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Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America
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Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,157 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
Millions of people fantasize about leaving their old lives behind, enrolling in cooking school, and training to become a chef. But for those who make the decision, the difference between the dream and reality can be gigantic—especially at the top cooking school in the country. For the first time in the Culinary Institute of America’s history, a book will give readers the f ...more
Kindle Edition, 274 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,428)
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Petar X
Finished the book and upgraded it to 10 stars. This really is an outstanding book. The CIA is described so differently than in other books of student chefs. The element of reverence is entirely lacking. He is not impressed that this is the Holy of Holies for the future superstar chefs. Instead, he is a student concerned with learning as much as he can before embarking on a second career - he was a writer in his late thirties when he embarked on cooking as a way of life.

More than any other book I
Jeffrey Keeten
May 25, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking
”I took another bite, then sawed at the duck, and started getting pissed off.

‘Whoever did this,’ I said, ‘is a jackass.’

‘Yeah,’ Adam said. ‘This is pretty shameful. I can’t eat this.’ He pushed it away.

‘I agree,’ Lombardi said. ‘What would happen if you took it back to the kitchen and told them it sucked? Would they give you another entree or something? Isn’t that actually the responsible thing to do in this case? Shouldn’t they know how bad it is?’


‘And---damn---this duck once walked around. I
Ah, yes. Another memoir about an interesting experience that I wish had been written by someone else. I want to go inside the Culinary Institute of America in New York -- but it turns out I don't want to go with Jonathan Dixon. Our author and CIA tour guide is conflicted, (but in a boring way), and a tiny bit sullen, and he keeps thinking I care about what bands he saw or enjoyed in the 1980s. He is wrong about that. I do not care.

In one sense, this book can be summed up by a scene in which Dix
V. Briceland
Whether Tom Brown's Schooldays or the Harry Potter series, I'm a sucker for books in which a neophyte goes to school for the first time, endures its rigors and harsh realities, and emerges a better person after learning some hard-earned truths about himself and the limits of endurance. Ultimately the success of the story depends on the hero's transformation by graduation. While Jonathan Dixon's memoir of his education at the Culinary Institute of America follows the skeleton of the old schoolboy ...more
Jennifer Dustin
While I appreciated Dixon's insight into the goings-on at the CIA, I really didn't connect with the author's personal experience. It's Dixon's lack of motivation to be anything beyond a cook that I guess really got to me. He's neither as good of a writer as Michael Ruhlman, nor is he as good of a chef as innumerable chefs out there. Dixon seems to focus on his own Peter Pan syndrome, never wanting to grow up. He's 38 and returning to school, because he just hasn't figured it out yet. His girlfri ...more
Mar 21, 2013 Adrienne rated it it was ok
I'm not sure what it is about me that makes me slog through these memoirs written by people that, at least personally, drive me up the wall. Perhaps it's just a severely overdeveloped sense of schadenfreude that keeps me going through pages and pages of self-doubt... or maybe just plain old morbid curiosity.

At least in this case, the content was interesting. Although my dreams of being a chef died some time before I hit my teenage years, I've always been fascinated by cooking, and was interested
May 24, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really really liked this one. I think anyone who enjoys cooking has thought of going to culinary school and becoming a professional chef ... after reading this I'm pretty sure that path isn't for me as I know I couldn't handle the rigors and the yelling (at me!)! Really well written - I could picture the kitchens and the things Dixon cooked/baked/learned, even the feeling of being broke :). I admired his take on "clean" meat and treating the animals (and everything, really) that we eat with the ...more
Jul 06, 2011 Junita rated it really liked it
An unsparing account of the life of a culinary student at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). At turns horrifying, inspiring and even a little gut-wrenching. I'm amazed by the students who come out of this program with confidence, the fires in their bellies stoked and raging even stronger than when they began. Dixon falls somewhere closer to the place I'd find myself- exhausted, humbled, nearly broken. I don't believe the world of professional cooking requires a caste system akin to the mil ...more
I can't do better than PetraX's review. The CIA from the inside, and from someone who never wanted to, and didn't, become a chef. As the title suggests, the author pares the experience down to the essentials: ingredients; tradition; preparation; smelling; tasting; and, oh yeah, cooking.

