For someone whose idea of fun as a child was hanging out in the kitchen, and who cooks to relax, I have cut myself more times than I can remember. It’s not that I have terrible knife skilz: Dyspraxia, with its delightful motor coordination issues, along with its attendant concentration problems, means that however much I am working to the book, I will inevitably injure myself, usually because I have lost rhythm or start thinking about something entirely unconnected with the task in hand.
I can look at my my fingers and place each gouged out scar with the arrival of a new super sharp knife: left thumb and forefinger: the Global chef’s knife Tara and Ayla gave me for my birthday, left little finger, my Wusthof paring knife, and so on.
Last year I was given some incredible new Victorinox knives, (truly, they are amazing) and promptly managed to badly slice open my left ring finger. (I turned up at the Tiffany Thanksgiving lunch dripping blood, and Jesus, the Caprice’s unshakeable maitre d’, had to find me multiple blue plasters before I could sit down to eat, and I was unable to cook for three days.)
Enough was enough.
I figured that I needed to take a knife skills class, not so much because I don’t know how to use one, but because I needed to focus my mind more on how to avoid injury, and because it never hurts even the most confident cook to take a lesson or two. Everyone can learn.
Emily, who works for me, is a keen cook, and often helps me with kitchen prep, so I booked us both in for a little staff training: the Knife Skills class at Divertimenti’s cookery school on Marylebone High Street. Arguably one of the best cookshops in the UK, Divertimenti also has a Cookery School in its basement, of which I have only heard good things.
The class on offer looked great, because it wasn’t just about learning to chop things (which I could do already): it included knife care and chicken jointing, two things about which I needed to know more.
One of the things I really could not do pre class was sharpen knives with a steel. Anne gave me one for my birthday years and years ago, and I have never really got to grips with it, so I was thrilled that we started the class with a very thorough lesson in using three types of sharpener, and were shown the correct angles for different knives, so I now know how to sharpen both my Globals and my Western knives.
Then we got to grips with de-boning a chicken. This was also new to me, and it was probably the single most valuable new thing I learnt all day.
We did a lot of vegetable chopping and fruit prep: I didn’t learn anything new to me here in terms of methods to chop and slice, but I did find a better way to hold my knives, which might avoid cutting myself so often, and for that alone, the class was worthwhile, and I foresee fewer scars in my future.
Our tutor Mioara Nedelcu was fantastic, and I really can’t recommend her more highly: she’s charming, professional and fun. She encouraged everyone in the best kind of way, and I think we all came away, whatever our starting level, feeling we had learnt a lot from her.
Oh and her best tip: her favourite knife is a £5 knife with a plastic handle from Victorinox. (Apparently she buys them for all her friends as presents.) I found it phenomenally good for fruit prep, and will be investing in both the serrated and non-serrated versions.
I paid £110 each for the three hours session, which included lunch from the ingredients we had prepared.