Knives

Japanese Knives: What, Why and How To Use Them

Chef Yuuki and Chef DavidThis past January, ICC Professional Culinary Arts alumnus, David Israelow, and Chef Yuuki Tanaka, a highly regarded Kaiseki chef from Tokyo, Japan, gave a demonstration on The Art of Japanese Knife Skills and Sashimi.

Throughout the demonstration, they shared their vast knowledge of Japanese knives and the vital role they play in preparing Japanese cuisine. Below, read about what you should know about Japanese knives, why you should choose one, and how to properly use them!

What Should I Know About Japanese Knives?

Japanese knives are used by chefs all over the world for their thin and flexible blades, precise craftsmanship, and light weight.

chef yuukiTraditionally, Japanese knives have one bevel on the right side of the knife. In addition to the years of practice that it takes to become a Sashimi master, Japanese chefs attain beautifully plated Sashimi fish by using these precise blades. Even though it is common to find single bevel Japanese knives, nowadays, companies are also making double beveled knives to attract more mainstream use, much like the German made knives that are high in demand. This means that they can be used to cook other cuisines in addition to Japanese food, although there are some caveats.

Why Should I Use Japanese Knives?

chef yuuki slicingThere are many different reasons that chefs use Japanese knives in their kitchens. In addition to their flexibility and light weight, they also have different angles than German knives. These angles allow for the precision that is needed in Sashimi preparation, but also allows for chefs in general to make straight cuts.

Japanese knives also have an extremely sharp blade that tends to stay sharp for longer periods of time, depending on the use of the knife. On the Rockwell scale, which is used to determine the hardness of steel, Japanese knives are anywhere in the 60-70 range, which is why the blade stays sharper for longer. In contrast, German knives fall in the mid 50s on the Rockwell scale, which makes the steel softer, but is also one of the reasons why German knives are thicker. This then causes German knives to dull faster with more frequent use.

How Should I Use My Japanese Knives?

knifeIn contrast to the thicker and more durable German knives, Japanese knives should not be used for tough kitchen tasks, like breaking apart chicken bones. The flexibility of the knives allows for precision in cooking and presentation, but also means that the blade is more easily chipped. During this demonstration, Chef David Israelow and Chef Yuuki Tanaka showed this flexibility and precision through the use of five different knife techniques:

  1. San mai oroshi – a 3 piece filet style for round fish
  2. Go mai oroshi – a 5 piece filet style for flat fish
  3. Hegi zukuri – a sashimi cutting style from the left which produce biased cuts on an angle
  4. Hira zukuri – a sashimi cutting style from the right which produce straight block cuts
  5. Sukibiki – a scaling technique where the knife is used to cut the scales off

If you’re ready to purchase a Japanese knife for your kitchen, check out our friends at Korin Knives! They are NYC’s leading experts on Japanese knives and will help you pick out the right knife for your hand, sharpen it, and even show you the proper way to use it!

How to Improve your Plating Skills with Chef Hervé Malivert

Chef HerveChef Hervé Malivert’s enthusiasm for the kitchen began at a young age and his love & experience with plating journeys back decades. Enjoying photography as his favorite hobby, Chef Hervé has an eye for creating beautifully intricate dishes which he shares with his followers on Instagram (check him out on Instagram @chef_herve_malivert).  As the Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, Chef Hervé’s sense of adventure is put to good use researching and developing new techniques to include in ICC’s curriculum.

From kitchens across the globe, to the kitchens of ICC, Chef Hervé has always understood that plating has an important “visual effect” for guests and students. It will not change the taste of your dish or the understanding that the student has, but it will change the first impression and set them up for a flawless meal or lesson. Think about looking at two pictures of the Caribbean, one has a picture perfect blue sky, and the other is during a hurricane. Which picture would inspire you to venture to the Caribbean? It is the same with dining, eating, and learning.

Plated dishIf you do not innately have an artistic eye for plating, it is possible to train yourself and improve with time. Most chefs are not born with an immediate knowledge of how to create an artistic dish. It takes years of precision, practice, and patience, so we joined ICC’s resident Master-of-Plating in the kitchen to get a behind-the-scenes look at his process.