Author Jonathan Dixon apprentices at Tabla, a New York resturant I used to frequent whenever I was visiting. When he talked about his prep list, knew that menu; knew (mostly) what dishes they were for. I wanted t
Sharon Profis
This book should be re-titled "Jonathan Dixon's Boring Diary".

While I enjoyed the insight into culinary school, along with some fun new cooking vocabulary to impress my friends with, this book was seriously sub-par.

His lack of story-telling skills is cushioned with bad writing, and a general carelessness for the reader. It should have been published as a diary, not a novel.

Here's how it goes: Dixon guides you from class to class, outlining: the professor's attitude, dishes he cooks, complaints
May 15, 2011 Carol rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Crap writing. Lame story. Bullshit book. Don't waste your money.
Aug 07, 2015 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read in that it offered one man's impression of his experience at the CIA but A) I have to wonder if the school is really so full of juvenile jerk teachers or if this was just Dixon's reaction to being in the program and B) I have to wonder why Dixon bothered going through this program at all.It's not as if he's independently wealthy. In fact, he's broke and his girlfriend is supporting him.

Jonathan Dixon is a very undecided guy at best, and a hopeless loser at worst. He
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 21, 2015 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking
Jonathan Dixon drifted. For years. Decades. One day he woke up and realized he was almost forty and had no career. He decided, with the help of his girlfriend, to become a chef. Further, he decided to become a chef by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America, a rigorous training program.

I was fascinated with this story, Dixon’s account of his struggle to become a chef. I was especially intrigued with Dixon’s difficulties with the program, the same difficulties he had faced in earlier attem
May 06, 2013 Simone rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, 2013-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Account of the author's experiences as a student in a very high-end cooking school, Culinary Inst. of America. Clearly conveys how demanding the instructors are, the long hours, the strain on his relationship with his girlfriend, etc.

Minor quibbles: Most of the depictions of other students did not go far. I got the sense he didn't interview anybody for the book as such, so it's limited to what he happens to have conversed with them about -- this guy likes jazz, that woman was 20 years old and p
Jun 03, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Jonathan Dixon was thirty eight. Which was just a few years ago, he decided to pursue a new, exciting and somewhat scary challenge. He was going to enroll at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Jonathan had shared a love for food. He was a former writer for Martha Stewart Living magazine after all. Though, Mr. Dixon quickly learned that even the simplest of things like buttering meat or cutting fish is harder than you would think. There is an art form to what you are taught at CIA.

Sharon Pisacreta
Almost forty, freelance writer Jonathan Dixon finds himself at a professional crossroads. A former staff writer for Martha Stewart Living, Dixon heads for Hyde Park, New York to enroll at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He takes all his savings and signs up for two years of intensive training, even though he isn’t certain what he will do with that training once he graduates.

He admits the end result was unclear. “I knew I wanted to cook for the rest of my life and I wanted to do it for o
Patrice Sartor
Sep 09, 2013 Patrice Sartor rated it it was ok
Shelves: food, non-fiction, memoir
The book world has no shortage of titles focusing on someone's culinary experience, be that cooking school, life at a restaurant, or something similar. I'm a member of a Food for Thought book club, and because of that, I feel like I've read my share. This was the August selection.

