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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a little sauce, a lot of fluff
I picked up this book at my local library, frankly, because of the appealing cover. It was no surprise to later learn that Darling worked for a time in publishing. The blurb made me think I was going to get some scandalous retelling of the trials and tribulations of chef school, and although the chef instructors were never as rough as you're originally led to believe,...
Published on May 20, 2009 by Tommy York

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hoping for better
This book is entertaining if you have a fairly wide culinary experience. However it's not what I'd call "gripping." The author occasionally has moments of self-depreciation, but it's not believable. Her ego comes thru loud and clear. The description of culinary school is interesting to one who has never attended and always wondered. The author tries to make you like...
Published on August 11, 2009 by Book Hound


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a little sauce, a lot of fluff, May 20, 2009
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I picked up this book at my local library, frankly, because of the appealing cover. It was no surprise to later learn that Darling worked for a time in publishing. The blurb made me think I was going to get some scandalous retelling of the trials and tribulations of chef school, and although the chef instructors were never as rough as you're originally led to believe, Darling and her fellow students make for some interesting characters.

It's a long book (at well over 300 pages), but the chapters are short, and most end with recipes. I appreciate the author's candor about not always having to be a perfect cook (at home), and most of the recipes are totally doable. Slight warning: if you're wondering about the outcome of her tenure in school, don't read the author's biography on the inner book jacket.

If you're looking for The Devil Wears Chef's Clogs, then try again. But if you want a fairly quick read (despite the size) about food and how lowly dicers become tested chefs, then this book is for you. It made me hungry quite a bit, so be prepared.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hoping for better, August 11, 2009
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This book is entertaining if you have a fairly wide culinary experience. However it's not what I'd call "gripping." The author occasionally has moments of self-depreciation, but it's not believable. Her ego comes thru loud and clear. The description of culinary school is interesting to one who has never attended and always wondered. The author tries to make you like her and admire her culinary skills, however by the end of the book, she was irritating and incredibly "perfect." Entertaining but not fascinating....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and Charming, September 26, 2010
Katherine Darling is a young woman living in NYC in the publishing business. One day she decides that she wants to go to culinary school and hone the skills that she was introduced to in her family kitchen. She comes from a family that debates over what pies to make at Thanksgiving. I do not recollect the number but believe that there would be about 4-5 different pies served-although her family was not a fan of turkey.

At Thanksgiving she announces her big plans to her parents and grandparents to see what the reaction would be. Who would not want a chef in their home. I would love one.

Her book chronicles her experience through culinary school, from receiving her set of knives, apron and pants, through the various lesson, making stocks, dicing vegetables, cooking poultry and fish, breads and desserts onto the more sophisticated lessons.

What I truly appreciated about the books were some of the cooking techniques she shares with her readers. Simple little tricks that one may not have an appreciation for. Of course I always welcome a selection of recipes. The recipes she included are all quite simple, just a little heavy on the calories.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys cooking or wants a little insight into the lives of culinary school and the students. One of Darling's colleagues came from Michigan, having worked in the auto industry. As a twenty something year old he leaves his wife and children behind for 6 months to pursue an education in culinary school. I loved the stories of her classmates, students who were willing to try something different and take a chance.

As a first time writer, Darling has given us a true treasure. Her combination of a few recipes, six months of culinary lessons, some tales about the French chef instructors and a wonderful use of the English language has baked up a true culinary read. Readers can hear the accent of her Gallic instructors as they critique and praise the student's progress in the kitchen.

This book will stay on my shelf for the recipes and tips she has included alone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVED it, January 19, 2012
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malcontent (Boston, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School (Paperback)
Don't believe any of the negative reviews you are reading here. I absolutely loved this book! In fact, I took it on a road trip with my husband and read aloud at least three chapters to him as well as numerous funny passages and he enjoyed it as well.

It seems to me that the people who have written negative reviews on here have their own agenda (I'm wondering if perhaps some of the reviewers were classmates of the author who either didn't like their portrayal in the book or have sour grapes for some reason because I found most of the criticisms to be nasty and unfounded.)

