There’s no question: With its delicately prepared American contemporary cuisine, a wine list 300 options deep, and impeccable service, Café Diva is hands-down the best restaurant in Steamboat Springs–and arguably one of the best dining experiences in all of Colorado. After all, it’s difficult to accumulate 905 five-star reviews and a 2021 Traveler’s Choice Award from TripAdvisor unless you’re the best.
At Café Diva’s helm sits Chef Kate Van Rensselaer Rench, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York City with the Jacques Pepin Award and who formerly worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s signature, four-star restaurant in Manhattan, the Jean-Georges Restaurant.
With nearly 25 years of kitchen experience at the highest levels of the culinary industry, Chef Kate knows a thing or two about proper knife usage, including how to tell the difference between quality and lack thereof. We asked her to play with our Thai Chef’s Moon Knife Set, and then caught up with her in the kitchen of Café Diva to talk about proper knife usage generally and what she thinks of Verve Culture’s signature blades. Here’s what she said.
Let’s start with some basic education on how to use a knife properly. What are your top knife tips?
#1) The number one knife skill is to hold the knife like you mean it! Make sure to hold it with a firm grip. Another mistake most people make is that they hold their knives by the handle. Don’t do this. You actually want to grip the blade so that your thumb and forefinger rest on either side of it. It may feel a little intimidating, but this handhold actually provides far more control and balance.
#2) I also recommend that people get comfortable cutting with a rocking motion. For this skill, you’ll start by holding the knife in your dominant hand. Place the tip of your knife on one side of your ingredients and use your non-dominant hand to hold the spine (or top) of the knife tip steady. Keeping that extra hand on the spine, rock the knife up and down across whatever it is you’re chopping. Regather the ingredients and repeat the process until they’re as finely minced as desired.
How are these knives different from the blades you typically use in your kitchen?
Well, first of all, they’re really cool looking! The Moon Knife is much more rockered than your ordinary knife. Carbon steel sharpens really nicely. You just have to keep honing it. I also like that the handle is very comfortable and how stable the knife feels since it has a full tang, meaning the blade extends fully through the handle both in length and width.
Given the unique shape of the Thai Chef’s Moon Knife, what foods would you recommend using it for?
Hard-skinned fruits and vegetables like butternut squash and watermelon. The tip of the knife makes it perfect for piercing their skin so that, thanks to the blade’s length, it can deliver a longer cut. I would also expect it to be effective at cutting raw meat and poultry.
Would you recommend any special techniques for using these knives?
No, there aren’t special skills needed. Just make sure you use the rocking motion I described above, instead of slicing with it. Practice, practice, practice.
In your opinion, what type of home chef would appreciate these knives?
Anyone who enjoys playing with fun, new kitchen tools. My husband in particular loved the look of these! It’s also worth noting that the packaging is really attractive. It’s worthy of a place of pride in the kitchen.
Does the interesting shape of the knife make you cook better?
Of course! If you look cool, you’ll feel cool. And if you feel cool, you’ll cook better!