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The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute Paperback – October 15, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 175 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Journalist Michael Ruhlman talked his way into the CIA: the Culinary Institute of America, the Harvard of cooking schools. It had something to do with potatoes a grand-uncle had eaten deacades earlier, how the man could remember them so well for so long, buried as they had been in the middle of an elegant meal. Ruhlman wanted to learn how to cook potatoes like that--like an art--and the CIA seemed the place to go. The fun part of this book is that we all get to go along for the ride without having to endure the trauma of cooking school.

Ever wonder what goes on in a busy kitchen, why your meal comes late or shows up poorly cooked? The temptation is to blame the waiter, but there are a world of cooks behind those swinging doors, and Ruhlman marches you right into it. It's a world where, when everything is going right, time halts and consciousness expands. And when a few things go wrong, the earth begins to wobble on its axis. Ruhlamn has the writerly skills to make the education of a chef a visceral experience. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YAAThe Culinary Institute of America is known as "the Harvard of cooking schools" and many of this country's best-known chefs are graduates. Ruhlman enrolled as a student with the intention of writing this book, which begins as a chronicle of the intense, high-pressure grind of classes and cooking. However, it turns into an engrossing personal account as, his every effort critiqued, the author determines to become a student and not just impersonate one. YAs will enjoy Ruhlman's anecdotes about his instructors and his classmatesYsome of whom are still in their teens. The appendix offers a chart showing the course work for associate degrees. This will appeal to anyone aspiring to a career as a chef as well as to those interested in food preparation, presentation, and the restaurant industry in America.APatricia Noonan, Prince William Public Library, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Owl Books Edition edition (October 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805061738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805061734
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (175 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
This 1997 second book by journalist Michael Ruhlman is his first of several essays and collaborations in writing about the upper reaches of the American culinary scene. The most fascinating thing about the book is in learning with Ruhlman, as an outsider to the culinary profession, exactly how demanding a job in the culinary arts can be. What is taken as a matter of course by people like Daniel Boulud and Jaques Pepin comes as a surprise to outsider Ruhlman. The surprise is in the commitment to performance which chefs are expected to make to maintain a service to their customers.
The book is a reporting on Ruhlman's taking an abbreviated version of the full curriculum at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where only the President of the school and a few select senior instructors know of the author's real role at the school. This means that when the author did attend classes, he attended the full class, from start to finish, and was expected to perform as well as any other student. While the CIA has many of the appearances of a liberal arts college, it is much closer in practice to a trade school. One symptom of this is that the stocks produced by the basic kitchen skills classes are then used by other classes at the school and they are used by each of the four restaurants run by the school for students, faculty, and outside guests. In a sense, this is a mix of trade school and graduate school, where it is expected that no one will do work worthy of a grade less than a B-.
The epiphany that reveals how serious the culinary profession is about uninterrupted service comes early in the first year when the school is hit by a serious snowstorm and the author considers whether or not he should attempt the difficult trek into the school.
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Format: Paperback
One can probably forgive Michael Ruhlman for being a bit obsessive. This volume pairs with his `Soul of a Chef' to provide a veritable one-two punch of cook training voyeurism; he has covered this field with skill and obvious enthusiasm. Between the two books I doubt he leaves any stone unturned in describing the various joys and horrors of modern culinary indoctrination. I'll also give him visionary credit: this particular book dates from 1997 - a full nine years before Bill Buford published his abused-apprentice tome `Heat', whose success will do doubt spawn dozens of ridiculous imitations.

Anyone writing seriously about chef training now appears almost automatically indebted to Mr. Ruhlman. And no wonder: the premise here is almost too good for any aspiring chef. The author goes undercover posing as a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)--arguably the best culinary training school in the country, if not the world. (Only the teachers and administrators know his true identity and purpose.) The book often reads like cleaned-up notes from his various adventures--and that's really where the attraction lies. If you find being a virtual student at CIA potentially attractive, I suspect you'll love `The Making of a Chef'; Ruhlman not only give you what it's like, he truly gives you how it feels.

A stark example clarifies the emotions involved: apparently the weather during our hero's winter semester at CIA was the worst in years: many feet of snow dumped regularly. (The campus is in the Hudson Valley in New York State). At one juncture Ruhlman ponders not coming in to class--he's expected for an important test--due to the weather. And one of his teachers--after quietly hearing his decision--lets him have it over the phone: "We're different," he said. "We get there.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book it took me back to my days as a student at the Culinary School at Kendall College which was founded and started by CIA alum. I had gone back to school to change careers with the evening and part-time program Kendall offered. Being a chef is very demanding physically, emotionally, creatively and finacially. Despite my graduation almost two years ago I haven't quit my day job yet but I still have hope of breaking into the field further. The snow storm story reminded me of the time my roommate woke me up at 4:30 a.m. Because of the cold and snow her car wouldn't start and she had to get to her 5:00 a.m. pastry class come hell or high water. Yes, it did start at 5:00 a.m., how else do you have fresh sweet rolls for breakfast at 7:00 a.m.? I would have to drive her. That is the level of determination that exists. I also recall driving to class with blizzard-like conditions, after working all day and also rushing to my part-time internship in the middle of a summer heat wave to work in a kitchen that was about 110 degrees. I would recommend this book for anyone considering attending culinary school.
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Format: Paperback
Noboday could possibly convey what it's like behind the scenes at Amaerica's top chef's school as well as Michael Ruhlman has. Like many others, I read this book before attending the CIA. I didn't really beleive that things could be as hard and exciting as he made them out to be. But after 2 of the most excrutiating/rewarding years of my life, I now look back on this book as if it were my own memoirs, he is that accurate. A wonderfully written book that will please anyone, whether you're a cook or just eat like one.
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