Customer Reviews: The Professional Chef
Your Garage Summer Reading Amazon Fashion Learn more nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Adele Fire TV Stick Sun Care Patriotic Picks Shop-by-Room Amazon Cash Back Offer roadies roadies roadies  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 All-New Kindle Oasis UniOrlando Segway miniPro

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars142
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

`The Professional Chef, 8th Edition' by the faculty and staff of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), generally thought to be the best culinary school in the country, is truly a great textbook for, exactly as the title states, anyone who wishes to be a PROFESSIONAL chef, sous chef, line chef, garde-manger chef, catering chefs or even charity soup kitchen cook. It is NOT that good for people who may wish to simply be personal chefs, pastry chefs, bread bakers, or simply better home cooks. This is because every aspect of the book, starting with the recipes and including everything else, is oriented towards preparation for large groups of people. Virtually all recipes, even the bread baking recipes, are written to serve a minimum of 8, and generally between 12 and 20 people.

The other side of the coin is that this book contains hundreds of pages of information which you will not find in practically any other book. Much of this, such as the cost of serving calculations and other business considerations are not likely to be very interesting to the majority of amateur cooks (unless you happen to be managing a charity food service). But there are also lots that should be interesting to the average cook. Topping this list is the chapter on food safety. Most of us who read a cookbook now and then and watch our share of Food Network cooking shows (especially Alton Brown's Good Eats) will have a passing knowledge of food safety, but the material here will give one the confidence to know they are following the `professional' approach to food safety.

Even though virtually all recipes are written for larger than `home' serving counts, every serious amateur cook, even if they are cooking for only one or two, will be amply rewarded by reading large sections of this book and using it as a reference for many, many techniques.

To look at one of my favorite subjects, eggs, for example, I find several things I either never knew or have forgotten. For example, this is one of the few places where I've seen instructions on how to vary cooking time for hard boiling eggs based on the egg size. This variation, from 12 minutes for small eggs to 15 minutes for extra large eggs explains why I have seen cooking times everywhere from 8 to 20 minutes. The great thing is that in the amateur volunteer kitchen, one has it on GOOD AUTHORITY that we only really need 12 minutes cooking time, as long as we follow the other recommendations such as leaving two inches of water above the top of the cooking eggs. Staying with the egg section, one may be surprised at how few different major recipes there are. There are only 16 main recipes; however each main recipe, like the `rolled omelet', may have up to 14 variations. But there are still things missing. While we get a recipe for French toast, there is no recipe for any classic Italian or Spanish egg dishes such as the frittata or the tortilla Espagnole. There is not even a mention of `frittata' in either of the two indices.

The egg section reveals one annoyance I find with the book. It begins each major section, as in the Chapter 29 on eggs, with six `master recipe' multi-page presentations on important techniques. In this case, it has sections on `Cooking Eggs in the Shell', `Poaching Eggs', `Frying Eggs', `Scrambling Eggs', `Making Omelets', and `Savory Souffles'. Then, the chapter goes on to give specific recipes, repeating the same subjects, with overlapping and with additional information. And yet, there seem to still be little details left out. On the sections on scrambled eggs, there is nothing about cooking eggs in a bain marie (water bath), which is certainly tedious, but which by some of the very best authorities (James Beard, for example) is the very best way to achieve the pillowy moistness which distinguishes the best scrambled eggs. This two part approach to technique presentation (most of the best pics are used in the introductory section) makes the book a bit more interesting to read for ideas outside the kitchen, but it makes it less useful as a reference where the objective is to find everything you need in one place.

Those of you who happen to own earlier editions of this tome may be interested in whether the $70 you need to acquire this latest edition is really necessary. In a word, I believe the answer is `NO'. This edition has 1215 pages, compared to 869 pages in my 5th edition, but many of those extra 346 pages do not yield genuinely useful culinary training. For example, there are 106 pages in a new `World Cuisines' chapter that has much good to say about France, Italy, China, Japan, and other culinary hot spots, but it has not a single word, for example, on the United Kingdom or Ireland. On the other hand, 8th edition has 7 pages on health and safety while 5th edition has 20 pages, with much better graphics on things like the pH scale and on food cooling techniques. The 5th edition also does not have the noisome bifurcation of master technique and detailed recipe cited above. Therefore, you get much more information per page in the earlier edition. The 5th edition also includes the frittata and more detailed information on more different omelet techniques. I also think the pictures of techniques are better in the older edition. Last but not least, I think the presentations of English versus metric measurements are much better done in the older edition.

I think the bottom line is that if you do not already own an earlier edition, this $70 book is easily worth three or four other cookbooks as a reference and as an AUTHORITY, if you are a professional. But, if you own an earlier edition, don't bother buying the new one.
1313 comments|220 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 31, 2007
The Professional Chef is a well-organized, fairly complete cooking text and a very beautiful book. It deserves its great reviews. However, On Cooking by Labensky and Hause is somewhat longer (and thus more complete) and contains much more detailed exposition and recipes than The Professional Chef. It is not as flashy as The Professional Chef: If you were in a book store trying to choose between the two in a short amount of time, The Professional Chef would probably command your purchase; however, I own both and every single time I look for information or recipes, On Cooking has much more complete information.

