Nourishing Knife Skills

Kitchen Table Setup for Class
Practising using our French Chef Knives
Practising cutting carrots into different shapes
Chef Nancy demonstrating properly gripping a knife

By Jay Higgins

I’ve had a burning desire to brush up on my knife skills for a number of years. I should interject right here to clarify that by “knife skills”, I’m talking about wanting to be more competent with a knife in the kitchen, so don’t be overly alarmed. My colleagues at the office and I have mused about taking a class together. We have even tried to booked a few classes over the years but life always got in the way and our big plans just kind of fell through and got forgotten.

I tried again recently to register for a class only to realize that it was the same date and time as one of my Hamilton Tiger Cats home games. Being a season ticket holder you sometimes feel a tribal obligation to put your team first regardless of the other possibly great events or activities that may pop up. Well sorry TiCats, this time I went rogue and followed through with taking a knife skills class on the same night as the game. It was at the beautiful and intimate Tree House Kitchen in Dundas run by Chef Nancy Henley. Chef Nancy’s promise is to “cut your prep time by at least half with proper knife skills”.

The benefits of having better knife skills beyond showing off to your family and friends is to be faster and more efficient in handling, prepping and preparing your food. These new found skills should hopefully translate into eating healthier because you have more time to make your own broths, sauces, appetizers and mains. Eating out, getting take away or buying prepared meals tend to be higher in fat, salt, sugar and preservatives that you can't even pronounce, so preparing your own food is a much better way of monitoring what you and your family consume.

The day finally come for me to head to my class. I arrived at the Treehouse Kitchen with not a minute to spare. Why? Well as it turned out the Blue Jays were in the playoffs and the game was going extra long and I was trying to leave but the powers that be held me in my seat at the bar. But I broke loose and made in time. Once inside I was escorted into the living room were a group of ten other enthusiastic soon to be knife skills masters were seated on expensive and tasteful couches, loveseats and chairs. We exchanged pleasantries, met Chef Nancy’s crew, got the low down on the nights events while enjoyed a nice bowl of homemade Thai Coconut Soup. I happily did not spill on my soup on her elegant chair or rug. From there, it was off to the to-die-for kitchen. Did I mention that there is actually a real tree in the middle of the house? Hence the name “Treehouse Kitchen”. It’s also worth mentioning again that the chefs kitchen was right out of a houseandhome.com/magazine layout and almost too spectacular for words. After stargazing the kitchen we found ourselves situated in front of a cutting board, brand new Nella French Knife (that we got to keep) and a bowl of vegetables and herbs (that we got to keep as well).

Chef Nancy went over a number of tips and techniques and then set us loose. All the while she was preparing another soup that at the end of our three hour class we got to sample. I noticed that a number of the people in our group were rookies with a knife and were benefiting immensely from seeing and hearing probably for the first time some basic knife handling skills. It was a great evening and a fun interactive way to learn from a pro some kitchen lingo and techniques. I would highly recommend this class to anyone with minimal knife handling experience or limited exposure to cooking or time in a kitchen. For the more advanced home cooks you may find the experience enjoyable but a little basic. So if you are a little more advanced in the canteen, I urge you to check out Tree House Kitchen's more haute cuisine range of classes and events. The Ticats ended up winning the game, so apparently they really didn't need me there to cheer them on. In the future I may be a little more flexible when interesting opportunities come my way and not be overly concerned that my sporting likes will suffer when my artistic muses beg to take centre stage.

Check Chef Nancy's classes out at Tree House Kitchen