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The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity Paperback – May 29, 2007


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The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity + The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection + The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112075
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There's no rest for the restaurateur in Ruhlman's engaging account of a culinary world that's become even more frenetic in the wake of the Food Network's success and the rise of celebrity chefs desperately clinging to their stars. Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef; The Soul of a Chef) revisits some of the people he's worked with in the past and the school where he trained to see how things have changed since "chef branding, with its product lines, multiple name–recognized restaurants, and entertainment venues, has lured the chef out of the kitchen." Ruhlman points out the irony of such chefs as Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Anthony Bourdain becoming so successful that they no longer have time to practice the thing that brought them success in the first place. He solicits opinions on the phenomenon from an array of people in the business and also profiles some of those still shaping American cooking in the kitchen, from Melissa Kelly and her down-to-earth comfort food to Grant Achatz and his avant-garde, technical creations. Ruhlman has a light, unobtrusive style, and he brings considerable knowledge to the table when commenting on either individual dishes or the industry as a whole. (On sale May 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Ruhlman continues his meticulous examination of the role of the restaurant chef commenced in his earlier books. As Ruhlman perceives it, the one great advantage to the celebrity chef's media ubiquity is access to a bully pulpit, a forum to help save Americans from total confusion over conflicting information on nutrition and obesity. He revisits the Culinary Institute of America and discerns how the passage of time and its success have changed its curriculum. Ruhlman profiles several chefs, among them Chicago's lionized Grant Achatz, trying to discern what makes his food truly inventive and a meal at his pricey restaurant an experience beyond the ordinary. He takes on the Emeril Lagasse phenomenon, rising to Lagasse's defense while others are apparently bent on dismissing television's most recognizable chef. Visiting Las Vegas, Ruhlman christens it "America's food Gomorrah." Fans of Ruhlman's previous volumes will relish all the insider "dish" here and will have a pleasant experience despite Ruhlman's rambling, confusing, and exhausting parentheses-within-parentheses sentences. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Michael Ruhlman is the author of more than twenty non-fiction and cooking related works, including the bestselling "The Soul of a Chef," "The French Laundry Cookbook" with Thomas Keller, Charcuterie and Ruhlman's Twenty, which won both James Beard and IACP awards. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, Donna, who is the photographer on his most recent cookbooks.

Customer Reviews

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Mr. Ruhlman writes with passion an intensity about a fascinating subject.
S. Herlihy
Mr. Ruhlman gives us another perfectly plated culinary tome with his entertaining look inside the world of the celebrity chef phenomenon in America.
frfubar8
My final judgment on this is to advise reading The Soul of a Chef and only reading this if you really enjoyed that one.
E. Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Bourdain on June 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Yet another impeccably researched and insightful exploration of the world of chefs from Ruhlman, one of the very very few non-chef writers who "get it". His look at previously written about subjects--and what's happened to them in the strange new world of "chef branding" and multi-unit expansion--and the terrible lure of Vegas is thoughtful and on target. Chefs who famously never open up to ordinary journalists are remarkably candid with Ruhlman.

While thoroughly entertaining for anyone interested in food, cooks and restaurants, this book should also be a standard text in Culinary schools. This is the world that well known and respected chefs who "made it" on the strength of their cooking abilities will live in the future.

My only criticism is the dismaying lack of profanity and bile. Ruhlman in person is a viciously funny bagful of venomous snakes. Had he allowed a little more of his infamous Dark Side to leak into the text I, for one, would have been happier. C'mon, Ruhlman! A chef with a SAG card?!! That should be a red flag to a bull!Kill, kill Faster Faster!!

In spite of his good natured, Cleveland-born even-handedness, another stellar performance. I plan to give out copies for Christmas.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By J. V. Lewis VINE VOICE on June 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are in the midst of deep upheaval in American cooking. The Food Network, the explosion of cookbook publishing, the overnight blossoming of the culinary travel genre, and the celebrity chef phenomenon all mark our new interest in the culture of restaurant food, if not in food per se. The extent of this food-culture is startling. No longer is French cooking the domain of a few big-city Europeanized gourmands. It's everywhere. Heck, even some of the ten-year-old girls on the soccer team I coach spend water breaks yacking about their favorite food shows. My nine-year-old, when I asked what she wanted for supper recently, answered "Grand Aioli". It's downright nutty.