I finished it, which right away means it is at least readable, for I have a low tolerance for food/cooking books that I don't like. I'll just toss them before the end of the first chapter. This one is easy to read. It o
May 11, 2011 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dixon is a good writer. The book presents an insider view of life at the CIA, and he describes it well. He's an older student, and his colleagues call him Gramps...applies himself hard, and makes it to graduation, which a lot of folks don't achieve.
At the end of the book, he pretty much admits that he doesn't want to work in a restaurant, maybe he'll be a caterer, and anyway he really went to the CIA so he could write a book about it. Not a bad idea, in light of all the food books coming out,
Anyone who has ever thought about attending the CIA needs to read this book. Anyone who has harbored fantasies about leaving responsibilities behind to attend cooking school, anyone who has ever romanticized about being a chef, anyone who has thought about changing their life at middle age needs to read this book. It is a realistic, thoughtful, and sometimes cruel picture of what it takes to be a graduate of the most prestigious cooking school in America. It is also somewhat depressing, without ...more
Sep 08, 2015 Maryanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So while I loved the descriptions of what went on in class, I found Dixon himself a little whiny and self serving. I was willing to go along with him for most of his journey through his classes, but...when we got to the section on his internship, I really was just annoyed with him. But his descriptions of the food he prepared and the ingredients he worked with throughout his education were beautiful and lyrical. Even his description of the butchering scene was bright and vivid. So overall, can't ...more
Jed Sorokin-Altmann
Jonathan Dixon's "Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America" was an interesting read, but he seems overly self-congratulatory while simultaneously overly critical of those around him. For those interested in the world of chefs, Dixon's book is reminiscent of Anthony Bourdain's Ktichen Confidential as an insider's look behind the curtain, but Bourdain also seems more willing to take personal responsibility for his faults.
Apr 05, 2015 Valerie rated it really liked it
Great inside view

Great inside view of the cooking world and the various personality types that thrive, fail, or just get by there. I liked the conclusion that you can make a successful life for yourself if you remain open to learning, and persist through the boring or just plain painful parts of school or on the job training. Knowing who you are helps tremendously in choosing a satisfying way to make a living.
Aug 18, 2011 Orea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, this guy went to the CIA when he was 40 and just graduated last year. I went to school there when I was 36 and graduated in 2006. His first few impressions of the CIA were right on as I had the same ones when I was there. His descriptions of the chefs, and I had a few of the same ones, made me laugh. Especially the asshole who taught Asian cuisine, I had forgotten how much I hated him!
May 18, 2014 Robin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book after reading Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelson which was a better book. In this book, the author is drifting aimlessly through life, is unambitious, perpetually broke and has no idea what he wants to do. Because he likes to cook he goes to the CIA in New York. The book was interesting in its description of the various classes and students Jonathan encounters. However, the author himself irritates me more than a few times because at times he applies himself and other times he doesn' ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Frankie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to slow myself down to make the book last longer. I loved, loved, loved it. But I suspect you have to like cooking and meal preparation to enjoy this book. A+
Kimberly McAtee
Jul 24, 2011 Kimberly McAtee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I often fantasize about going to culinary school. This was a great glimpse of the CIA and how HARD it is!
Sara Croft
Have you ever dreamed about leaving your job and diving full force into culinary school? What about the top school in the country - the Culinary Institute of America? Jonathon Dixon is no spring chicken. As a full time freelancer writer at 37 years old, Jonathan takes the plunge (emotionally, physically and financially) into culinary school. This book lets you inside his head as he is pushed, tormented, prodded, hugged, burned, and forced into situations that unless you have worked in a professi ...more
Rea K
Sep 10, 2015 Rea K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Disclaimer: If you're expecting to hear that I loved everything about this book from the high stars I have given it, you're not going to get that. I rated it highly because it's impressive. It has left (possibly lasting) marks with me. I'm going to remember that moment where this book made me realize "Damn, I'd be dead at this school; I'd bawl my eyes out getting bitched out. I'm never setting foot in the CIA."

Well, from the less than stellar stars this book has, my best hope is that it's got s
Aug 04, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost every cook who indulges the fantasy of a formal culinary education has likely read Michael Ruhlman's "The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America" (1997) and perhaps gone on to read his "The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection" (2000) and "The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen" (2006). From there, the next logical book is Kathleen Flinn's "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry" (2007). There is something wonderful about reading books like this, ...more
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