The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America 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 Perfection, and book three, The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity.
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.
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 Cooking and Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto. The 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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