on August 27, 1998
Much of the growth in the culinary arts has taken place without notice. Most people still associate the role of the chef in the kitchen as the only outlet for someone who has a passion for food. They are unaware of the many possibilities that exist from research and development to writing about food. Mary Donovan's Careers for Gourmets and Others Who Relish Food is an essential culinary resource, allowing people with a passion for food to determine the best path to follow in the culinary industry.
She presents the culinary arts in a straight-ahead manner that helps to dispel many commonly held notions. The public's perception of the cook is gained from the TV chefs who never sweat on camera and never seem to be under any stress. Instead the first chapter explains in detail the rigors and the demands that this industry will place upon a person's life. The long hours, poor initial pay and high stress levels are rarely discussed with those entering the industry through culinary schools.
In a segment entitled "Do you have what it takes?" she asks the reader to reflect upon individual characteristics that determine whether a person is suited for cooking in a kitchen. With questions such as "Will you be happy working with food every single day" to "How do you feel about working holidays" the reader is able to gage their own strengths and weaknesses. These questions are not intended to discourage those who do not possess the mentality for production cooking. Instead these people are encouraged to look for jobs in other sectors of the food business.
The first half of the book looks at the different positions in the classical kitchen brigade and how they interact in a normal business day in three different kitchen types. From the managerial tasks of the executive chef to the hands-on production of the station cooks each station's good and bad points are discussed.
After the production kitchen roles are presented some of the more unusual niches in the culinary industry are uncovered. The entire spectrum from personal chefs and chefs who own their own lunch carts to jobs in research and development and food photography. In each of these jobs the key to success was only to have a passion for food.
The final section of this book is devoted to helping the hopeful culinarian to navigate the interview process. From personal experience, I found the list of sample questions to be in line with what the average employer will ask. Perhaps the best piece of advice in the entire book is the section on networking. This is a tactic that involves creating a series of working relationships. This is a good way not only find other jobs but also to exchange in new ideas and perspectives.
One of the main drawbacks of this book is that it does not contain a chapter devoted to the expanding role of computers in the culinary arts. With the advent of computerized point-of-sale systems and software designed to make ordering easier the need for people with industry experience combined with computer skills has never been higher. I would hope to see another chapter added to the next revision of this text.
Careers for Gourmets should be in the reference section of every culinary school. This book helps to make sense of all the new possibilities in the culinary arts and educates the novice culinarian who believes that the culinary profession might be right for them. The best feature is helping to focus the reader's skills by asking tough questions and looking at every niche in the culinary industry. After reading this book I feel that my own culinary skills have been focused and I know where best to direct my energies to have a fulfilling and satisfying career.
on October 12, 2005
I'd size this book up as one small step beyond a 'welcome to the wonderful world of the dining/wine business' pamphlet you'd pick up at an employment agency or something. An inconclusive introduction at best.
I bought this book because I have trained as a chef, and because I have a passion for food, but I don't aspire to the life of a chef. I wanted insight into how to break into alternative divisions of the industry, such as wine, gourmet food, small business ideas, etc. Such information is not to be found in any useful degree here. Rather, this book rarely spends more than a half page paragraph under any one heading, for instance, in describing the various posts within a typical restaurant kitchen, or going into possibilities beyond the restaurant kitchen.
It strikes me that there is virtually nothing in this book that cannot be determined simply by using common sense in thinking about the industry. So unless you literally know nothing about it, I cannot recommend this book for anyone looking for new ideas or real insight into the food/gourmet genre.