re likely to do more damage to your knife than good. .. bc it doesnt guide your knife at an angle or anything, it’s just like a brick.. (i hope i got all that right!)

  • JP

    How much does the class cost?

  • rachelle

    it’s on the site I link to – $65 and it lasts about 2 1/2 hours.. although I was there longer. Everything is provided – knives and vegetables/fruits.. they let you take the food home if you want.. i put all my chopped veggies in a huge ziploc and I made a really good soup today.. so you can think of it as getting free dinner too! And then you get the free knife sharpening too, which is usually $1/inch, i think.

  • Crissy

    That’s very cool. I’m so jealous! I’ll need to stop by this place next time we’re in town.

  • rachelle

    you can go to the website too – Sur La Table

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