Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

Good knife skills are essential for anyone who wants to get serious about cooking at home, and today Athena Calderone of Eye Swoon is generously sharing her top tips for slicing with grace.

Athena’s more than just a passionate cook. She also regularly visits professional kitchens around the world on her beautifully documented food adventures, so she knows her way around a knife!

Read on for Athena’s knife skills primer, and learn the right way to dice + brunoise + julienne + plateau veggies. All you need is a chef’s knife and some carrots, but there are infinite ways to apply today’s lesson.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

How To Hold Your Knife

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

The Pinch

To hold your knife in a professional grip, start by pinching the knife blade where it connects to the handle, between your thumb and index finger.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

The Wrap

The index finger and thumb should be opposite each other on either side of the blade while remaining 3 fingers are loosely curled around the handle.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

The Grip

You should be gripping the knife mainly with your thumb and forefinger. If you find that you’re tightly clutching the entire handle of the knife, just relax and loosen up.

Pro Tip:

Remember to use the heel (middle) of your knife – most of us use the tip only – you will increase your speed and have more control over your knife if you cut with the heel.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

Squaring Off

Bring the knife off the board. Insert your knife into the veggie using the belly of your knife. Push down and forward with your knife – you shouldn’t get any resistance. Cut all 4 sides of the carrot to have 4 flat sides.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm


Now turn the carrot on its side and again using a high cut, you will cut the carrot into thin plateaus. Remembering to use the middle of your chef’s knife and push down forward as you slice with ease.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm


Stack 3 or 4 plateaus on top of one another to create your juliennes or matchsticks. Hold stack firmly in place with your left hand. Position your chef’s knife into the carrot using the middle of your blade. Hold your left fingers in a claw grip and use your fingers as a guide for the knife to rest against. As you bring your knife down, slide it forward so the edge of your blade slides through the carrot – creating your julienne.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm


Gather the julienne strips into a stack with all the strips parallel to one another. With the fingertips of your left hand hold the stack firmly in place. Again, slide your knife forward as you create your dice or brunoise.

Knife Skills 101 by Athena Calderone | west elm

Athena Calderone of Eye Swoon

Athena Calderone is the Brooklyn-based designer and blogger behind Eye Swoon, where she shares her personal inspirations and explorations into homes and kitchens across the world. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Images: Winnie Au

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I don’t have the best knife cutting skills, so these tips will be quite useful. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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