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Apprentice Chef, struggling with chopping techniques...

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,

 

I have just started as an Apprentice Chef at a highly-acclaimed Italian restaurant. The first issue I have come across is the 'correct' way to chop food items. The Head Chef instructed me to hold the item with the very tips of my fingers and tuck my thumb in. I am sure you can picture what I mean as, apparently this is the proper way to chop things.

 

Anyway, I have practiced this technique a little but I'm really struggling with it. Placing my fingers in this position and tucking my thumb away means I cannot get any grip on what I am trying to cut. It's really frsutrating me!

 

I am trying to break a lifetime habit of cutting things incorrectly here, so you can imagine how I'm finding it quite challenging.

 

Thanks for reading, hope I can get some assistance.

 

TommiCooks

post #2 of 11

Take a look at: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/knifeskills/ss/knifegrips_3.htm

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #3 of 11

1)  Keep your board clean

2)  Keep your knife sharp

3)  Make sure the cutting surface is the right height

4)  Choke up on the knife.

5)  Flat surface down except stuff like bell peppers which have a slightly leathery skin.

post #4 of 11
Just keep practicing. There are an abundance of videos on YouTube you can view. The claw technique is used a lot and sounds like what your Chef advised.

It only takes one time of nearly taking off a finger tip to make you adhere to the claw.

You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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post #5 of 11

Two words make me wince: "Boil", and "Chop"

 

Chopping is for firewood and trees,  it makes me think that the cutting tool is miles away, that you have little control where it lands, and that you should  remove your hands far away before the edge hits the material.

 

We cut vegetables.

 

Imagine your knife is anchored by the tip to the cutting board. it should never  leave the cutting board, and it should be kept as low as possible.  The higher it goes, the less control you have.

 

You need to tuck your fingers in, as you and hundreds of thousands of others have been instructed to do.  The knife rests along your knuckles--or more accurately along the bone between the first and second joints of your finger.  If the knife never goes higher than your knuckles, and the knuckles are angled away from the edge, it is very hard to cut yourself.  How far you move your hand back along the material being cut with dictate how thick you cut. 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #6 of 11

If you've been shown the correct way to do it then you will be fine.  It may be slower at first, but with lots of practice you'll get faster.  It used to take me 5 minutes to dice an onion, now I can do it in less than a minute. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone.

 

Thankyou very much for your comments, I found all of them very useful. Luckily the Head Chef has a lot of patience. He told me on Tuesday: 'From now on, if you ever have nothing to do, chop 2 onions for me'. After two 8 hour shifts, I'm finding the cutting technique he taught me much, much easier.

 

Regards,

Tommi

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by TommiCooks View Post

Anyway, I have practiced this technique a little but I'm really struggling with it. Placing my fingers in this position and tucking my thumb away means I cannot get any grip on what I am trying to cut. It's really frsutrating me!

 

I am trying to break a lifetime habit of cutting things incorrectly here, so you can imagine how I'm finding it quite challenging.

 

TommiCooks

I had the same issue first year i was cooking and someone showed me the technique you described above. I had trouble at first but what helped me was when i was cutting through 400 pounds of potatoes for homestyle fries for some banquet we were doing and as i was swinging the potato around and coming down with the knife on the 100th or so one i was doing i sliced the tip of my thumb clean off bled for 4 hours straight, went to the hospital to get the blood vessell stitcherized to stop it from bleeding cause it wouldnt stop ( i have thin blood it seems ) 4 stitches in the top of my finger to bring it together... you wouldnt think it but with all the nerve endings at the top of your finger getting stitches there even with an injection to numb it, was the most painful experience of my entire life. Something i never want to go through ever again. Been cooking now for about 7 years and its been 4 years since that happened and had no incident since. Hopefully something like this doesnt happen to you but if it does youll definitely start to tuck your thumb in :P lol. 
 

 

post #9 of 11

I'm going through the same thing. I learned the right way to use my guide hand when I was a kid, and then apparently spent 20 years unlearning it. Now I'm trying to re-learn the claw. Unfortunately, I've now cut myself both ways. I cut my thumb tip similar to Steve, although not as bad, last year. Last week, while chopping a half head of cabbage (I chop them; don't have a 4 foot long knife so I can keep the tip on the board; lol) I went a little too high and got the knuckle on my ring finger and shaved a good sized chunk off.

 

However, when I cut my thumb, it was with a dull knife and I didn't go all the way through. Last week, had it been my thumb rather than my ring finger, I would have cut it off. Learning the correct guide hand technique (the claw) is going to save you a lot of pain in the long run. But it's not impossible to cut yourself. The more you practice, the better you'll get and the risk will be reduced.

 

There are some good videos at Stella Culinary: Click Here

post #10 of 11

I have never cut myself chopping with the knife leaving the board... When your chopping something such as a zucchini or onion, the first thing to do is make sure that what your cutting is stable and not wobbling around... cut them into manageable pieces while still enabling yourself to achieve the proper "cut"...put your thumb on the butt off the object and use it to "feed" the object forward... make a "c" with your hand... your fingers in cutting form and your thumb forming the bottom of the letter, use this size as a guideline..only use pieces that fit into the span of your reach.... scallions are always going to be a bitch to feed... 

post #11 of 11

slap chop.jpg

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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