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David Hensley

Have you noticed lack of knife skills among media chefs?

82 posts in this topic

I'm watching "The Mind of a Chef", for the 17th time or so, and I can't help but notice that none of these chef's have any noticeable knife skills. Chang, Brock, Redzepi, Dufresne...no knife skills shown. They make really rough cuts, poorly sized chunks, just no finesse at all.

I take a great pride in my knife skills, and ALWAYS focus on them when cooking, whether at home, or at my job. I was taught by a lot of really talented chefs, and I've always had that pride in my knife, and my ability to use it well. Shouldn't these guys have the same?


I'm a lifelong professional chef. If that doesn't explain some of my mental and emotional quirks, maybe you should see a doctor, and have some of yours examined...

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Sometimes, it may be that the needs of the camera for television override the need for perfect knife skill depiction. That doesn't mean the knife skill isn't there.

If your hands or fingers are obscuring the view, the director is going to ask you to move them, no matter what knife skill academy says. It's television. Not real life.

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If you have food processor, slicer, blender, mixer, peeler ------------ why do you need skills?

I don't use any machines except a bread machine sometimes.

dcarch

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Geez, dcarch. We get it. :wink:

Yes, David. I have noticed that it is the "celebrity" chefs who most hack away and show no skill. These folks reside at Food Network.

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there are chef's who are the real deal on the BBC : Great British Menu comes to mind.

my knife skills are much sharper ( :huh: ) having watched 5 - 6 of these series.

after all, knife skills are learned by seeing.

not available on the Food Network

which seems to be an entertainment network

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I'm much more interested in whether the food tastes good than whether the onion is diced precisely.

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I don't watch the "Junkfood" network so I haven't seen this. Although I have no training per se I do own several books on the subject and have worked on having decent knife skills for several years.

I have a teenage guy who cooks in my ren faire kitchens who wants a culinary career. He can't enroll in the program of his choice until he turns 18 but he has taken some cooking classes aimed at people who want to be professional cooks. I have worked with him on knife skills. This past fall there was a class on knife skills. First student the instructor comes to is holding the knife like a serial killer about to strike and gets shown how to hold the knife. Second student gets reminded to keep the fingers curled under. Instructor comes to my friend, takes a look and says "you know what you're doing, keep it up." Made me happy that I have been able to pass it on.

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Porthos Potwatcher
The Unrelenting Carnivore
"If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn't have hot dogs." (source unknown)
Customer to clerk in a clothing store, "Do you have these in a size for people who actually eat?"

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I'm continually stunned by the lack of butchery skills possessed by tv chefs.

I've seen more mangled fish, confusion about which cut comes from where, non-removal of silver skin, inability to deal with offal. Hell, most of them can't disjoint a chicken let alone bone one out.

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Same applies to the early rounds of Top Chef. I'm always scratching my head how they could get as far as they already have with those knife skills. (Not that mine are so great).

And they were famously bad at making an omelet a couple years ago. Another basic.

Wonder if this reflects who are culinary school trained cooks.

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it affects "personality" chefs. that's a major criteria for entertainment shows it seems, and in that vein makes perfect sense

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Don't forget, what's not used spoils. If you have a brigade of helpers doing all the cutting, slicing, butchery and so forth, your knife skills would probably go to pot, too!

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"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Same applies to the early rounds of Top Chef. I'm always scratching my head how they could get as far as they already have with those knife skills. (Not that mine are so great).

And they were famously bad at making an omelet a couple years ago. Another basic.

Wonder if this reflects who are culinary school trained cooks.

The early seasons of TC usually had at least one, if not several, contestant/s who had no formal training. A few occasionally get through the early rounds and make it fairly far. I recall an interview with Tom where he mentioned a few contestants by name who were clearly in above their heads but got fairly far on the show because other people managed to fail more spectacularly for more than a few challenges in a row. Oh, and then there's Tyler Stone.

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Thanks for the memories, Lisa! How in the world that kid ever made it on the show is mind-blowing.

I was practically in tears (not literally) watching him waste all that meat.

Who can forget old whatshername that spent forever dicing a bowl of onions in a challenge? Huang stole the day with his mad cleaver skills on the chickens for the other team. I still fear my Chinese cleaver, but that episode gave me new respect for it.

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Thanks for the memories, Lisa! How in the world that kid ever made it on the show is mind-blowing.

I was practically in tears (not literally) watching him waste all that meat.

Who can forget old whatshername that spent forever dicing a bowl of onions in a challenge? Huang stole the day with his mad cleaver skills on the chickens for the other team. I still fear my Chinese cleaver, but that episode gave me new respect for it.

It's all show biz.

Just like any other "competition" shows, X Factor, Amer Idol, etc. they always pick a few stupid contestants to make the show more interesting.

dcarch

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For sure.

I was reading a review ages ago about Rachael Ray's show and the author was praising her knife skills as "second to none."