Read on to find out Chef’s tips to improve your plating:

  1. Learn how to cook and properly combine flavors together. A beautiful plating will mean nothing if the food doesn’t taste good or go well together.
  2. Knife skills, knife skills, knife skills! The first step of presentation is symmetry and accuracy.
  3. The focal point of the dish is the item which draws your attention. Be aware of what your eye will notice first, avoid negative space, add some elevation to give your dish depth, and of course be mindful of the plate itself.
  4. A well designed plate will have a sense of balance. Balance doesn’t necessarily mean symmetry. Putting too many items on the plate will make it visually unappealing.
  5. Simple geometric shapes are the skeleton of plating design. All plating presentations can be defined by simple geometric shapes: lines, arcs, circles, etc.
  6. Most importantly: love what you do. Be passionate, and the inspiration will come.

Now that you have some plating tips in your chef’s toolkit, it is important to understand how to develop an idea for a dish. Follow Chef’s steps on how he conceptualizes, cooks, and plates a dish and you will be on your way to mastering your own artful creations!

PlatingChef Hervé’s Steps to Plating

  1. Start by envisioning the dish you’d like to make. You may even have an idea already in your head.
  2. Pick your protein or main ingredient, if you haven’t already. Decide how you want to cook it and how you want to cut and present it on the plate. This is vital to how the dish will look.
  3. Conceptualize the flavor profile of your dish. Do you want a bold dish, or would you rather the flavors speak for themselves?
  4. Pick the plate your dish should go on. Does a soup make sense in a long shallow bowl? Probably not. The plate will allow your food to speak for itself.
  5. Cut your ingredients properly as you are prepping and cooking. A thin slice of an onion may work better than a minced onion on your dish. Think about this beforehand and make sure to execute it with the knife skills you have been practicing.
  6. Cook your dish.
  7. Plate it. It may be helpful to use tweezers. Hint: Chef Herve uses surgical grade tweezers to plate, and this is what many fine dining restaurants do as well!
  8. Try again and edit your dish. You will never be satisfied with your first plating. It is perfectly ok to edit it and try again.
  9. Serve to your happy customers, family, or yourself!

Plated dish

 

 

Always remember to admire beautiful plating, and that the inspiration from a dish can come from anywhere. Working alongside amazing chefs helped Chef Hervé to find his inner inspiration and allowed him to improve his skills. Nowadays, with the power of social media, the internet, books and magazines, inspiration is endless!

Jacques Pepin a the Demo

Essential Tips from Chef Jacques Pépin

July is #FCIFlashback month where we are celebrating our founding as The French Culinary Institute with exciting programming and demos that embrace our FCI legacy—after all, the International Culinary Center® is still The French Culinary InstituteTM.

On July 11th, ICC was fortunate enough to have Chef Jacques Pépin, Dean of Special Programs, visit us for his classic La Technique demonstration. Chef Pépin’s technique, skill, and knowledge are unparalleled. His impressive display of knife skills is incredible to watch and learn from, and he has been an extraordinary resource at the International Culinary Center since 1988. Chef shared some of his vast knowledge with our audience during his demonstration.

Here are some essential tips to mastering your knife skills & more straight from the source:

Have a good knife.

As you use your knife continually, it will dull. Sharpening it on a stone will make the knife last longer. To do so:

  • Saturate your stone with water or mineral oil, depending on what is recommended for your particular stone.
  • Use steel to realign the teeth of your knife.
  • Always keep the knife at the correct angle on the steel that you are sharpening the knife with, or the teeth may break.
And if you need to realign your knife blade on steel:
  • Cover the entire blade back and forth on the steel
  • Apply pressure
  • Keep your angle constant, or else you will destroy the teeth of the knife
Glue your hand to the knife you are working with.

This controls the knife, allows for an even distribution of cuts and prevents accidents.

The sharper your knife, the less you cry when cutting an onion.

Did you know that onions make us teary because a reaction in the onion releases a chemical called lachrymatory factor? A sharp knife causes less damage to the cell walls of an onion where irritants are unleashed, causing tears to form. The sharper the knife, the fewer irritants that will be released.

When using a vegetable peeler, use it flat on the cutting board.

If you wrap your hand around the peeler, instead of pinching the peeler at the top, you will be too far away from the cutting board and it will make it much more difficult.

Vinegar and salt cleans copper.

Ever wonder how Chef Pépin keeps his copper pots and pans so clean on TV? Well it’s not all in the magic of TV! He recommends using a combination of salt and vinegar to clean the grime and tarnish off of copper. It works because the acid in the vinegar strips the oxidized patina from the copper and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to remove any caked on grime.

And lastly, one of the most important pieces of advice that Chef Pépin shared with ICC students is to see the food through the chef you are learning from. He advises aspiring professionals to take pride in what the chef wants you to learn. After working with different chefs over the course of many years, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to create your own style.