Some examples: In On Cooking, there is a whole chapter on knife skills, as compared to sections in The Professional Chef. On Cooking's recipes include nutrition information and generally consume one or more pages. In The Professional Chef, each recipe consists of a quarter-page worth of information, though many of them are (beautifully) typeset to fill an entire page, so many of the book's pages consist mostly of blank space. The Professional Chef's section on anatomy of eggs and identification of quality and freshness is a very brief affair while On Cooking has tables of information, charts, and illustrative drawings. Furthermore, in On Cooking, the information about eggs in general is located in the same chapter as everything else on eggs, whereas The Professional Chef is organized like a culinary curriculum: one learns about how to select eggs long before learning how to cook them, so the section on eggs themselves occurs toward the beginning of the book, while the chapter on how to cook them occurs at toward the end of the book.

On Cooking is the more expensive and less flashy (but by no means less well-illustrated) of the two but it really is a superior informational resource.
33 comments|119 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 10, 2007
I am a home cook, but wish I had chosen a career in culinary arts. I am not interested in starting in such a grueling field at this point in my life, but I am interested in developing my culinary skills. That's why I chose this book. From this book, I have been learning about foods of different regions and basic cooking techniques. Some of what they offer is not that applicable for the home cook, such as how to inspect a giant hunk of meat when it's delievered to your place of business, and the recipes are designed for food service; for example, most soup and stock recipes prepare 5 gallons. I have had success with scaling some of the recipes down, but other recipes don't scale down as well, especially if you're making just one or two portions. But I didn't get this book for the recipes as much as for the techniques. With that in mind, I am very pleased with this book and imagine it will become an important part of my home designed culinary education.
0Comment|48 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 9, 2007
I'm a big foodie and have been for many years. This is my cooking bible along with "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee.

If you want a foundation in cooking that will allow your skills to spread like wildfire than this is the book you want. Part cookbook, part text - it teaches you the essentials then let's you spread your wings a bit with a variety of recipes from all over the world. Not the definitive source for every recipe, but the definitive source for techniques and application of those techniques to produce amazing food. Endorsed by the likes of Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, and The Two Hot Tamales.

Does take some time and dedication on your part though. I spent a year reading and working through it (with previous editions). The newest offering is cleaned up, a few errors were fixed, more recipes, and includes a greatly expanded introductory section.

I first got on board with a tag-sale copy of the 6th edition. Wish I would have found it when I first became interested in cooking! I would easily pay $500 for it.
0Comment|33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
As a self-taught amateur "chef", I have been very pleased with this useful reference volume from CIA. While professionals may find this a bit rudimentary in its coverage, there is much of value for "the rest of us" who would love to go to culinary school but can't.

The first portion of the book is strictly for food-service professionals, with information on how to operate a restaurant kitchen. There is also a brief segment on the basic science of food preparation. The next portion discusses major cultural influences and cuisines from all areas of the world, including charts that summarize the key ingredients to be found in each culinary "dialect." The third portion, which I found extremely helpful as one without formal training, was an extensive photographic reference of nearly every type of ingredient you might run across in the kitchen, grouped by category.

The remaining two-thirds or so of the book is the recipe section, but it's more than just that. First, there is a detailed teaching segment on how to make stocks and sauces, "les fondes de cuisine," complete with step-by-step photos. This is of great importance since a very large number of the recipes to follow will use the stocks and sauces you make at this stage. From there, the recipes are categorized by the type of food or cooking method, such as meats & seafood, vegetables, braising and stewing, immersion cooking, etc. Each section opens with some helpful illustrated instruction relevant to that type of food or method.

In a nutshell, this book is both an excellent teaching tool for the uninitiated, and a handy reference for the professional. I would add only one caveat: all the recipe sizes assume restaurant use, with 10 servings being typical, so you'll need to adjust accordingly for smaller settings.
0Comment|15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 23, 2008
I have been looking for a book to help me make the leap from a so-so cook to a so-so chef, to be able to create my own dishes and free myself from recipes sometimes. My wife got me this book for Christmas, and while it has some good information on cooking techniques and other basics, it does not really live up to its reputation.

As other reviewers have noted, it is geared towards beginner chefs. This means: 1) people who have almost no knowledge about how cooked food arrives on their plate, 2) those interested in pursuing a career in restaurants. I thought the large scale recipes (gallons of stock; ten servings) wouldn't be a big problem, but it is much harder to scale down to family size than I thought. The "how-to" info is way too basic; if you watch Alton Brown's Good Eats on the Food Network regularly, you probably already know most of what is in the book, and Alton gives much more in depth knowledge, I think.

