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Too tall for brunoise?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

This might sound silly but I am having a hard time with brunoise.  With my Danskos on I am just under 6' tall and am finding that it is really awkward for me to stand at my station hunched over to make these cuts.  Anyone else have any tips?  I wanted to ask some of the other people in my class but there is just one person taller than I am and he is also having the same problem.

 

Thanks so much

~MissyD

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~MissyD

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post #2 of 17

I am 6'2". I sometimes lean a bit at the waist when working at a prep table, but basically keep my back straight. Hunching over is hard on your back and more a result of technique rather than height.

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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 17

Ironically, many other women say that the same problems stem from their lack of height, or small hand size.  Go figure. 

 

Your problem (almost certainly) isn't height.

 

The most common reason leading to poor control of the knife when making the chopping cuts is grip.  Even if you're using a pinch grip, if you hold the knife too tightly it will steer.   Softening your grip requires a very sharp blade and a great deal of practice.  When you're tense or rushing (like every other culinary student in the world) you'll naturally grip hard.  Stop.

 

Another grip problem is a bent wrist.  If your wrist is too bent, the blade will veer. 

 

Posture is another problem -- and by posture, I don't just mean standing up straight.  If you are standing with your feet square to the counter, instead of having your left foot slightly in front (assuming you're right-handed) the knife will want to veer to the side. 

 

All of this has to do with getting and keeping your knife pointing in the right direction.  If your grip is too tight, if your wrist is bent, if you're too square facing the board, the more your knife will angle across your body.  The more things wrong you do along those lines, the more you're going to want your face close to the food to make sure your knife is in the right place.  Do them right, and your knife will intuitively point where your eyes look. 

 

If you're having trouble seeing what you're doing with very fine cuts, you might want to have your vision checked.  You might need something for intermediate distances; like tri focals or blendeds.  And yes, vision is related to height.

 

The silver lining is that even if your grip, posture and eyesight are imperfect, practice will eventually catch up.  It takes longer, your skills won't hold up as well under pressure, but you'll get it.  Guaranteed.   

 

In the meantime, read Getting a Grip on a Good Pinch.  Couldn't hurt, and might help.

 

Brunoise do not spring fully formed from the board.  It's a process.  Your brunoise difficulties almost certainly include poorly done "plank" and "stick" cuts as well as with the final dicing cuts.  Start right, and at least you have a chance of ending right. 

 

Block your food into lengths you can handle, and shapes which will plank easily.  When you plank, get rid of pieces which won't stack right.  When you cut your sticks (matchstick-julienne precedes brunoise), don't stack the planks higher than is comfortable for your natural knife action.  Don't bundle more sticks than your natural knife action can comfortably dice.  

 

If your natural knife action is "rock-chopping -- with the knife tip always down on the board -- that means fairly low stacks and fairly small bundles.   

 

With your sticks cut, bundle and orient them so the sticks are perpendicular to the natural angle of your knife.  In other words, don't fight your body to make things line up to your board.   When your bundles start to get away from you, loosen your grasp and square them with the flat of your knife. 

 

If you find that your chopping into a pile of already chopped food, reorganize your board as needed.  If you don't, you'll contort your wrist and posture and your cuts will be sloppy. 

 

Clean the side of your knife frequently.  Food stuck to the knife face comes off in the worst places and gets in the way -- as described in the paragraph just above. 

 

Take your time on sizing all three of the cuts.  Use the knuckle bones and/or nails of your claw hand as a guide for every cut.  That may slow you down a little at first, but remember that precision is a product of good technique.  Once you start getting thickness right, concentrate on working smoother while retaining your precision.  Speed is a product of smoothness, and will happen without you working at it.  Rushing is the enemy.

 

Most student knives are too dull.  You can compensate for that, to some extent, with good technique.  But, you're not there yet.  Keep your knives sharp.  Sharper than they came from the factory. 

