"I can chop stuff," says Peg. "Given a good knife I can cut wafer-thin slices ... and 2mm dice of stuff. Do I have 'knife skills'?"
"Generally speaking, 'knife skills' refers to a combination of ability, precision, and speed, with a soupçon of safety thrown in for good measure," says BobB. "In a serious restaurant kitchen, it's necessary not just to be able to cut wafer-thin slices and dice, but to do so with consistency at a pace that ensures the diners aren't kept waiting. There are also more specialized knife skills like butterflying a leg of lamb, filleting a fish, or deboning a chicken without removing the skin. And beyond that, sculpting vegetables and fruits into artistic creations. Lots of things a well-trained chef can do with a good knife."
"It all depends on what you aspire to," says acgold7. "At home, it probably doesn't matter, as long as you get the result you want. I have a friend who dices onions with a butter knife, and it drives me crazy to watch it, and when I suggest she use a proper knife, she uses a steak knife instead. But her food tastes pretty good (until she tries to slip a fat-free recipe past me). But in a professional kitchen all this stuff does matter, because you need to turn out a consistent predictable product, quickly and safely."
"If you are reasonably fast and know the terminology behind the cuts and can turn out precisely-cut food in the size required, you have knife skills," says mamachef. "Some people value speed over end result, but that does not denote skill with a knife."
"To see if you have real über knife skills, grab one of your buddies, and have him/her drop the carrot in the food processor while you try and race against the machine to see if you can beat it in shredding up the carrots," suggests ipsedixit. "If you win? You've got skills, Peg. You've got mad skills."