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So, I just started Culinary School...

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

But it's OK -- I work for the college as a computer science instructor, so I get to go for free... minus books and whatnot. :)

 

I'm taking two classes, Sanitation and Food Prep I, that's about all I have time for this semester with my work and teaching schedule.  Sanitation is good, but a little boring; I was supposed to take it over the summer, but it was cancelled so I did a lot of self-study and I'm pretty much on autopilot with that at the moment.

 

So, my Food Prep I is, of course, the fun one, although it had a rough start.  The first week was cancelled due to the hurricane, the next weekend was Labor Day Weekend, so it was cancelled again.  This past Saturday was my first class...

 

My instructor is the Sous Chef at The Green Room at the Hotel DuPont and seems to be very cool.  We spent the first three hours going over the lecture material (Professionalism, Equipment and Knife Skills).  The other 5 hours were spent in the kitchen going over the equipment identification, how to light pilots, and things of that nature.  He talked about knife skills briefly and did a demo of various cuts on onions, potatoes and carrots before we broke out the knives and got to work.

 

Did a julienne and dice on the onion, julienne on the potatoes and julienne, large dice, medium dice and brunoise on the carrots.  Out of the 9 students in the class, 3 or 4 of us cut ourselves within the first 10 minutes or so, heh!  The chef had given us the option before hand to wear the kevlar glove we had to buy, but hell... I figure it's the best way to learn, right?

 

So, I definitely need to work on consistency with squaring off the veg.  I picked up a few pounds of potatoes and onions to work on this week, but I'm really looking forward to this coming Saturday, we'll be doing soups, stocks and poultry.

post #2 of 15

Hey, Rob! You are already one step ahead of me... I was going to suggest 'home work' practice on potatoes to get some muscle memory going. Good luck with your new adventure!

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #3 of 15

Hey Rob, great podcast btw however I noticed theirs no new updates are you still doing the podcast?

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

Trying to get back into the swing of things -- I'm just about caught up in Sanitation, so I want to continue on from here, but the weekend class schedule kills my free time...  I'll do my best to get back on that! smile.gif

post #5 of 15

Hey Rob,

I am assuming you are going to Miami Dade. I just registered for January. I am taking culinary terminology, food production I and sanitation. I am a full time Firefighter for Miami Dade Fire Rescue, so I have time restraints too. I Like the intro and was wondering if you wouldn't want to do a post for students at Miami Dade? It is such a new culinary school, that there are probably a lot of beginners like me that would like to know what to expect.

 

Is there anything I could do to prepare me for the classes I mentioned. I start January 2012.

 

Thanx

Errol

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Errol,

 

I'm actually in the Culinary Arts department up in Delaware Tech, so I can't offer any institution-specific advice; however, there are a few suggestions that are general I can offer:

 

1) Learn as much as you can now.  If you have a commute into work and a smartphone or MP3 player you can plug into the car or listen to, head over to http://stellaculinary.com -- he has a slew of audio podcasts that take you through the basics of culinary, cooking methods, mother sauces, starches and so forth that will give you a good jump start on your education.  You can also search for Stella Culinary Podcast on iTunes and subscribe.  He also has a lot of video podcasts on various techniques, watch them.

 

2) I have a stalled audio podcast project for Sanitation...  if your institution is going the Servsafe route, you can head over to http://culinarystudentpodcast.com/ and click on the Sanitation category -- there are 6 or 7 podcasts that cover the first half of the book you'll probably be using and the various concepts included.

 

3) Get a good chef's knife and start practicing your knife cuts now.  Learn the difference between a small, medium and large dice.. what a battonet and julienne is and buy a bag of potatoes to practice!

 

Best of luck!!

post #7 of 15

Hi Rob,

Thank you for your quick response. I feel a little like a dork, thinking that you are in my program. I guess there are a lot of culinary programs with the same program or at least the same lingo.  I am just so excited to actually be going to school for something I love to do.  I retired from my first career after putting 19 years in, I have  21 years in my second career  and 10 years in my third career. So, now my fourth career will be the one I wanted the most and I feel giddy like a teenager.

 

Thank you for your advice. I will work on the knife work and will listen to the podcasts. I really don't know how to pick out a good knife. I have always struggled with that, it seems everyone has there particular favorite. Are there specific things that I should look for in a chef's knife? I though that the sanitation class looked boring as I signed up for it, but I though it will help me be a safer chef. I am in the medical field now and am always careful to keep a safe kitchen to the best of my ability.