 

BDL

 

PS.  I'm 5' 11" barefoot -- or was before being crushed by the weight of the world's sorrows.  I'm not sure how tall I'd be with your Danskos on.  They probably wouldn't fit anyway. 


Edited by boar_d_laze - 5/5/13 at 7:28pm
post #4 of 17

I havent done a brunoise without a Japanese mandolin or a deli slicer since culinary school lol....

 

It just takes practice. Keep at it...BDL gave you some great advice. I'm a little over six feet tall and don't think height is an issue...you might see if there is a way to elevate (safely of course) your cutting board a few inches...that might help. 

 

One thing that helps with knife accuracy is to...going to be a bit tricky to explain, but place the tip of the knife on the board, and push/slice downward through the item while keeping the tip on the board. I can't really explain it too well, hopefully someone else knows what I am talking about and can articulate it better. 

 

Try searching you tube for tips also. 

post #5 of 17
One thing that helps with knife accuracy is to...going to be a bit tricky to explain, but place the tip of the knife on the board, and push/slice downward through the item while keeping the tip on the board. I can't really explain it too well, hopefully someone else knows what I am talking about and can articulate it better.

It's called "rock chopping."  That style of cutting is best served by a chef's knife with a "German" profile like a Mercer, Forschner, Wusthof, etc.  In other words, a shape with a lot of belly (curve leading up to the tip).  

 

There are three prevalent types of chopping actions:  Rock chop; push cut; and "glide."  They each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Most good cutters use all three at one time or another depending on what they're cutting, but favor one over the other two generally.  Any skilled cutter can perform any action with any knife profile, but different knife profiles tend to favor certain actions and will tend to modify your action if you use it as your primary knife for very long. 

 

Rock chopping itself requires lifting the handle high to clear large stacks, which ends up with a sort of pumping action.  The shape of knife which works best for rock chopping compensates better for dull edges but is overall less agile.   

 

Push cutting means lifting the knife straight up and bringing it straight down.  It does not mean pushing the knife forward on the board during the cut.   It is best served by knives with very flat profiles like certain Japanese chef's knives, nakiri, Chinese vegetable "cleavers," etc.  Also by 10" and longer French profiled chef's knives, because the flat run between belly and heel is long enough to comfortably handle action.  Push cutting is the style you see most often on competition cooking shows featuring professionals, from Iron Chef to "Chopped." 

 

I use French profiled knives and glide

 

My guess is that here in the US, rock-chopping is most taught in schools, but the trend among skilled cutters is push cutting.  Similarly the trend among skilled cutters is towards Japanese made, 10" (about), French-profiled 
gyuto (aka chef's knives).  Also, remember (a) "trend" is not the same thing as "universal acceptance;" and (b) I'm not trying to sell you on any action or knife type.         

 

BDL

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

BDL - thank you sooooo much for all of your info & apologies for not thanking you sooner.  I heeded your advice and loosened my grip a bit and have found I am doing much better.  I always tend to stand on an angle as you decribed and unfortunately I already wear glasses (haha lucky me) so I think the grip was the biggest thing.  I also sharpened my knife because the factory sharpening just wasn't as sharp as I would like.  I am finding it a bit awkward to sharpen my knife properly but I just need practice (i am so used to sharpening surgical instruments and this is a lot different than what i'm used to)

 

as for the shoes my feet are a lot bigger than most girls - i usually wear size 11.  makes it difficult to find cute shoes that big but for this purpose i can just get men's instead wink.gif

~MissyD

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~MissyD

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post #7 of 17

I would not overlook a lower back problem. I always fight at friends houses because their counters are low. I am 6' tall and have a very bad back, bending to chop = pain. I designed my kitchen myself and raised the counters an inch, made a huge difference. I finally made a riser block for over at their house, their cabinets were 6" lower than standard.

post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 

i actually have fibromyalgia (have had it for about 7-8 years now) and it effects almost my entire body.  i don't seem to have problems with my back or shoulders when im prepping, however, i make a point of trying to raise things if i can to help prevent a flare up (ie - resting bowls in a pot when whisking to get the extra height so i dont have to bend over.)

