It's one of those classes we all talk about but never actually take.

Yep, we're talking knife skills--the art of slicing and dicing like a chef.

The Chopping Block, Chicago's largest recreational cooking school, has been there to help for over a decade. The school now occupies two mega-sized stores, one in Lincoln Square and another at the Merchandise Mart. Their most popular course (no surprise) helps home cooks learn how to wield a knife.

We took the plunge and signed up. The class ($40) gives students a knife, a huge bowl of herbs and veggies and a friendly chef or two to show them how to mince. We were julienning in no time; never mind those first few onions we destroyed.

Slicing and dicing like a pro.

To learn how to cut up a carrot, take the class. But we've got some general knife tips perfect for any home cook, courtesy of chef-instructor Ron Martin.

1. Keep your knife really sharp. Buy the right sharpening tools or take it to a professional (we like Northwestern Cutlery).

2. Never put a knife in the dishwasher. It might cut you if you reach in without looking--and the detergent makes it duller.

3. Get a silicone mat and put it under the cutting board. That way, the board won't act like a Slip 'n' Slide.

4. If you're looking for a well-made knife at a reasonable price, go Japanese. Shun and Global are the The Chopping Block chefs' favorite brands.