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The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America Paperback – March 31, 2009
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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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I've also bought several of the books he mentions (they were used in class or in the restaurants).
If you are familiar with Ruhlman's many books, you'll see the germination of them in this one. <3
That having been said, THIS book is unique amongst all those books written by Chefs. Michael Ruhlman's unique approach - A writer who sets out to write about what it's like to be a student at CIA. Along the way we meet the people; students, instructors, and administrators of the school through in-depth interviews and recounted personal conversations the author has had with them. The author manages to put the reader there, conveying the intensity of each stage of the training of a young chef. Along the way, he discovers the dedication required of all cooks and chefs following a blizzard.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to anyone of any age interested in the culinary arts. I've been wanting to attend one of CIAs Culinary Bootcamps, but now I REALLY want to go!
THe downside to this book is it's editing: The book occasionally present a sentence that somehow escaped the editors blue pencil, a sentence that simply does not fit in the paragraph, or even worse, a sentence that is non-sensical. In addition, the book will ocasionally say something like "Ryan says that ..." assuming you remember who Ryan is from a single introduction twenty or more pages ago.
Other than that, the only things that I can think of that would have improved the book would be if the author had described in more detail all four of the CIA's restaurants, and the early parts of the course like meat fabrication, Wines, etc.
By the way, I will be taking a course (an intensive one-week "boot camp") at the CIA in January, and may provide more insight when I return, assuming I live through the 13-14 hour days I have been promised (7:00 AM until 8:00 or 9:00 PM)!
OK, I survived my week of boot camp (classes and dinner ran from 7:00 AM until about 9:30 or 10:00 PM, with a short break from 4:30-6:00 PM), plus another week called "Career Discovery for Adults", a course intended for people considering changing careers. Yes, I may be attending the CIA! So, how does the book appear now? Even better.
I met many of the chefs mentioned in the book, and think that Ruhlman did an excellent job in describing them. He also described the facilites very well (it's COLD there in January!). I can also testify that Ruhlmans assertions in countering a reviewer "from NY" were correct. He (Ruhlman) did attend several classes in their entirety and then sat in for at least several days each in all the others. He did take the tests and practicals. I obtained this information from the Chef Instructors in whose classes Ruhlman sat.
The one thing that I did not get from the book as much as I did in person was how much these Chef Instructors LOVE food, and the intensity of that love. These people sweat the smallest details because they love the food so much, and know it can be served at perfection. It really is their standard, perfection. I have attended other cooking schools, and this is the difference at the CIA. Food can be cooked and served perfectly, so why not do it perfectly every time?
All in all, an excellent read, highly recommended.
More specifically, the author takes us through the CIA, from weeks spent in Sanitation and Skills and a plethora of other courses, to one week in the best restaurant in the Culinary Institute's portfolio. Along the way, we learn about the hard-charging personalities who become Chefs (with a capital "C"), we hear alot about different kinds of food (and what it takes to prepare them really WELL), and, above all, we become inspired to get more deeply involved with whatever we are doing in the kitchen. Even if it is just our own home kitchen.
The world of great cooking is theatrical and exacting and a lot of darn hard work. There are only three ways to learn about the premier training ground for this fabulous profession: pay a ton of money and become a student there, take a tour if you are visiting in the area, or buy this book.
Or, for that matter, do all three. But start with the book.
Buy it now.