 

would love to get my kitchen redone and raise the counter tops by a few inches - they seem lower than everyone elses

~MissyD

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~MissyD

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post #9 of 17

Was taught a method of standing in the kitchen by a dishy that saves me bending my back too much. Spread your legs into a triangle with feet facing forward, it brings your height down for working on lower benches or for dishys working over a sink. i wouldnt recommend doing it for too long as it puts stress on other muscles but is good to do for short amounts of time to give your back bending muscles a break.

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissyD View Post

would love to get my kitchen redone and raise the counter tops by a few inches - they seem lower than everyone elses

 

You might want to consider picking up a 3" thick Maple cutting board. There are a few companies that make them in this thickness in both end and edge grain.

Brunoise is one place a laser absolutely shines.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
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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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post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DuckFat View Post

 

You might want to consider picking up a 3" thick Maple cutting board. There are a few companies that make them in this thickness in both end and edge grain.

Brunoise is one place a laser absolutely shines.

 

Dave

 

Dave,

 

Thanks so much for the info - I was going to be looking into a new cutting board so I will check this out.  Thanks again.

~MissyD

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~MissyD

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post #12 of 17

I'm 6' 5".  If I plan to do a lot of prep/knife work, I raise my work surface.   Borrow a dish rack from the dishwashers; place the rack on a damp towel; then place another damp towel on top of the rack; and then place a cutting board on top.  The towels keep everything stable.  Improves posture, prevents back pain and fatigue.

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by brucemcvay View Post

I'm 6' 5".  If I plan to do a lot of prep/knife work, I raise my work surface.   Borrow a dish rack from the dishwashers; place the rack on a damp towel; then place another damp towel on top of the rack; and then place a cutting board on top.  The towels keep everything stable.  Improves posture, prevents back pain and fatigue.

 

another awesome idea thanks so much!

~MissyD

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~MissyD

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post #14 of 17
If you want to practice a bruinoise or fine bruinoise you should have a very sharp knife and I suggest practing with shallots. Use your index finger on your guide hand to direct the placement of your knife so it is even. I have to do fine bruinoise shallots for work every day so I got good fast because I got practice. If you do it with a sharp knife and take the time to do it perfect your speed will develop as you get used to doing it.


Most tall chefs I have worked with raise their cutting board.
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"Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors." - W. Eugene Smith
 
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post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by brucemcvay View Post

I'm 6' 5".  If I plan to do a lot of prep/knife work, I raise my work surface.   Borrow a dish rack from the dishwashers; place the rack on a damp towel; then place another damp towel on top of the rack; and then place a cutting board on top.  The towels keep everything stable.  Improves posture, prevents back pain and fatigue.

Word. A friend of mine is 6'11"...maybe 7" and worked in my kitchen.  He basically took a burgundy glass rack and placed it on the table and a cutting board on top of that.  He also had a wicked dicing stance. Straight back, knees bent.  I'm maybe 6' with my clogs and I do just fine.  So will you!

post #16 of 17

I was going to suggest the triangle stance as well but that can be tough on the ankles for long periods. If you can't get yourself a dish rack, a 2" full size hotel pan would work as well. It's about 2 1/2 inches deep, plus the half inch or more cutting board and wet towel...

 

I'm 6' and use a 3" cutting board at home on top of my prep table so when I cut on a regular size table, it feels short.  

post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 

was able to raise my board by a few inches by using the stop of a styro container (wrapped in saran wrap) and placing some wet towels below that.  tried a dish rack and a hotel pan but they didn't git very well on my station's surface.  ever since i did that a few days ago i have noticed a HUGE improvement with my back and pain.  thanks so much for all your suggestions :)  still on the hunt for a 3" board for home.

~MissyD

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~MissyD

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