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

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141001895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141001890
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For his first book, The Making of a Chef, hands-on journalist Michael Ruhlman attended the most prestigious cooking school in the U.S., the Culinary Institute of America. He also earned his chef's whites and began cooking professionally. Ruhlman ventures further into the secret lives of chefs with his second book, The Soul of a Chef. This enthusiastically researched report is divided into three parts: The first concerns the Certified Master Chef exam, a brutal weeklong cooking marathon that measures the skill levels of professional chefs. The second and third parts of Ruhlman's book are devoted to the careers of two different chefs, Michael Symon of Cleveland's Lola Bistro and Thomas Keller of Napa Valley's legendary French Laundry. The thread connecting these three tales together is Ruhlman's quest for culinary perfection: Does it exist? Is it possible? How is it even measurable? Ruhlman does indeed stumble onto the realization of his high-minded ideal, serving up a palatable conclusion for hard-core foodies equally obsessed with the perfect meal. --Sumi Hahn Almquist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this follow-up to his cooking school odyssey, The Making of a Chef, Ruhlman examines what causes chefs to seek absolute perfection. The book is divided into three parts: in the first, Ruhlman observes the arduous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, which was the setting for his first book. The second segment focuses on Michael Symon, a rising star at Lola (in Cleveland) who was recently dubbed one of the 10 best chefs in America by Food & Wine. The third is dedicated to Thomas Keller, chef of California's esteemed French Laundry. While Ruhlman's play-by-play descriptions of chefs struggling to cook exactly as Escoffier dictated 90 years earlier can be exciting (and the stories of those who failed heartbreaking), they strongly echo his previous book's account of culinary education. The author fares better in his portrait of Keller's development into an exacting perfectionist. But even here Ruhlman often slips into simply writing about the process of working on The French Laundry Cookbook, to which he contributed the text, or repeating stories that appear in it. Overall this book makes a fine introduction to Ruhlman's writing, but readers of his previous books will be disappointed to find the chef reheating leftovers. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --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

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves food.
Nichole Mitchell
I found Michael Ruhlman to be a really terrific food writer - and insight into what it takes to be a really fine chef.
Lita Kilpatrick
It was written by The Soul of a Chef's author, Michael Ruhlman.
Stefanie N

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By sam t. on June 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
this new hardcover, written by michael ruhlman is excellent. the first section in particular is truly gripping(esp. if you are a food nut like i am!) the almost blow by blow account of a group of chefs trying to pass a series of incredibly arduous tests (a ten day herculean nightmare)in order obtain the title of master chef from the Culinary Institute of America makes the Iron chef challenge look like a stroll though the park! one of the main themes of the book is the quest for
perfection in cooking and it's intriguing to say the least. it is like night and day, comparing the book to kitchen confidential by anthony bourdain where it focuses mostly on the dirt and the dysfunction that goes on. needless to say both capture many different truths about the restaurant industry. another exciting section is the fascinating behind the scenes of The French Laundry, a highly acclaimed restaurant and how the chef's personal philosophy affected the running of the restaurant.there is also a well written account of a dinner with john mariani, one of america's preeminent food writers. the author's journalistic objectivity has served the book very well especially in a field that is filled with hype.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on March 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
`The Soul of a Chef' is the second of Michael Ruhlman's journalistic explorations into the world of culinary life in America. The book contains three long essays that chronicle parts of the careers of three different chefs at three different levels of achievement. Thus, the journey toward perfection is more the journey of the author than it is a journey by a single chef.

The first essay is a telling of the events in one examination for the title of `Certified Master Chef'. The certification is carried out and bestowed by the Culinary Institute of America, often characterized as the Harvard of American cooking schools. The examination runs for more than a week when, on each day, the candidate must complete a particular task. The candidate knows the object of each task at least a day in advance, so they may at least mentally prepare for their challenge. Almost all tasks are taken from the pages of classic French cuisine, some lifted almost directly from the pages of Escoffier's books on the subject. Out of about a dozen qualifiers competing at each session, held once every six months, usually only two or three candidates pass the test and are awarded the title. The author participates in the competition under the ruse of being an inspector from a fictional qualifying organization that is verifying that the tests are worthy of an imaginary certification. In that way, the author can observe and interview all the candidates without arousing suspicion or apprehension in the candidates. Thus, this book picks up the narrative on American culinary careers at very much the same place the author left off at the end of his first culinary investigation `The Making of a Chef'.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I love to cook, for some reason I never got around to reading The Making of a Chef when it first came out. However, I realized that one third of Soul of a Chef was devoted to Thomas Keller and The French Laundry, so I ordered it. To my suprise, I could not put it down. The book is wonderful because the subject matter is interesting, and the writing is excellent. Mr. Ruhlman is a writer who became a cook, not a cook who became a writer. While I was reading the book, I laughed out loud, I did high fives in the air, I muttered, and when I was done, I wanted to hang out with the author. I can't say I've had that reaction to a book before. If the subject matter interests you at all, you won't be sorry you got this book while it is still a hardback. Then if you haven't read The Making of a Chef, it will be your next purchase! If you enjoy this book half as much as I did, it will still be five stars. They wouldn't let me give it 10. The Soul of a Chef and The French Laundry Cookbook together would make a fabulous gift.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Robinson on November 22, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, Michael takes us into the kitchens of the CIA once again. He shows us some of the best chefs in the country, as they labor under the enormous stress of taking the CIA's 'Certified Master Chef' exams.
He then travels to two of America's finest restaurants and explores the character of the Chefs who created them. Along the way, we meet some other colorful characters and some very delightful-sounding food.
That's it in a nutshell. The reason I love this book is because it shows the heart and intensity of what I can only call the 'love of food' and the 'striving for excellence' that both of these Chefs possess. The discussion of their ingenuity in creating new dishes is very interesting as well, but it is the sheer PASSION for cooking that Michael communicates to us that kept my eyeballs glued to the pages.
I have now read both of Michael's books on this subject: The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef. I finished them both in about two weeks and my understanding of the world of cooking, not to mention my faith in the human race (how could you not love a species that is capable of such positive, again, passion??), has simply been...transformed.
Thank you, Michael.
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