31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 12} The Making of a Chef

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman. Day 12 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction ReadsThe Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of AmericaThe Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman. Day 12 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction Reads by Michael Ruhlman

After I graduated from college I worked as a server and bartender, so I’m familiar with the restaurant world, and I still find it fascinating to read accounts related to the restaurant world and chefs. In this book, the first in a loose trilogy, Ruhlman documents his experiences while at the Culinary Institute of America – a (the?) premier culinary school in the U.S.

I loved this account – it almost makes me want to go to culinary school, and I actually really liked that Ruhlman went into it as a writer planning on writing the book, instead of a student who decided afterwards to write a book about his experiences. I think it shows in the level of detail, and in how the book isn’t a memoir of Ruhlman’s experiences alone, but has a broader take on the events depicted.

Ruhlman continues the story with book two, The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward PerfectionThe Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection, and book three, The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of CelebrityThe Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity.

Publisher’s Description:
In the winter of 1996, Michael Ruhlman donned hounds-tooth-check pants and a chef’s jacket and entered the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to learn the art of cooking. His vivid and energetic record of that experience, The Making of a Chef, takes us to the heart of this food-knowledge mecca. Here we meet a coterie of talented chefs, an astonishing and driven breed. Ruhlman learns fundamental skills and information about the behavior of food that make cooking anything possible. Ultimately, he propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms, from Asian and American regional cuisines to lunch cookery and even table waiting, in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great cooking.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads

And if you like Ruhlman (and I do), he has lots more books. My favorites are Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday CookingRatio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking and Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s ManifestoRuhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook's Manifesto. The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every KitchenThe Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen also sounds like one I’ll like, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s on my list!

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads, go to the series page.

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Comments

  1. Hm, this one looks interesting too! I have no experience in the food industry, but I do love cooking… may have to check it out at the library.

    • Do it! I would be shocked if your library doesn’t have it.

      Don’t you love me being so bossy, telling you you have to check it out? It’s just so easy to give a book a try when it’s at your library. Sorry about that. Um, I’d encourage you to go ahead and request it from your library so you can see if it interests you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love Ratio. Or at least what I read of it. I kept jumping up to go experiment in the kitchen while reading it, and never finished it before it was way overdue at the library and had to go back. A copy for keeps is on my Christmas wishlist. ^_^

    • I hope you get your wish. ๐Ÿ™‚

      How did the things turn out? I returned my copy before I tried anything and haven’t checked it out again yet to give them a whirl. I loved the explanations and way of thinking about cooking and baking. I’m almost scared to try them in real life because I don’t want it to taint my affection for the book if I’m disappointed in how they turn out. Which is silly, I realize. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ha, me too! ^_^

        They turned out well. His pasta ratio calls for eggs; I’d only made flour-and-water pasta before. There’s a huge taste difference, but I think I might prefer fewer or no egg noodles for most pasta applications (I mean, his ratio tasted like egg noodles, while mine taste like pasta, aka not much. And I’ve never been a big egg noodle fan). But it made a lasagna my husband swooned over, so there’s that.

        And the cookie chapter sent me off into my own cookie experiments, and that was a lot of fun! ^_^ And I wanted to play with the bread ones. I’m less sure about how some of the others would work out; all of cooking doesn’t boil down to ratios the way he wants it to (though baking pretty much does). But if nothing else it was valuable for my cooking education. And yummy. ^_^

        • Yeah, I’m not a fan of eggy pasta. I generally don’t like egg noddles, so I’m not sure if I’ll be trying his pasta ratio.

          Mmmm, I could definitely get behind cookie experiments. And most other baking ones. Especially as we’re headed into winter – perfect time to use the oven.

          Thanks for the feedback!

          • Plus, flour-and-water pasta is dirt cheap. Eggy pasta? Not so much.

            Yes, I stopped my cookie experiments because it was too hot (and because I’ve been barely able to use the oven this whole pregnancy, it just overheats me too easily), but with cold weather on the horizon…I do believe those cookies will be back. ^_^

        • Congratulations! I hope you get to take advantage of cooler temps with lots of great cookie experiments.

Trackbacks

  1. […] already discussed my love for food-related memoirs and cooking-school accounts, so I perhaps shouldn’t have included another book in that genre. But it’s my series so […]

  2. […] On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America by Jonathan Dixon Not as compelling as Ruhlman’s book for a look at the CIA, or Flinn’s book if you want an account of cooking […]

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