The three previous reviewers do this splendid little book a great injustice. They slate it because it isn't something other than it claims to be, namely, a hands-on manual of how to choose the right tools, and of how to carve, chop, slice and dice, fillet and bone to perfection. It is not aimed at book collectors, but at those many amateur cooks who want a convenient and accessible guide to the knife skills required in the kitchen. That said, I also think it deserves a place in any catering college library or chef's office. The authors, as distinguished a bunch as you are likely to come across anywhere, understand the needs of their potential readership very well and have succeeded with admirable aplomb in providing a severely practical and user-friendly guide. "The Cooks' Book" mentioned by the previous reviewers is indeed a splendid volume and one which highly ambitious cooks would be pleased to have. Good as it is, however, it doesn't begin at the beginning, and given that it weighs in at around 3 kg, it is not an obvious choice for the ordinary cook, keen to have something relevant but not overwhelming. "Knife Skills", on the other hand, is a book you can easily prop open on the kitchen table and work from. The full-colour pictures complement perfectly a text which gets right to the point, with no messing about.
Many of us amateur cooks probably give too little thought to the tools we use. Therefore, I think Part 1 of the book will prove particularly valuable. Everything is discussed and clearly illustrated: the history of knife-making, modern knives, types of knife, choosing a knife, knife safety and much more. It is especially good, too, to have the background on the fashionable Japanese knives of which one hears so much these days. Now, I feel I have sufficient information to be able to go into any good shop and buy, with confidence, the knives and other kitchen equipment I need. Although it has to be said that these things do not come cheap, if used as advised in this book, they will last for decades to come.
Although many people love cooking and, indeed, cook extremely well, the result often looks something like a `dog's dinner'. Of course, there will usually be murmurs of `never mind, dear' from grateful but embarrassed guests. `It's not what it looks like that is important but how it tastes,' they will try to console. However, we all know the proposition is dodgy, for surely we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths. How much better then to present dishes which not only taste good but look good! Part 2 of the book shows how this can be done. Whatever you are looking for - how to make perfect pommes allumettes or how to section an octopus -you are likely to find it here. What more could you want?
"Knife Skills" is a book I have already started recommending to friends who love cooking, and I can see it becoming a constant companion in my own kitchen. I would not be at all surprised if, in time, it proves to be one of the great cookery classics.