 

I look forward to your success in the culinary world!

 

Errol

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

It's kind of like asking someone what their favorite kind of car is...

 

It really is something you need to hit your local kitchen store or Williams and Sonoma and ask to see and hold the knife -- they're used to it -- and see if they have a cutting board so you can get a feel for the weight, balance and motion.  You may want to go in your whites or bring in your schedule; some places offer discounts to culinary students or people in the industry.

 

Not sure how your current knife skills are, but when you hold your chef's knife, you're actually pinching on the blade, just in front of the bolster.  So, you should be able to balance the blade on your finger at that point -- that's where your fulcrum should be to get that rocking motion when you're cutting.  Some people like light blades for less fatigue after long use while some people like a little bit of heft to the blade to help achieve that balance.

 

Here's the thing with knives -- if you have the disposable income, you're going to be better off starting with a set, it'll be cheaper in the long run.  I'm a fan of Henkel's (nice weight, excellent balance, fits my hands well), so I picked up a 7 piece set -- I believe it was their "Pure" series.  It came with an 8" chefs, steel, pairing, bread, utility, mini-santoku and a block -- it retailed for $450, but with their 20% student discount, I paid $310.  I then spent $100 on a slicer and carving fork and $80 on a fillet and boning knife to complete the set.

 

So, for about $500, I have a full set of high quality knives that will probably stay with me the rest of my life

 

There are other good quality names to look at like Shun and Wusthof, but honestly, go out and test drive a few. :)

 

Be sure to update on how your search and classes go -- always interested in hearing about others' experiences.

post #9 of 15

One tip for picking out knives, I did the exact same thing when I bought my first knives and got a set. however now, I can't remember the last time I even USED a boning or paring knife. And I have a bread knife, but it pretty much sits at home. Spend your money on a high quality chef's knife, and grab the lesser quality (not the walmart brand, mercer is good) for all the other ones. 

Rob is right though, take it for a test drive. hold it, put it on the table and pick it up. It's better to look weird in the store than buy a knife that you end up realising that you don't like the way the handle feels when you put it down (shun's can be "slippery")

Best of luck mate!
:tux

:chef tux

"Mother Nature is the true artist, the Chef is merely the technician"

    -MPW

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:chef tux

"Mother Nature is the true artist, the Chef is merely the technician"

    -MPW

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post #10 of 15

Kevlar gloves should be worn when cutting meat and fileting fish. Other wise they are just to bulky. Just keep those fingers tucked under.

Good luck

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #11 of 15

Thanx Cheftux! good advice, I will try them all out.

 

post #12 of 15

Rob,

 

The videos at stella cullinary are awesome. I have been changing my knife handling and even my chop! I was wondering what are those finger condoms that I have seen on culinary shows called . Where do you purchase them? I was thinking it would be good to have just in case.

post #13 of 15

BAD PART ABOT ALL THESE SO CALLED FINGER PROTECTORS IS THAT YOU WILL START TO RELY ON THEM..

 

Just practise with the knife on a carrot or a potato. Use the heel of the knife and rock rock rock with your other hand fingers tucked under . I have taught 100s od young fellows to use knives and never with gloves or guards. Some of them are so good now they can evenly dice a potato before you can even cut one in half. Its called practice

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #14 of 15

Learn to sharpen.

 

Balance shouldn't be an issue.  If it is, you can't handle a knife yet. 

 

The pinch doesn't necessarily go to the balance point, although with most 8" - 11" knives it will be close.  No matter where the balance point is, the pinch -- like any pivot point -- creates it's own fulcrum.  

 

The knife action doesn't come from the balance point, but from the shape of the edge (profile) and the user's own action.  Ideally, you'll find a knife which suits your action; but when you're learning it's a good idea to find a knife which will help you develop a good action.

 

Modern cook knife profiles come in two basic flavors, German and French.  The German style has more arc (called belly) along the blade.  French style knives are flatter and more triangular.  The shorter the blade, the easier to see the difference but it's there.  German style knives are generally heavier.  The one thing a heavy, German style knife will get you is the ability to work better when it's dull.  It will crush instead of cut, but at least that's something.  (Henckels Pure are extremely German, btw.)