No, this book is not in the league of the works of Hemingway or Shakespeare (and is that what you want to read in your free time on the beach? Not me!) but this book is perfectly entertaining, well written, interesting, and informative.

In my opinion, if you liked The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones, or The Nanny Diaries, you will love this book as much as I did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful story, April 13, 2010
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mikemac9 "mikemac9" (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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If you ever wonder what it would be like to be so interested in cooking that you went to professional training school, this is the book for you. Written by a gifted writer this book will transport you to the French Culinary Institute in NYC. You'll meet the varied group of students that take the course, learn to fear the footsteps of the chefs teaching the course, get a sense of the ribald humor in the professional kitchen. I must say that one of the things I found most enjoyable about the book was the writing style; the book combines vivid descriptions, humor, and a story that moves along at a simmering pace (sorry, couldn't resist the pun!) There's even a few recipes thrown in to try on your own, although I quickly realized that my rendition is probably going to bear only a passing resemblance to what a trained cook could do. I hope there are more books in the author's future!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars couldnt put it down, March 23, 2014
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This review is from: Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School (Paperback)
I loved this book. The author tells an entertaining story, with an intelligence that is lacking in some others I could name, that are similar in subject matter. This one is a winner.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cooking school revealed, June 5, 2009
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Cheryl K. Ogle (Coupeville, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This is an entertaining and humorous read. I possibly could have done with a little less detail on some of the food prep, but you definitely get a feel for what "chef school" must be like. I could almost feel the heat in the kitchen! I like to cook, so I probably enjoyed it more than a non-cooker possibly would. It was also interesting that Katherine included some of her favorite recipes. I intend to try one or two of them!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a mixed review, September 21, 2009
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There are things I like a lot about this book. These things include that parts of it are quite well-written, there are some genuine insights into what attending the chef programme at FCI is like, and the recipes work pretty well.

There are things I hated about this book. These things include that other parts of it are ludicrously poorly written, that the author very often comes off as a petulant child, that stories are started but not finished (or told in ways that lessen their impact).

Overall, even when the book works well, it seems like a string of amusing anecdotes about culinary school, rather than a coherent narrative about attending culinary school. Perhaps the subtitle of the book should have warned me about this, but I was still disappointed by it.

One of the main points the author makes is that prior to attending FCI, she was a skilled cook who didn't really understand cooking. She skipped steps in recipes, without realizing what effect that had on the dish. She learned that there's a reason you let dough rest, for example, and when she did it, she found that the resulting pastry was better than when she skipped that step. Well, there's a whole mountain of accumulated knowledge about how to construct memoirs so that they offer more to the reader than a string of memories presented in chronological order. It appears to me that the author is as ignorant of that body of knowledge as she was about the mechanics of cooking before her culinary education. It shows in this book. Much like her pre-FCI omelets were inferior to what she learned to make in Level 1, this memoir is far inferior to what it might have been, had she only known.

Anyway, not a total waste of my time, but I think that this author would have written a better book about this experience had she let it simmer for a few more years.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious and elegant, May 11, 2009
By 
T. M. Fries (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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I just finished Katherine Darling's book, and loved it. In the characters she describes, I could see myself and my own former classmates and teammates. I recognized the characters and the challenges well, although I've never been more than a willing amateur cook. The book itself is filled with complex, perfectly-crafted plates, but the included recipes are wonderful and accessible to even an unskilled chef. It's a great read particularly for the amateur cook, who loves the care, love and thought that go in to preparing even a simple meal for friends and family. The book will really resonate with those of us who have been truly challenged in any context while working towards a worthwhile, meaningful goal. (It's also the only place I've ever learned how to actually poach a perfect egg!)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mean Spirited and Factually Suspect, October 2, 2011
By 
Sonjastwin (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School (Paperback)
I love cooking and books about cooking and chefs, so I was excited to find this book, hoping that it would be something along the lines of another Kitchen Confidential but from a woman's point of view. But it SO wasn't. As others have said, the author is not likable. She comes off as petty and gossipy. Aside from the few women she was friends with, all the other women in the book are described in ways that are just mean spirited and cruel. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were described in such a way because these were the individuals that she didn't get along with (people you don't like often seem less attractive to you, after all), but then she described the kids she tutored as a part-time job as "little monsters" and a group of women having a christmas party in the school's restaurant as "old biddies" and I started to think the problem was more with her than with the people around her. This was confirmed when she gleefully tells the tale of Mimi, her cooking school nemesis. What was Mimi's unforgivable transgression toward the author? Apparently, it was being richer than her and inviting some of her classmates to dinner at an expensive restaurant but not inviting her, even after she artlessly tried to invite herself. She comes off as a crybaby (a term correctly used by Mimi) who's miffed that she's not the most popular girl in class and spreads rumors about the others in order to make herself feel better.

