My Summer Reading List: The Making of a Chef

October 8, 2009 at 7:28 am

Originally posted at Well Fed On the Net on October 7, 2009.

Ok, so astrologically Summer ended two weeks ago but I had a busy September.  Besides, we’re still knocking out 90 degree days here in L.A. (Lower Alabama).  The final book on my list is Michael Ruhlman’s landmark work The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America.  Rulhman’s mission?  Infiltrate the CIA.

The award-winning food writer went about documenting life as a student at the most prestigious culinary school in the world through first-hand experience.  Ruhlman attended classes, took exams, cooked in campus restaurants and even braved blizzards, and he translates it all beautifully to the written word.

Deftly the author guides the reader through Chef Pardus’ Skills class, echoes Chef Coppedge’s mastery of the baking arts and vividly describes the Odin-like majesty of President Ferdinand Metz.  Most importantly the prose gives one an accurate feel for the sacrifice and stress associated with studying at the Culinary.

A reoccurring theme throughout each kitchen is a dependency not on recipes but rather on ratios.  Each new chef/instructor hammers home the importance of ratios.  So much so that now I am ready to order Ruhlman’s latest best seller named, coincidentally, Ratio.

My journey through some of the great food tomes this summer was done because I felt I was lacking a theoretical and academic foundation to go with my 23 years of practical experience.  After reading these books, especially The Making of a Chef I am reminded of a great line from the movie Good Will Hunting, “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”

Next I will be reviewing six cookbooks sent to me from Adams Media so check back in a couple of days for the first of those reviews, The Everything Soup, Stew, & Chili Cookbook.  Just in time for winter.

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Entry filed under: Food and Cooking, From My Other Blogs, My Summer Reading List. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Goodbye, Gourmet, You Will Be Missed Ben’s Chili Bowl Founder Passes


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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