 

Most French style knives are now made in Japan, they're lighter, more agile, and much easier to sharpen and keep sharp because they're made form "better" alloys.  A sharp knife doesn't have to be hefty to work well.

 

I think the French style promotes a better action than the German, but that's arguable.  Japanese knives can be made much sharper, and that's not.  At the end of the day, neither French/Japanese nor German are inherently better, but each brings a different set of characteristics and tradeoffs.

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

"Heft" will always feel better in the store.  Light will always feel better on the line.  Nothing substitutes for sharpness. 

 

Learn to sharpen. 

 

I think it's a good idea to start with an entry-level Japanese chef's knife (Fujiwara FKM, Tojiro DP, eg., NOT Shun); and buy good quality, but low priced blades for everything else.  R. H. Forschner/Victorinox Rosewood and Fibrox lines (same except for the handles) are the obvious, "everything else" choice. 

 

An 8" chef's is easier to handle if you don't know what you're doing.  Once you have a decent grip, a 10" knife is just as intuitive, and a lot more productive.  Get a 10". 

 

An 8" "sharpening steel" is too short.  If your longest knife is 8" get a 10" rod hone (aka "steel").  If your longest knife is 10", get a 12" steel.  Only get a "fine," "extra-fine," or "polished steel," any medium grit steel will be counterproductive, and a coarse of diamond will quickly destroy your knives.  Don't get an oval steel, get a round one.  Learn to use a steel properly, 90 something percent of the people you see using them -- including many culinary teachers -- use then wrong. 

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

The most important knife skill you can learn is sharpening.  That means using something besides a steel; but includes actually knowing how to use a steel.  A knife fresh from the factory is barely sharp; you can do much better with a very basic kit. 

 

You don't need any safety aids.  You need to learn how to hold the knife with your knife hand (soft pinch), and how to hold the food with your off hand (claw).  There are other ways to do both things just as well, but those are the gold standards for high knife skills in a western kitchen; and as a student, you might as well learn them.  You need to keep your knives consistently very sharp, so they're predictable.  More than anything else, you need to pay attention to what you're doing. 

 

Cooking and learning to cook are all about paying attention.  Focus on what you're doing.  If you can't listen and work, or work and talk, do which ever is most important.  If you can't find the time to do it right the first time, where are you going to find the time to do it again?

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

BDL

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post #15 of 15

Knives and Knife Skills for School.

 

Learn to sharpen, and learn to sharpen well.  Knives are all about sharpness.  All knives dull eventually.  Any dull knife -- no matter how expensive, how good, how skillfully used -- is a dull knife.  A sharp knife makes learning knife skills and knife prep work vastly less onerous, and probably safer as well.  

 

8" or 10"?  10"!  It cuts bigger handfuls, has a longer flat section, and stays sharp longer.  While it's a matter of taste to some degree, as a student you don't have taste yet.  You think you do, but you're mistaken.  You might as well learn the more productive length.  While 8" seems easier to point than 10" when you don't have any skills, a 10" is just as intuitive when you do.   This will help explain.  A dull knife will force a strong (as opposed to a soft) grip.  A soft grip is easier to control, more comfortable, less tiresome, sexier, and will earn you discounts at bars everywhere. 

 

Modern chef's knives come in two basic types of profiles, German and French.  Nearly all Japanese made chef's knives are French.  Shun, to name a counter example, are Japanese made but German profiled.

 

The German profile's blade has more arc (called "belly") than a French profile.  The rocking action the belly imposes is one source of its power.  Weight is the other.  Unfortunately, power requires a strong grip.

 

German knives are typically heavier, and -- as said -- more "powerful."  Power mostly pays off in the sense that a German will work better dull than a French shape.  No knife works well dull, though.  German knives are thicker, and tend to wedge.  They're made from "tough" steels which hold up to abuse without chipping easily, but they "roll" easily and need a lot of steeling.  It's a good idea to have a heavy duty knife for heavy duty work in any case, but a German will allow you to get away with a lot more abuse.  

 

Japanese made French profile knives are lighter and more agile.  They get and stay much sharper than German knives, and have far less propensity to wedge.  On the other hand, they require more skill and better kit to get them sharp; and you need to carry something else for heavy duty tasks (like cutting chickens, portioning spare ribs, cutting thick-skinned gourds, pineapple, etc.).  For the vast majority of prep tasks, a Japanese chef's knife is more productive.

