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Letters to a Young Chef (Art of Mentoring) Hardcover – September 2, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Art of Mentoring
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (September 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046500735X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465007356
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Letters to a Young Chef, Daniel Boulud, cookbook author, chef, and owner of Daniel, Café Boulud, and DB Bistro Moderne in New York City, briefly covers what he believes are the most important building blocks to becoming a great chef. Boulud grew up on his family's farm in a tiny town near Lyons, France. Like most of today's great European chefs, he took his first kitchen job at the tender age of 14. But his lengthy, successful career in New York City has made him very aware that the path he took to get where he is is very different from the one young American chefs take today. His advice is wise, and could apply to other careers as well: find a mentor, use your connections, work hard, learn how something is done by a successful chef before you try out your own creativity, travel, explore, be loyal to your employer, develop your sense of taste, and learn all aspects of the restaurant business before attempting to go out on your own. Boulud's excellent advice comes from years of experience, and some of the most enjoyable parts of this little book are his anecdotes about the time he spent learning and paying his dues in legendary kitchens, and about the fascinating culinary icons he mixes with today. A quick read by a most fascinating culinary celebrity, you'll wish he shared even more, and that next time he puts pen to paper, it will be for a full-length memoir. --Leora Y. Bloom

From Publishers Weekly

You can say one thing for Boulud, owner of top-flight New York restaurants Daniel, Caf‚ Boulud and DB Bistro Moderne: he's not one for coddling. In this rather skimpy collection of advice to recent culinary school grads, he shoots straight from the hip. Working as a chef in someone else's restaurant wouldn't be his choice, he explains, or the choice of anyone with true passion, he implies. "Still, it is a life." Instead, these brief chapters on topics like finding a mentor and controlling one's ego and ambition ("I have a healthy dose of both," he confesses) are aimed at a very specific audience: those who want to open their own restaurants, and they'd better be young (over 30 is over-the-hill) and hungry-and not just for a perfect coq au vin. The book is long on generalities, but rather short on specifics. One exception is the chapter on wine and dessert, which explains that 10% to 15% of an average check is generated by the latter, and one-third by the former. Boulud can also be maddeningly contradictory, as when he lauds all things seasonal, then broadens the definition to include chanterelles from Oregon, because they reach New York in two days. A final chapter listing the 10 commandments of a chef (including keep knives sharp and learn the world of food) restates much of the previous information in pithier form. This book is the Monsieur Hyde to the Dr. Jekyll version of culinary training presented in Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice. Recipes not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Daniel Boulud, like his food and restaurants, is a brilliant artist.
Brunie Feliciano
I highly recommend this book to anyone in the culinary industry or even thinking about becoming a cook.
N. Barker
It's a pretty fun read and I went through the book in one afternoon.
Simon Dethrasavong

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on December 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This essay recommends practices which an aspiring chef of haute cuisine should follow in order to succeed in this very demanding profession. Many of Boulud's recommendations are as applicable to a professional in information systems as they are to a culinary professional, but some are distinctly applicable to crafts where one works with ones hands. For example, one of the things which distinguish professional chefs from the home chef or, for that matter, from culinary journalists, is the fact that they have prepared some dishes thousands of times over, so they can judge the doneness of a cooked material by the simplest sound or feel or smell. They are so well practiced at knife skills that many kitchen aids are, for them a waste of time. So, there are some suggestions which may actually be better advice for a carpenter than they are for a statistician.
The recommendations are golden. I find nothing here which runs counter to anything else I have read about the culinary profession. Two of the most distinctive aspects are the importance of mentoring in a culinary education and the need to be prepared to give up a normal life at home. The first aspect repeats the similarity between culinary arts and other manual trades. Carpentry and plumbing still follow mentoring career paths dating back to the middle ages.
Boulud also effectively describes the difference between haute cuisine and bourgoise cuisine, a distinction in French which I have seen in no other cuisine, although I suspect there are some Japanese culinary disciplines which embody the same distinctions with their intensive discipline in knife skills and pasta making.
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40 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Chef Boulud indeed has many interesting and important points to teach the new generation of chefs. However, I am sorely disappointed by this passage..."One more requirement--you need youth. Notice these are Letters to a Young Chef, not a new chef. In other words, if you were thirty years old I would not be writing this to you, because the demands of the job and the competition out there require that you start young, as you have, as I did." (p.85) He goes on to state that there is a chef that he knew who started his career in this fifties, "But he is the exception."
How disappointing to hear that from a top chef in the US. As a career changer, I may not have started at age 14. But I do have the focus AND the dedication that is required for success in this field. Stamina and strength also comes with training and time. So to say that your chances for success in the culinary field is limited because one is thirty!--that is a pretty demoralizing and narrow-minded viewpoint.
Thirty is NOT over-the-hill to start your culinary career. Neither is forty, nor fifty. If you had the will and the heart to do it, you can find success.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Bowers on April 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book had me believing. I must say, it still does. The advice is visceral. It's an invaluable guide to sharpening your focus. Daniel is a motivator and it is a true gift to be able to read through these letters. These are the conversations and the answers to the questions you want to spend an entire day asking a great chef, but whom would never have the time of day to speak to you. There is but one issue I have. The title of this book should not be Letters to Young Chef, but rather, Letters to an Adolescent/Teenager/Early 20 somethings Chef. You see, when I picked up this book I interpreted the title as being directed to someone who is either preparing to cook professionally or has been (even for some time) cooking but still feels young in regards to the knowledge they have. Then while reading Pg.85 para 1, Daniel straight up says that this is not a book for a cook who is 30. For him/her it is too late, expect in the rarest of circumstances. This is where Daniel and I disagree, and where I have now become disenchanted with having to finish the rest of the book, although of course, I will. I'm a professional cook who has been working for 4 years starting at 27 now 31. I have always pushed myself to keep up with my younger peers and in the process have realized one thing. They cannot keep up with me! And what I notice most of all, is that my age brings to the table a degree of maturity and obedience to the chef that youth just can't seem to bare. I don't work in the ultra-competitive New York scene but age has absolutely nothing to do with intention and drive. Cooking is not about age. It is about the fire of passion, will and desire to learn and grow, and Daniel completely squelches that fire out of existence with his remarks.Read more ›
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Luis del Valle on August 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
I came late to food (32 years of age), but I had already learned a vast amount of knowledge about food and food service, via working in my Aunt and Uncle's Restaurant in Spain. I then chose to acquire formal "Chef" qualifications, which doesn't really mean anything; at the end of the day, it's all about experience, your passion for food, and your ability to 'teach' yourself everything about food.

My other point in regards to age is the British Chef, Nico Ladenis. Here's a man, who took a year off to travel France, came back home to London, started cooking from French Cook Books, worked in his friends Greek Restaurant before opening up his own, and then 20 years later, is the first English Chef to have more than 1 Restaurant awarded with Michelin Star ratings, not to mention that he has had amazing apprentices come out of his kitchens: Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, etc.

I think I would follow passion, drive, professionalism, and love for food and kitchens any day, rather than saying it's all based on what age you come into the kitchen. When you consider that no Chef will ever learn everything about food, everyday is like the first day you walked into a Kitchen. With that attitude and conviction, you can become great! Good luck with your careers.
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