Small, inexperienced hands require entirely different tools than practiced grown-up ones. We’re talking about the 10-years-and-under aspiring chefs (or at least aspiring parent-helpers) who haven’t yet mastered a knife grip. We asked Top Chef Junior runner-up Rahanna Bisseret Martinez — who, at 14, now uses an adult-size Japanese knife — to recount the knives she used while getting started.
For 6-year-old chefs
“I started cooking when I was 6. I would want a fruit for a snack, so I’d just start dicing the fruit in different ways. But I didn’t really know how to hold a knife, so I would use bamboo knives — like the disposable ones — because my mom didn’t want me to cut my fingers. We Googled different ways to hold a knife and different knife cuts, and that’s how I learned. So when I was learning techniques like the claw or the brunoise, I didn’t really cut my fingers. There are also nylon knives you can use, but they’re slippery. I like the bamboo ones because they have more grip.”
For 7-year-old chefs
“At one point, I had the Opinel knives; it’s a French brand that makes knife sets for kids. The thing about those is that there’s a red hole in the knife handle where you put your fingers in. It’s so you learn the technique of holding the knife. But it can get tricky because at some point you want to start learning something different than the same knife-holding technique. I think they’re good for someone who’s 6 or 7 or 8 years old. Because you’re not adapting to a chef’s grip that early.”
For 9-year-old chefs
“When I was 8 or 9 years old, I got full control of what I was doing. But after that, a good option is to just get a paring knife and practice with that. They’re smaller, which is good for kids because bigger knives will make you tired. Some people like the handle that’s attached to the blade; the ones that are detachable get attached in the factory. I would probably get one that’s forged, like this Mercer Culinary Genesis paring knife.”
For 12-year-old chefs
“Then later you can transition to a chef’s knife, like the Suisin Inox. This is the one I use now: Enrique Olvera [chef of Mexico City’s Pujol and New York’s Atla] said in an interview that his favorite knife is a Suisin knife, and he’s the best. My parents gave me a set for the first elimination challenge on Top Chef Junior. It’s sleek and it’s not super heavy like a German-style knife.”
“Suisin is really cool because they are developing a kid’s chef’s knife that’s only four inches long. I think all these children’s cooking shows, and all the marketing to children is awesome. Because maybe now kids can have more products, like a kid’s chef line that’s not made out of rubber.”
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