 

We can talk about French made, French profiles if you want. 

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

"Heft" always feel better in the store.  Lightness always feels better on the line -- especially after a few minutes.

 

If you already have well-developed chopping and slicing actions, one style will suit you better than the other.  If you don't (and you don't), then your knife's profile will help determine your action.  The French is quieter, and gets more edge on the board without as much rocking.  The German will have you pumping the handle, but is -- as I said -- more powerful.  Sharp beats power, in my opinion.  Here's an explanation of a French action.

 

Each style has its trade offs and strong points.  If you're going to keep your knives sharp, I think a Japanese made French profile is better by far.  It's certainly the modern trend with good knife technicians; but superiority is arguable, and at the end of the day, a matter of taste. 

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

For a lot of reasons, as a student or pro, you're better off not buying a set.  Put your money into your most important and most used shape(s) and get only as good as you actually need for the rest. 

 

I suggest getting an entry level Japanese chef's such as a Fujiwara FKM (~$80) or Tojiro DP (~$100) and with one exception filling out the rest of your kit with R. H. Forschners / Victorinox.  Forschner makes two R. H. Forschner lines, Rosewood and Fibrox.  The only difference between them is the handles.  The 10.5" bread knife and all of the butchering shapes are absolutely gold standard, but priced very reasonably.  No brainers.  Their other knives are good enough, and priced reasonably.  There's certainly competition for parers, petties and so forth, but there's no reason to get a headache searching them out for a student kit.  Forschner is a good choice for everything but your chef de chef (aka "heavy duty") knife.  Good, special purpose, heavy duty knives are expensive.  A decent, used German will do fine for that.  So will an Old Hickory "Butcher's" profile, a machete, a CCK meat cleaver, and a lot of other cheap choices. 

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

Don't get an 8" "sharpening steel."  If your longest knife is 8", get a 10" rod hone.  If it's 10", get a 12" rod.  Don't buy an oval, only buy round.  Don't buy medium, coarse or diamond; only fine, extra fine or polished.  I usually recommend the Idahone 12" fine (sometimes sold as the "1200") ceramic, but there are a bunch of other choices.  Some may be more suitable for you if you're going to be shlepping it around a lot. 

 

Something like 93.8% of the people you see using a steel are using it wrong.  Learn the right wayYou might as well read this too, while you're there.

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

Honing on a rod is not sharpening.  Get an appropriate set of stones or an Edge Pro if you can afford one, and learn to use them.  Honing on a rod is not sharpening.  A manual pull through isn't adequate for a professional.  Avoid carbide sharpeners like the plague.  Like putting retreads on a race car, junk sharpeners won't get you anywhere near your knives' potential.

 

Learn to sharpen.

 

You don't need special safety gloves or shields as a student.  You need to learn a good grip, and the basic techniques of "claw," and "cut and retreat" with your offhand.   Some people say that a sharp knife is safer than a dull one because it's more predictable. While I agree, I don't think it's nearly as important as paying attention.  The key to safety is paying attention.  If you can't listen and work, or work and talk, pick whichever's most important and do that.  When you've got a knife in your hand, pay attention.

 

Pay attention.  Learn to sharpen.

 

Learning to cut planks, sticks and dice is very easy once you know how to hold the knife and use your offhand as a claw and for "cut and retreat."   Don't worry about speed or perfect accuracy  until you can learn to make the basic cuts  without overthinking.  Now, however, is the time to overthink.  Enjoy yourself.   Grip, claw, cut and retreat.  You don't need perfect sizing yet.  That and speed come automatically with practice.  The less you try, the better you become.  But it takes awhile to get beyond the "trying" stage. 

 

If you really want to master a useful skill outside of school, invest in some rice or dried beans, put a handful or two in a skillet and and practice tossing it.  Clean up, and keep doing it until your arms scream.  Toss turning without spilling is one of the things which separates joes from pros.  Like knife skills.  

 

Learn to sharpen.  Pay attention. 

 

We can start a thread on sharpening if you're interested.

 

Learn to sharpen.  Pay attention. 

 

Good luck,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/27/11 at 5:02pm
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