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The Soul of a Chef


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Michael Ruhlman's classic book on professional cooking--winner of the IACP Cookbook Award

In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, The Soul of a Chef, 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 future Iron Chef 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. "A hold-your-breath while you turn the page thriller that's also an anthropological study of the culture of cooking." -Anthony Bourdain, The New York Times Book Review

Michael Ruhlman is the author of many books, including The Elements of Cooking, Live to Cook (with Michael Symon), Bouchon (with Thomas Keller), Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing (with Brian Polcyn) and Ruhlman's Twenty.


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 Cahners Business Information.

Writer and trained chef Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef) claims to be searching for the essence of what drives a great chef. In 1997, he attended the Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most grueling, comprehensive, and controversial cooking test in America. He observes and interviewed, among others, Bryan Polcyn of Five Lakes Grill in Michigan. Next he moved to Cleveland to report on another star chef, Michael Symon of the Lola Bistro and Wine Bar. The third section of his book concerns Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in the Napa Valley, called by many the best chef working in America today. Each section of the book is fascinating in itself, especially the introductory section on the Certified Master Chef exam, an ordeal of almost hellish intensity. Unfortunately, his search for "the soul of a chef" is laid over what are essentially three separate pieces. Less than the sum of its part, the book will eventually test anyone's patience for reading page after page of menus and description of nouvelle cuisine creations. An appendix offers a selection of recipes from each chef profiled. Recommended for large public libraries.DTom Cooper, St. Louis P.L., MO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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