So we should gratefully welcome cook/food-writer Michael Ruhlman's excellent new attempt to make sense of it all. He is almost uniquely situated in the celebrity-food world to give us a clear snapshot of what's going on. This book is a series of vignettes of the hectic lives and workplaces of an impressive list of chefs and food-show stars. Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, Wolfgang Puck...even no-brow pom-pom girl Rachel Ray, among several others. Ruhlman's question to them is: what is your role? Haven't you left the kitchen now that you're on TV and being interviewed and promoting your books and traveling from coast to coast to open new restaurants? The answers are fascinating, and reveal more about the business of being a culinary star than any other book I've read. And what a strange, kinetic, exhausting, adrenalized world it is. I felt exhausted just reading about Thomas Keller's schedule.

If you're curious about the explosion of the food culture, this is a great primer. It's well-written, anecdotal, entertaining, and riveting. I highly recommend it as summer reading whether you love food or simply love watching it on TV.
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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on October 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This summer I finally got around to reading Michael Ruhlman's books on the art of cooking, and those who seek to do it professionally. Now I have reached the third book, which expands upon the idea, and takes a deep look at how the recent culinary boom is affecting how all of us eat today.

Ruhlman looks at the current phenomena that surround cooking, one of the most mundane tasks around. These days, food is very big business indeed. Flip on the television and not only are there instructional shows on nearly every sort of cuisine and course, but competition shows where the content ranges from sublime to just plain stupid, reality shows that have a famous chef or two wandering the world in search of new tastes and cultures, or watching another famous chef come in and revamp a dying restaurant. If that's not enough, visit any retail store or megamart and you have various celebrities pimping -- I mean endorsing -- cutlery, cookware sets, books, spices and even processed foods. You can't escape it, and I suspect that the wave is only going to get bigger as time goes on.

This phenomena, known as 'branding' in the industry, is what makes chefs become super-famous and gets them rich. Most chefs can only dream of this, and most of them slave away in kitchens, working themselves into early retirement -- being a chef requires hard physical labour, and stamina, and most can't last beyond their fifties. It certainly has brought about changes in the American culinary scene, as Ruhlman shows in his book, increasing the average home cook's awareness of just what is good food, and the fact that yes, you can indeed do it at home.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`The Reach of a Chef' is Michael Ruhlman's third major journalistic investigation into the world of American culinary practice and personalities and his tenth book, which includes four important cookbook collaborations, especially the highly successful collaborations with the philosopher-king of American cooking, Thomas Keller and the king of New York fish cookery, Eric Rippert.

This book is a logical next step after his essays on culinary education, `The Making of a Chef', and basic levels of achievement in the American culinary universe, `The Soul of a Chef'. This investigation explores the techniques by which the successful chef / owner expands their reach beyond the single restaurant and turn their reputation into a marketable brand. An ancillary object of this essay is an examination of culinary celebrity.

His primary subjects are virtually all the major stars of the American culinary scene, including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Eric Rippert, Jean-George Vongerichten, Charlie Trotter, Jasper White, Daniel Boulud, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Patrick O'Connell, Norm Van Aiken, Grant Achatz, Melissa Kelly, and Rachael Ray.

The last name may not seem to fit into the same group as the others, and in some important ways, Rachael does not fit the mold that created Puck, Lagasse, Keller, Flay, and Batali. But, with regard to the matters addressed in this book, she is as much of an archetype as all the others. Like Martha Stewart before her, Rachael is turning her name into a BRAND based on accomplishment in the culinary world. Ruhlman even goes so far as to say that Rachael may be the first `brand' which has the impetus to overtake Martha at her own game.
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