Uh, no. Chopping vegetables to pieces with a chef's knife, mostly into odd shaped chunks, does not equal "knife skills".

If RR busts out some garde manger work, turned mushrooms and the like, then we'll talk.

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95% (may not be mathematically correct) about making sushi is knife skills.

Otherwise, who many recipes are there for making sushi/sashimi?

Always interesting to go to youtube to check out Japanese knife skills.

dcarch

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For sure.

I was reading a review ages ago about Rachael Ray's show and the author was praising her knife skills as "second to none."

Uh, no. Chopping vegetables to pieces with a chef's knife, mostly into odd shaped chunks, does not equal "knife skills".

If RR busts out some garde manger work, turned mushrooms and the like, then we'll talk.

If RR ever pops out a turned mushroom, my head will literally explode!

I'm not particularly a viewer of Top Chef, but that clip was awesome!

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I'm a lifelong professional chef. If that doesn't explain some of my mental and emotional quirks, maybe you should see a doctor, and have some of yours examined...

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For sure.

I was reading a review ages ago about Rachael Ray's show and the author was praising her knife skills as "second to none."

Uh, no. Chopping vegetables to pieces with a chef's knife, mostly into odd shaped chunks, does not equal "knife skills".

If RR busts out some garde manger work, turned mushrooms and the like, then we'll talk.

I recall a culinary school instructor friend of mine pointing out, sometime around season 4 of '30 Minute Meals,' she started holding her knife properly. We speculated about which sponsor insisted that she learn basic knife skills so as to stop embarrassing them -clearly the network either had no clue or did not care.

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Most of those food network shows aren't even pretending to try to teach people to do a perfect brunoise or to tourne a potato or anything like that. Most of their audience couldn't care less about that. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say there's probably 1% or so of all existing restaurants where the customers care about that. I guarantee the average person making dinner at home after work doesn't care if every piece of vegetable is perfectly square and exactly 3mm or if every potato is exactly the same size and shape. Good knife skills are worth having but I'm not sure I'd base my opinion of what a cooks is capable of doing based on what they do on a food network show.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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For sure.

I was reading a review ages ago about Rachael Ray's show and the author was praising her knife skills as "second to none."

Uh, no. Chopping vegetables to pieces with a chef's knife, mostly into odd shaped chunks, does not equal "knife skills".

If RR busts out some garde manger work, turned mushrooms and the like, then we'll talk.

I recall a culinary school instructor friend of mine pointing out, sometime around season 4 of '30 Minute Meals,' she started holding her knife properly. We speculated about which sponsor insisted that she learn basic knife skills so as to stop embarrassing them -clearly the network either had no clue or did not care.

Wasn't RR's initial schtick that she wasn't a big shot, well-trained chef? She was just a real person cooking real food, or some BS like that.

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If you look at the aesthetic that is popular in a lot of western modern high-end restaurants now, it seems that a somewhat whimsical random appearance is preferred to the exactitude of a perfect brunoise, julienne etc. I suppose that classic French knife skills like mushroom turning have become less important as French cuisine has become less influential, too. I don't suppose that many restaurants do a lot of butchery either, so maybe knife skills are just overall less crucial than they were. And then the type of chefs that appear on TV are probably spending a lot of time making programmes, doing interviews and managing their businesses rather than cooking; maybe they're a bit rusty :biggrin:


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)
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RR did always pitch herself as a regular gal, so I cut (see what I did there?) some slack. The reviewer was teh one who set me on my heels by calling her knife skills "second to none". Just no. Mine aren't as good as they used to be, but they are better than RR's.

I enjoy watching the British Master Chefs shows since they showcase a great deal of technique. American television cooks call sloppy plating "rustic" which is fine if you're cooking at home or for a diner. Not so much when you want $100+ a cover at your restaurant.

Also, I never want to watch anyone cook another pizza, hamburger or bowl of pasta on a cooking show. Ever.

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Wasn't RR's initial schtick that she wasn't a big shot, well-trained chef? She was just a real person cooking real food, or some BS like that.

Until I read Kim Severson's Spoon Fed I thought Rachel Ray was just a media creation. Amazon Link Reading the former NY Times food writer's take on the woman was eye-opening. She has worked her fanny off starting with food demos in markets and has not claimed to possess mad skills. Of course the media hype and marketing machine kicked in at some point.

My gut feelings echo many above - who in this day & age cares about uniform pieces? I think flavor has become the bottom line criterion. As to mashing up a fish or piece of meat in an attempt to debone or the like that of course is horrid.

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I guess I'm alone in my quest for uniformity.

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I'm for uniformity most of the time....who wants carrots or whatever that cook unevenly?

Having said that I'm not going to pretend to be an expert with a knife...but I do get by...I've yet to starve because of my knife skills...LOL

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~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist and contrarian who questions everything!

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