Eight groups of people, which included professional chefs, home chefs and culinary students, got to participate in a free knife skills classes as part of A.L. Thompson’s second annual Home Fest on Friday 28 September and Saturday 29 September.
The Home Fest brought in manufacturers of many major home products, said owner A.L. Thompson, Jr.
“We have 85 people from overseas here for this and 45 different companies represented,” he said.
Two of those people were representing Mercer Cutlery, a New York-state based company that produces high-quality knives and kitchen utensils. The company’s corporate chef, Chris Parker, held eight one-hour classes over two days on the correct way of using, maintaining and storing culinary knives.
One of the morning classes on Friday included six culinary students from the University College of the Cayman Islands who are taking part in the Tourism Apprenticeship Training Programme.
UCCI Assistant Professor Belinda Blessitt Vincent, who brought the students to the class, said they had just started the one-year programme earlier in September.
Although two of the students – Kimani Davis and Carl Lewis – had already worked in restaurant and hotel kitchens and had some knife experience, some of the other students – which included Rochelle Conolly-Rose, Ahmed Myles, Nicholas McLaughlin and Monique Connolly – were first learning proper knife techniques in the class.
Chef Chris said he was used to teaching students.
“I do this a lot, but mostly for culinary students,” he said, noting that Mercer supplies cutlery to 90 per cent of the culinary schools in North America.
During the class, Mr. Parker showed students a chef’s knife, a boning knife, a bread knife and a paring knife and talked about how knives were made.
He then explained the correct way to slice, dice or cut a variety of cooking ingredients including onions, garlic, parsley, carrots and chicken. After showing the students how to do it, he had them practice the skills, saving all the ingredients for usage later.
He told the students that if they wanted to get into the kitchen as a profession, they had better learn to cut onions well, especially early in their careers.
“You’re going to be cutting a lot of onions,” he said, noting that onions were a key flavouring ingredient to many dishes. “If you don’t like cutting onions, you should maybe consider another career.”
Later on, Mr. Parker spoke about proper sanitation of knives, cutting boards and work areas to avoid cross contamination of ingredients.
Finally, Chef Chris showed the class attendees how to properly use a sharpening steel and wet stone to keep the edge of the knife thin, straight and sharp.
The Home Fest also featured a cocktail reception for the visiting vendors and invited guests. While the local company Dine By Design handled the bar duties, the cooking was done by Will Ratley, a former restaurant owner who is now the corporate chef of Sub Zero and Wolf, two high-end appliance manufacturers.
Although Chef Will cooked up a storm and provided many different dishes, two of the most popular were the glazed scallops and the pumpkin swordfish skewers with chimichurri. The swordfish is called “pumpkin” because of its orange flesh, which is attained from feeding primarily on shrimp. Mr. Ratley brought the fish to Cayman with him from the United States and said it could only be caught certain times of the year.
Mr. Thompson Jr. said this year’s Home Fest, which featured sale prices on many of A.L. Thompson’s brands, was larger than last year.
“It’s growing,” he said. “More companies are coming and they’re coming from all over.”