As for the factually suspect part, she goes into a long explanation at the end of the book about why she was never able to be hired as a chef after graduation and it all sounds like a bunch of malarky to me. Apparently, finishing first in her cooking school class was the primary reason she couldn't find a job. Well of course, why would a restaurant want someone who was skilled at their job? That makes perfect sense, right? NOT. And woe is her, she couldn't afford to do an internship while she was in school because of the hideous burden of student loans required her to have a paying job, instead. Except that she says early in the book that her job is tutoring high school kids and a chapter or two later gleefully says that since it's summer vacation, she didn't have to tutor for the next three months. So, what was she doing during those three months? The program was only six months long. So she apparently wasn't working for half of the program, but still couldn't manage to do even a short internship in any of the thousands of restaurants and hotels in the area. Hmmm... Oh, and add to this that she also says that she lives six blocks from the school, which is located in Soho. A quick google search shows that the average two bedroom apartment in that neighborhood goes for over $3,000. Oh, and she and her fiancee had another apartment that they were in the process of remodeling presumably to move into after the Caribbean wedding she had two weeks after graduation. And her live-in boyfriend/fiancee was a "successful real estate investor." So, putting aside the fact that most student loans aren't repayable until six months after graduation and assuming that she got some sort of private loan that was immediately repayable, the cost of the program today is $33,000 (again easily discoverable online). That's the cost of an average car, so I find it really hard to believe that she couldn't make this payment when she didn't seem to have any other bills to pay. But then again, I guess that it is hard to pay that bill when you're lounging around in your apartment after your six grueling hours of class five days a week.

I call B.S. on the whole sob story about why she couldn't find a chef's job. Later she says she wasn't willing to spend five years of her life at the saucier station and I suspect that's the real problem. She may have loved food, but I doubt that she ever had any real desire to be a chef. Others in her class didn't have wealthy boyfriends to help pay the bills and the luxury of spacious apartments just blocks from school. They commuted long distances, did their internships to gain the real world skills they needed, and were willing to do what it took to work in their fields. She expected to not have to pay her dues and to have a glamorous chefs position handed to her at the end of a mere six month program and how dare they not see how fabulous she was (just like how dare Mimi not invite her to the fancy dinner!). I do the hiring in my office and I see people like her all the time. I'd much rather have the kid in the middle of the pack that is going to work his butt off and who really wants the job than the person with the sense of entitlement who's going to throw a temper tantrum and spread rumors when she doesn't get what she wants. Those chefs could see right through her and I don't think they were wrong.

Finally, as others have said, the writing is terrible. It's like reading a bad romance novel. Overly embellished and flowery and just dreadful. The person that edited this book should be ashamed; they don't deserve to be in publishing. Were it not for the rush to put out cooking tales due to the success of Food TV and the Cooking Channel and the like, and no doubt, because of her publishing connections, I can't imagine this would ever have been published.

So, in the end, I give it two stars. I give it one star for the story because there were some mildly amusing elements and I was interested to see what the progression of cooking school is like. Plus, I did finish the book, albeit just barely. The other star is for a gingerbread recipe in the book that actually looks pretty good that I plan on trying out some day, though I can't say that most of the other recipes appear to be anything special. But just so you know, I think two stars is being pretty generous. I don't think you're missing anything if you pass on this book. I'm sure you can find a decent gingerbread recipe online.
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Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School
Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School by Katherine Darling (Paperback - April 27, 2010)
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