The Fine Art of Dicing an Onion

Students find themselves on the chopping block

By Edward A. Brown

In the video above, chef and food writer Kenji Alt helps students put a sharp edge on vegetable preparation.

Many good meals start with an onion, and that’s true around the globe. They flavor sauces and garnish burgers; we sauté, grill, pickle, caramelize, and deep-fry them.

The student group Slow Food BU appreciates onions, and vegetables in general, along with the crucial skill involved in cutting them up, from slice to dice, chop to mince. So last week, the group invited chef and food writer Kenji Alt to demonstrate the subtleties of handling a very shape blade.

“Whenever I read a recipe and it tells me to cut something a certain way and I don’t know how, I get frustrated,” says Kate Sokol (CAS’10), vice president of BU’s Slow Food chapter. “I think of myself as someone who can cook, but some of these knife skills are almost a lost art.”

Sokol has been with Slow Food BU since its inception three years ago. She says interest in the organization’s events has picked up steadily — slow and steady might be the appropriate description — interest piqued by skills demonstrations like this one. Upcoming demos include how to make sauerkraut and cheese and how to harvest cranberries.

Slow Food is a grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world who try to link the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and environment. The mission is to increase awareness about eating locally in what slow food advocates describe as a sustainable manner, encouraging home cooking and educating people about traditional cooking skills.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at

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