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The article of Time magazine (June 23, 2014) titled “Don’t blame fat” says “New science reveals fat isn’t what hurting our health, and wraps up with the following sentence.

How we eat –whether we cook it ourselves or grab fast-food takeout – matters as much what we eat. So don’t feel bad about the cream in your coffee or the york in your eggs or the occasional steak with béarnaise if you got the culinary chops – but don’t think that the end of the war on fat means all the Extra Value Meals you can eat.

I don’t find the word, “culinary chops” in neither Cambridge nor Oxford online dictionaries. Google Ngram doesn’t show this word either.

As far as the word, "chop / chops" conscerns, OALED at hand gives only four definitions of “chop” as a noun:

  1. A thick slice of meat with a bone attached to it.
  2. An act of cutting something with a quick downward movement using axe or knife.
  3. An act of hitting sth with the side of your hand in a quick downward movement.
  4. (informal / Pl.) The part of a person’s or animal’s face,

and no more.

What does “culinary chops” mean? Does it simply mean a butcher’s or carving knife, or chunk of meat, or skills / knack of cooking? If so, why doesn’t the author use more common word?

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A guitar virtuoso has "chops" – ipso Jul 2 '14 at 5:01
Don't forget about these chops: cn.bing.com/images/search?q=chops+facial+hair&FORM=HDRSC2 – user3306356 Jul 4 '14 at 3:54
up vote 15 down vote accepted

"Chops" is just a slang expression for skill. It derives from the music world (jazz, to be specific), likely (but don't take this as gospel) from a brass player's embouchure in its original incarnation. This would relate it directly to the once-current slang use of "chops" for the mouth or jaws (still heard in the phrase busting [someone's] chops).

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Can I say 'His English language chops is greatly improved,"? "It's a great problem that our bordmembers lack management chops"? – Yoichi Oishi Jul 2 '14 at 5:05
@YoichiOishi - While "chops" may be a slang term for a word that is used in the singular, the word itself is plural. You would need to say His English language chops are greatly improved to be grammatically correct, but that still wouldn't quite be idiomatic; His English language chops have greatly improved would be better. – bye Jul 2 '14 at 5:27
@YoichiOishi - You can say "His English-language chops have greatly improved". Your second sentence seems fine to me, save for the spelling of 'board members'. – Erik Kowal Jul 2 '14 at 5:29
@Erick Kowal. Woop! It should be board member. Lack of spelling chops! – Yoichi Oishi Jul 2 '14 at 6:51
@Yoichi The most common way to use this word is to say that someone has(n’t) got the chops (to do something). Talking about someone’s chops is certainly understandable, but it is not nearly as common as saying that this someone has or hasn't got them. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 2 '14 at 10:51

I think In the article Chop is used with the following meaning:

Quality; class: first chop.

The author uses this expression to refer to the cooking skills that you may use to prepare elaborate food now that fat seems to be no longer a problem for health.

Though not a very common expression, I can not find Ngram evidence, it can be found used with reference to quality food;

  • Landry's shows off culinary chops with new summer Signature Chef's Series dinners.

  • Does your junior chef have the culinary chops to get invited to the White House?

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+1: I had read it as "chops" meaning "a small cut of meat often including part of a rib", thinking the author was making an oxymoron of the refined culinary with the slangier chops of "steak and chops" fame to reference the healthy/unhealthy nature of the food. However, I think this answer makes much more sense with the "occasional": The author may be saying "the occasional steak with béarnaise if you [have] the culinary chops [to make such a recipe]..." It's certainly a less common food than a cup of coffee or an egg! – user39720 Jul 2 '14 at 5:07
Both of the examples at the end use "chops" to mean skill/ability, not "item of first quality". – bye Jul 2 '14 at 5:45
In my answer I refer to 'culinary chops' meaning 'cooking skills' and the examples support this view. Quality food is the result of culinary chops. – Josh61 Jul 2 '14 at 5:50

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