The book is more useful as an encyclopedia of food: sections on world cuisines and their central ingredients; breakdowns of meat cuts, fish varieties, grains, pastas, etc. and their properties and best uses. Stock and sauce making are particularly good sections also. For $44 I would say it is okay, but I don't think it is worth the full cover price. For that, get Good Eats on DVD.
11 comment|17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 16, 2006
As a gradaute of the CIA we had to carry the CIA Pro 7 to some of our classes and it was awesome thinking it could not get any bigger or have more information - BUT Pro 8 is the heaviest book ever published. This book is big and it includes a lot of updates from 7, easier methods and it looks like many of the recipes we did in the kitchens - A great resource to everyone and an even better one for CIA grads who can find pics of some of the old pros in them - Martinni, Matel and Andrienni were three I had and there they were playing in front of the camera - you guys really do have a good side no that the book is published - GET BACK TO WORK! - Great book CIA - congrats!
0Comment|20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon August 29, 2008
Cookbooks are a dime a dozen. There are plenty of books out there that are filled with their fair share of mouth-watering recipes. What is rare is a book that tackles cooking from a conceptual and technical angle. Books like The Joy of Cooking or How to Cook Everything try to go beyond the typical cookbook and try to be kitchen manuals. But what those books are is cookbooks first, and books about how to cook second. The Professional Chef is culinary textbook akin to what you'd expect from an academic text for teaching a vocation.

As you might guess, the book approaches cooking as a profession. Culinary students will benefit from ample discussion not only of technique and cooking procedures, but also of the various other roles and skills demanded of chefs. For example, the book discusses the various systems and conventions of dividing labor in the kitchen, and describes the differences between an executive chef and a saucier chef. For those in culinary school or thinking about pursuing a culinary career or education, this book is perfect.

But for home cooks and cooking enthusiasts, don't assume that this book is not for you. If you're serious about cooking, even just as a hobby, there's something to be said about the comprehensive approach of learning techniques, terms, ingredients, and procedures in a structured way that proceeds from the simple to the complex--which is exactly what this book presents. It discusses and introduces the reader to nearly ever major ingredient and nearly every major cuisine. It's encyclopedic in the depth and breadth of the information within--much more so than the Joy of Cooking or similar books--and it gives the kind of technical training that one really needs in order to read, follow, alter, and otherwise truly understand recipes in the first place.

The recipes that are included--and there are many--include just about every major dish from every major cuisine. Goulash? Check. Béarnaise sauce? Check. Are dolmades your thing? It's in there. What about an authentic pad thai or summer roll? You'll find those too. What's great is that the text relates dishes so that similar dishes can be seen as progressions or alterations to basic techniques that are being covered. You learn how to braise, then you get various applications of that procedure from around the world. The text presents cooking from a truly global perspective, so students and readers won't find it difficult to tell how a single concept transcends dishes such as pilaf, risotto, cous cous, paella, pilua, or jambalaya and how the minor variations in technique and the focus on particular ingredients, flavors, and textures, makes these individual dishes what they are.

In short, you'll learn things in this book that you might not learn well or at all in any other book. The seriousness with which the text approaches cooking will benefit the home cook and help him or her to excel beyond the Rachel Rays and Paula Dean's of the world, while those aspiring to a future in the culinary arts will gain a solid introduction to the foundations of their chosen craft, discussing both the artform and the science and underlying mechanics of that artform. Everything from choosing equipment to the proper application of heat and a basic understanding of the physics behind it, will be found within these pages. The difference between this book and those aimed at home cooks is the difference between a college-level text on Spanish and a pocket guide of Spanish phrases. You might be able to quickly say "hello, my name is Pablo" or ask where the bathroom is, but you'll never really know the beauty of the language, nor ever really be able to understand it nor be able to say anything that hasn't already been laid out for you in that pocket guide if you lack a comprehensive introduction to the fundamentals. Similarly, cooking is about more than recipes and incomplete knowledge... it's about methods, procedures, applications, techniques, ingredients, and the creative and artistic freedom to navigate within that framework in accordance with one's own style and flare.
11 comment|13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 11, 2006
THE PROFESSIONAL CHEF has been named one of the five favorite professional culinary books of the last ten years by Food Arts, the professional magazine - and it's easy to see why. This revised, expanded edition for modern kitchens offers a blend of step-by-step cooking instructions and tips on techniques intrinsic to the aspiring chef's working routine. From nutrition to kitchen safety and specialty tools, techniques cover all dishes and restaurant situations and add charts and color photos throughout. Yes, there are plenty of recipes for everything from a basic broth to decorative food cutting - but it's the professional preparation details, also including easy sidebars of information as well as color photos of fish, herbs, and more which make THE PROFESSIONAL CHEF an outstanding college-level acquisition. Though many a home chef might take a look and learn, it's the neo-pro who will benefit here, making it a 'must bible' for any serious culinary collection.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 20, 2007
The book is easy reading and gives a good overview of the principles of cooking. For a more detail book you may would to consider Professional Cooking. I bought both and enjoyed both. Professional Cooking tends to be more "Dick and Jane" while The Professional Chef assumes you bring some cooking intelligences with you.
0Comment|8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items


Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.