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The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection [Paperback]

Michael Ruhlman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 19 2001
In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, Michael Ruhlman journeys into the heart of the profession. Observing the rigorous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country, Ruhlman enters the lives and kitchens of rising star Michael Symon and renowned Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. This fascinating book will satisfy any reader's hunger for knowledge about cooking and food, the secrets of successful chefs, at what point cooking becomes an art form, and more. Like Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef, this is an instant classic in food writing-one of the fastest growing and most popular subjects today.

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From Amazon

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 the Hardcover edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Chef Dieter Doppelfeld leads the way to kitchen station four, followed by two men in lab coats with clipboards. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, beautiful book. Nov. 22 2003
In this book, Michael takes us into the kitchens of the CIA once again. He shows us some of the best chefs in the country, as they labor under the enormous stress of taking the CIA's 'Certified Master Chef' exams.
He then travels to two of America's finest restaurants and explores the character of the Chefs who created them. Along the way, we meet some other colorful characters and some very delightful-sounding food.
That's it in a nutshell. The reason I love this book is because it shows the heart and intensity of what I can only call the 'love of food' and the 'striving for excellence' that both of these Chefs possess. The discussion of their ingenuity in creating new dishes is very interesting as well, but it is the sheer PASSION for cooking that Michael communicates to us that kept my eyeballs glued to the pages.
I have now read both of Michael's books on this subject: The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef. I finished them both in about two weeks and my understanding of the world of cooking, not to mention my faith in the human race (how could you not love a species that is capable of such positive, again, passion??), has simply been...transformed.
Thank you, Michael.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but doesn't quite live up to the title Aug. 17 2002
Michael Ruhlman is a very good writer but I also think he is a lazy writer. I also have read his previous food book. I bought this book shortly after getting "The French Laundry Cookbook" -- a fabulous book. Beautifully photographed, inspiring recipes, and good writing. Ruhlman was involved in this project, too. "French Laundry" is a very expensive book. For that I expected original writing. Well, he took the same text about Thomas Keller and included it in both "The Soul of a Chef" and "The French Laundry Cookbook." So I felt like I had paid (and overpaid) twice for the same material. [And now that I got that out...]
Ruhlman is a facile writer but I am also not sure that he got deep enough into the psyches of the chefs he included into the book to justify the title. It still is an enjoyable read that I would recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
'The Soul of a Chef' is the second of Michael Ruhlman's journalistic explorations into the world of culinary life in America. The book contains three long essays that chronicle parts of the careers of three different chefs at three different levels of achievement. Thus, the journey toward perfection is more the journey of the author than it is a journey by a single chef.
The first essay is a telling of the events in one examination for the title of 'Certified Master Chef'. The certification is carried out and bestowed by the Culinary Institute of America, often characterized as the Harvard of American cooking schools. The examination runs for more than a week when, on each day, the candidate must complete a particular task. The candidate knows the object of each task at least a day in advance, so they may at least mentally prepare for their challenge. Almost all tasks are taken from the pages of classic French cuisine, some lifted almost directly from the pages of Escoffier's books on the subject. Out of about a dozen qualifiers competing at each session, held once every six months, usually only two or three candidates pass the test and are awarded the title. The author participates in the competition under the ruse of being an inspector from a fictional qualifying organization that is verifying that the tests are worthy of an imaginary certification. In that way, the author can observe and interview all the candidates without arousing suspicion or apprehension in the candidates. Thus, this book picks up the narrative on American culinary careers at very much the same place the author left off at the end of his first culinary investigation 'The Making of a Chef'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about dedication to one's profession Sept. 22 2003
Ruhlman divides his work into 3 parts. The first part chronicles the intense Certified Master Chef exam. The second and third parts deal with the lives and cooking of Michael Symon of Lola in Cleveland and Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Yountville, CA. The book's title pretty much says it all. The chefs portrayed in this book strive for nothing less than perfection, and Symon and Keller have apparently reached that level with some of their creations. Ruhlman's description of the CMC exam reveals what an intense and harrowing experience this test of cooking skill is. He follows seven candidates through ten days of the examination which everyone fails but one. He then proceeds to describe the work of Symon and Keller. Both chefs' stories are inspirational in that they prove that success has as much to do with dedication and diligence as innate talent. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand not only what it takes to be a great chef but what it takes to be successful in any profession. The only difficulty I had with this book was that I did not understand many of the cooking and food terms the author used. A glossary would have been nice. Anyway, a great read!
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Michael Ruhlman does an excellent job in his follow-up effort with "The Soul of a Chef". This book is divided into three different sections. The first recounts his experiences as an observer during the administration of the Culinary Institute of America's (CIA) Certified Master Chef (CMC) exam, a rigorous and controversial test of a chef's knowledge and ability. Michael does a wonderful job of communicating the pressure of taking this test. In the second part of the book, Michael gives the reader a taste of what it is like to actually be in the trenches of the restaurant industry as he spends some time with an up and coming culinary star named Michael Symon. In the third part, Michael travels to Yountville, California to visit Thomas Keller and his restaurant French Laundry, arguably the best restaurant in the country and possibly the world. Reading this book may possibly inspire the reader on to further culinary excellence in his/her own kitchen, and will certainly inspire a certain amount of physical hunger. Fortunately, Michael also includes an appendix containing several recipes gleaned from his experiences in each section of the book.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars think differently
It will make you think differently about restaurants (what goes into a well prepared meal) and cooking (learn how the pros do it).
Published on Dec 30 2010 by Bobi
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book
Who would have thought that a person could crave a gallantine? My husband is currently attending culinary school and after reading this book I am begging him to try the... Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2003 by baileye
5.0 out of 5 stars For the serious chefs-to-be only
I like this book alot, but not enough information on the professional exams. I recommend purchasing The Study Guide for the National Servsafe Exam: Key Review Questions and... Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but....
I really liked Michael's first book, and liked this one just as much. BUT I have a MAJOR problem with one thing - in the first section of the book, dealing with the CMC exam, he... Read more
Published on April 25 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection
Writer and trained chef Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef) claims to be searching for the essence of what drives a great chef. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection
Writer and trained chef Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef) claims to be searching for the essence of what drives a great chef. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Ever dream of becoming a chef? This book's for you
For those of you who love to cook (and may have been crazy enough to dream about doing it professionally), this book's for you.
Ruhlman's book takes place in three segments. Read more
Published on June 11 2002 by K. Schwarting
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious read
I could not put this book down! I've always known that being a chef was very hard work, but I had no idea just how hard until I
read this book. Read more
Published on May 20 2002
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