- Paperback: 370 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (August 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141001895
- ISBN-13: 978-0141001890
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection Paperback – August 1, 2001
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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.
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He then moves on Michael Symon's restaurant Lola in Ruhlman's own Cleveland. Ruhlman is caught up in the fun vibe at Lola, which pervades both the dining room and the kitchen. Again Ruhlman roots for his adopted favorite as important NY-based food reporters visit the restaurant. Though Symon serves a soggy pasta dish, which the critic responds to by saying, "He knows nothing about pasta", the critic can't help but feel the joy and fun that the customers experience.
Finally he has a lengthy session on Thomas Keller's French Laundry, and the amazingly innovative dishes that Keller and he highly trained staff produce. Though Keller is exacting inside the kitchen, he doesn't let that feeling out into the dining rooms, where customers are delighted by every serving.
In his postscript chapter, Ruhlman finally figures out what disturbed him about the CMC exam. He writes that the purpose of cooking, particularly restaurant cooking is to give people pleasure and fun. Symon's restaurant had a sense of fun in front and back of the house. Keller's restaurant was like a monastery in the kitchen, but the customers had an amazingly pleasurable experience. But the CMC examiners weren't testing for fun, and gave no points for the fun or pleasure that a chef's dishes might bring. It's an excellent summation of the book.
Michael Ruhlman is a great journalist. He has heart and is a passionate food writer. He doesn't go as in-depth as I would perhaps but he brings a chef's sensibility from his own experiences to his writing which I enjoyed. He profiles two other chefs (Michael Symon, another of my favorite chefs and Brian Polcyn from the Detroit area)and a number of other character surrounding these chefs under extraordinarily different circumstances and is able to create them in as enigmatic but real people in the process.
His Epilogue was brilliantly done and wrapped it up nicely, I felt sad to see it end but look forward to reading his next book - The Reach of a Chef.
This is required reading for anyone who wants to be a Chef, love a Chef or just admire a Chef.
I am a fan of Ruhlman's for life and will read everything he has written. I know I am gushing but seriously, I was transported in this book yet left grounded at the same time. That's a rare gift in a writer.
Part 2 focuses on Cleveland chef Michael Symon, who was a rising star on the culinary scene at the time and is now an Iron Chef on Iron Chef America. It's a light-hearted section compared to Part 1 and showcases Symon's bubbly personality, a critical factor in the success of his restaurant. I loved learning more about Symon's background, cooking style, personality, and business philosophy after seeing him on numerous cooking shows. He's kind of a bad@ss and does food his own way while winning respect in the culinary industry.
Part 3 focuses on Thomas Keller and "The French Laundry", widely considered the best chef and restaurant in the country. Ruhlman focuses on how Keller got to where he is despite no formal training and growing up in a family that was never focused on food.
Ruhlman might be my favorite food writer and his second book doesn't disappoint.
For more reviews, check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
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I ended up reading it in the interim expecting little from the book as, to be quite honest...Read more