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Book review: The Making of a Chef

May 12, 2015

And now I want to go to culinary school. Don’t get me wrong I love my job and I really have no desire to start working every night and holiday in a hot, sweaty kitchen being yelled at by some Gordon Ramsey wanna be because my risotto’s al dente.

And yet.

In the late 1990′s writer Michael Ruhlman convinced the Culinary Institute of America (aka the CIA) to let him into their kitchens as a pseudo-student, in order to write about what it was like to attend the CIA and become “a chef.” I happened across this book, along with its follow up The Soul of a Chef when browsing food books on hoopla. We have the audio version of both of these, as well print copies.

Ruhlman started in Skills I with all the new incoming students, learning how to hold a knife, how to efficiently set up your mise en place, and discovering how many versions of brown sauce really exist. After that, he bounced around, leaving his classmates behind to experience different aspects of what the CIA both offers and requires of their chefs. I wish he had stayed in pastry a little while longer. I’ll never understand why a lot of chefs don’t like to make desserts. Come on people, that is my jam! (get it…) If I were a chef, it would totally be of the pastry variety. I would have loved to be friends with the chef instructor who had dedicated his life to making the best bread. (I’d probably also weigh 900 lbs, but hey, everything has a trade off.)

I liked Ruhlman’s books because they gave an honest look at a challenging profession. It was a little weird that they were both divided into three completely different sections (especially The Soul of a Chef), but it was fun when Michael Symon popped up. I am a big fan of his. The audio reader didn’t quite get all the terms pronounced properly but if you read the book book, you’ll be ok.

Ruhlman has since gone on to write several other food books which I am interested in exploring, including writing The French Laundry cookbook with Thomas Keller. He’s been a judge on Iron Chef America and I didn’t even realize I already knew who he was until I saw his picture on his website.

So if you are looking for new food books or you’re curious about the CIA, check these guys out.

Then cook something yummy and share it with us, ok?

Happy reading cooking…

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Amanda is a classically-trained pianist who loves to read. Like any good librarian, she also has two cats named after Italian cities. Amanda spends her free time sitting in Nashville traffic, baking, and running the Interlibrary Loan office at the Nashville Public Library.