shopping centre at christmasOut there in shoppingland you can see the Christmas stuff starting to appear, so here we are at the end of October and the buildup to the holiday season has already started. As we mentioned around this time last year (What to get for Christmas? A knife and a book about knives of course!), the last Friday in November - Friday 24th this year - and referred to as 'Black Friday', is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping period, but this can't be right... it starts way before then.

Traditional holidays are already being crowded out by new 'days', even though they're not real holidays. Black Friday has been around, in the US at least, since the 1960s, but the new(ish) one is 'Cyber Monday' - the Monday after Black Friday. Referred to as a 'marketing term' by Wikipedia, Cyber Monday kicked off in 2005 as a way of persuading people to shop online, and last year shoppers in the US spent $3.45 billion shopping online that day - that's $10.68 per person, which sounds like quite a lot to us. Apparently it's a good day to buy shoes online.

Anyway, given that we're sitting at about 8 weeks out from Christmas right now, we thought we'd have a quick look around at what we might recommend you consider as possible Christmas presents for your cooking and cheffing (if that's a word) friends and family.

You'd expect us to recommend an electric knife sharpener and/or any one or more of our great range of professional IO Shen knives, wouldn't you. Well of course we do, and if you haven't already, you should check out all the recently added new IO Shen knives , all perfect Christmas gifts! But we'd like to give you more. So, in no particular order...

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Classes on how to use a knife
In the kitchen, we mean. Many cooking schools offer classes focused specifically on how to use a chef's knife properly. Here are a few around the country...

Paris International Cooking School (Sydney) - Knife Skills Workshop
James St Cooking School (Brisbane) - Introduction to Knives
Matters of Taste Cooking School (Perth) - Essential Knife Skills

(most cooking schools will cover knife skills in their classes, sometimes in a generic class called something like 'essential cooking skills')

What's also very interesting, looking at the types of cooking classes on offer, is the surging popularity of anything to do with the barbeque, particularly American Smoking BBQ, reflecting a trend we spotted in our last article (The latest trendy cooking technique - the barbecue)


Online cooking classes
These days you can learn as much - or as little - as you like online. Although there are many recipes and YouTube videos you can access for free, showing you how to do anything from keeping your knives sharp to cooking particular styles of food, there is now a new breed of online cooking school that take the medium more seriously and which even allow budding chefs to complete courses and receive certification, all online. One of these, based in the US, is rouxbe.com, which boasts 300,000 students around the world, and at a US$300 joining fee, is aimed at the cooking professional, or the serious home cook.

Alternatively you could learn to cook with Gordon Ramsay himself in a series of 20 online video lessons, for just $120 - see masterclass.com.


Weber's American Barbecue
We couldn't go past this book! If your preferred (or the person you're buying the present for's preferred) way of learning is reading a book, this may be the best option. This book looks at all the new trends in barbecue cooking. You (or they) will be an expert in no time! At all good bookshops and online at Booktopia.