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The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America [Paperback]

Michael Ruhlman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 31 2009

"Well reported and heartfelt, Ruhlman communicates the passion that draws the acolyte to this precise and frantic profession."—The New York Times Book Review

Just over a decade ago, journalist Michael Ruhlman donned a chef’s jacket and houndstooth-check pants to join the students at the Culinary Institute of America, the country’s oldest and most influential cooking school. But The Making of a Chef is not just about holding a knife or slicing an onion; it’s also about the nature and spirit of being a professional cook and the people who enter the profession. As Ruhlman—now an expert on the fundamentals of cooking—recounts his growing mastery of the skills of his adopted profession, he propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great food.

Incisively reported, with an insider’s passion and attention to detail, The Making of a Chef remains the most vivid and compelling memoir of a professional culinary education on record.


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From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ruhlman didn't really ATTEND the CIA Feb. 18 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Though rather simplistic and lacking in depth, Ruhlman's representation of the school and its students was accurate as far as it went. His descriptions of food were less than appealing, and the truth of the matter is that though Ruhlman did audit some classes at the CIA, he categorically DID NOT attend the school. I was a student at the CIA during Ruhlman's romantic, starry-eyed journey into the life of a culinary student, and although he attended classes periodically, he did so strictly from the point of view of a writer. He was not tested, did not take a class in its entirety, did not have thousands of tuition dollars riding on his first and fourth term practical exams, buddied up with the chefs, and was wined and dined by the Institute's administration. In order to accurately write the book, Ruhlman should have attended the CIA just like any other student, without drawing so much attention to himself, struggled to spend 8 to 12 hours a day at the school while also supporting himself financially. He should have lost precious points because his tie wasn't straight, his knives weren't sharp enough, his hair was sticking out of his toque or his sideburns were too long. He should have felt the real pressure the REAL chefs in training felt every day when they walked through the doors of a new kitchen to start from scratch with a chef whose reputation would make him nauseous a full week before he even started class.
I don't have a problem with writers getting a cursory view and writing their impressions of something, and I'm certain people would have enjoyed (or not enjoyed) this book just as much had Ruhlman more accurately described his "attendance" at the CIA. Those of us who went through the entire culinary program and survived would tell a much different tale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Accurate Portrayal of Life at the C.I.A. June 25 2004
Format:Paperback
As a proud graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and having attended the C.I.A. at the same time as the author, I can attest to the accuracy of this book. I had several of the same chef/instructors as did the author. (That's Certified Master Chef Ron DiSantis, a culinary badass, in the foreground of the cover photo)
The book shows the demanding schedule required of those who wish to attend the hands down best cooking school in America, and possibly the world. It should be required reading for all who want to cook for a living.
I like that Ruhlman goes into detail about the life philosophy of "Mise en Place", French for Things in Place. The term, in its strictest sense, means to have all of your ingredients chopped up and arranged logically, all of your pots, pans, and utensils ready to go. In a more general way, it means to be organized and professional. Good term, that.
Anyway, it's a good peek into the kitchen. Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior Journalistic Look at a Facinating Subject 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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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating behind the scenes look... March 7 2004
Format:Paperback
at what is required to make it through and excel in America's premier culinary school - the C.I.A. This book is certainly a must read for anyone who has ever entertained notions of taking their home-chef skills a notch further into the world of professional cookery. The information and tales found within will surely scare away potential students who will certainly be in the shock of their lives when confronted with 120 degree kitchens and the uncesasing pressure to turn over 8 plates in 4 minutes (with exacting presicion and perfection, mind you) all while hot splattering grease, insults and angry elbows attempt to jostle you away from focus. Certainly 'Kitchen Confidential,' and this one makes for a holy-duo of sorts for anyone and everyone who has/is currently/knows someone attending a culinary program - if this book doesn't force you to re-think a career plan it will, at the very least, leave you with a further sense of awe and respect for those who endeavour daily in it. bon apetit!
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not too bad, not likeSoul of a Chef,
Very good description of the trials of being in Culinary school, and what it takes to succeed. But there are times when this story seems to drag on a little bit too much. Read more
Published on June 15 2006 by Andre J. Blanchet
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight on the CIA
Being curious about becoming a chef I found this book and read it cover to cover without stopping. I found the book to be a great look inside a CA school and it answered many... Read more
Published on Dec 29 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Mighty tasty!
Why are you here? Are you interested in this subject? Then buy it. It's 11 bucks and an absolutely magnetic read. Talk about a deal. Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2003 by John Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for up and coming culinary students
This book tells all about what it takes to be a great chef. All the long hours in the kitchen, putting soul and love into food and showing how to appeal to one of the greatest... Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good professional cooking book.
If you are in the culinary field or studying the profession, this book will give you a lot of information necessary to making a great chef. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2003 by Josie
4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking of cooking school? READ THIS BOOK.
This book is what it's like to attend culinary school. It's hot, tiring, on-your-feet-all-day work, and anyone that thinks cooking in a professional kitchen is fun and glamorous... Read more
Published on June 25 2003 by A. M. DeAngelis
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I agree with the other reviewers who have some problems with this book. First, I don't think the book is very well written. There are some clumsy passages. Read more
Published on April 13 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars great subject, poor execution
I think that the subject of cooking school is definitely one worthy of a book. If another book comes out about it, I'd probably read it too, in hopes that it would be better than... Read more
Published on April 6 2003 by M. Vance
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone with a passion for food or cooking...
I like to cook, I like to eat. This is a GREAT book for anyone who has a passion for cooking or a passion for food. Read more
Published on April 1 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn...the CIA should pay for this publicity!
I read this book before enrolling at the CIA. While the descriptions of the school are fairly accurate (it is a very stressful environment and there are many passionate and... Read more
Published on March 27 2003
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