In the winter of 1996, writer Michael Ruhlman donned a chef's jacket and entered the Culinary Institute of America, known as the Harvard of cooking schools, to learn the art of cooking. His vivid and eye-opening record of that experience, The Making of a Chef, takes us into the heart of this food-knowledge mecca. Here we meet a coterie of talented chefs, an astonishing and driven breed, and experience the pressure and perfectionism of their job. Ruhlman learns fundamental skills and information about the behavior of food that make cooking anything possible. He propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms, from Asian and American regional cuisines to lunch cookery, in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great cooking. This book was nominated for a 1998 James Beard Foundation award in the Writing on Food category.
©1997 Michael Ruhlman (P)1998 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Well reported and heartfelt. Ruhlman communicates the passion that draws the acolyte to this precise and frantic profession." (New York Times Book Review)
Maybe. It was an informative look at the CIA, but not tole in a very interesting way. The facts were all there, but the entertainment quotient was lacking.
I was disappointed mostly in the editing. There were strange gaps in the performance that were very distracting. They happened in the middle of paragraphs and made the listener stop and wonder if the CD player had stopped or if it was time to change the disc. But then the performance started up again. The reader was not easily listened to -- it took some effort sometimes.
Disappointment. I had read Anthony Bourdain's books and several other memoirs of chefs, so was measuring this against them. This was a totally different type of book. I learned a lot, but did not really enjoy it.
A well-written account of one man's experience at "The Culinary," "The Making of a Chef" offers great insight into the minds of chefs, and somewhat those of cooks. He met a great many interesting and talented people at the CIA. No doubt Ruhlman received a great dose of experience — he achieved more than the original goal he'd had when he'd set out to write this book. The only criticism I can bring to bear on the story is that it is, however dedicated the author was, the story of a privileged writer going through cooking school, someone who is not going to work the line for the next 8 years hoping for a promotion. He has a unique perspective and access, but I think the reader may miss out on some of the internal motivations and fears that go along with being an actual student.
As far as the production goes, either my playback was performing poorly, or there was a bad rip on the part of the engineers, because there are strange pauses, staggers, sometimes mid-word, that are unnatural and can remove you from the narrative. There is also inconsistent pronunciation of ingredient names, as well as some pretty bad mispronunciations. I wish that would have been better researched by the narrator and producer. Thankfully, the story is strong enough to hold up to it.
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