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How I Learned To Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs
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How I Learned To Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  424 ratings  ·  44 reviews
From the editors of the internationally criticallyacclaimedDon't Try This At Home,stories byforty of the world's great chefs abouthow they learned their craft -- not in the confines of culinary school, but in theinspiring and sometimes death-defyingmoments of trial-and-error that can happen anytime, anywhere. Hilarious, touching, and always surprising, they cover everythin ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2006)
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Kitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainMy Greek Traditional Cook Book 1 by Anna OthitisThe Last Chinese Chef by Nicole MonesMedium Raw by Anthony BourdainHeat by Bill Buford
Great Books about Food
122nd out of 164 books — 96 voters
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Food-related Kindle Books at or Below $10
61st out of 128 books — 34 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,144)
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Feb 23, 2008 Alexa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
I did not expect fantastic essays from chefs about the origins of their cooking careers or skills or whatever but I have to say, despite the fact that many of these chefs are not writers, or the writing they do is limited to cookbooks, the essays were very good. If you don't have the attention span to read twenty essays in a row, just grab the book and read "The Crack-Up" by Johnathan Eisman. A story about the height of the eighties drugged out kitchens, the story will make you laugh out loud. I ...more
There are some charming stories in this little collection. There are also a stunning array of egos, superiority complexes, and self-promotion. As well, some of the chefs I would have liked to have seen weren't there. I think perhaps putting a story at the beginning that states that "no home cook can do anything a trained chef can do" might have been a mistake considering the likely demographic of the readership. It's never good to insult your readership right out of the gate, unless the publishe ...more
The title of this book is a little misleading; a more appropriate title might have been “Mildly Amusing Anecdotes From Professional Chefs.”
While reading the book I kept thinking that the editors opted for quantity over quality and I think having more expansive entries from fewer chefs would have improved the book.
As it was you don’t learn much beyond the “I spent summers shucking clams in Nantucket to support my drug habit” type of narratives. I would have appreciated more Ruhlamn-esque type de
Dec 13, 2010 Miriam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Miriam by: Kim K
Shelves: culinary
Anecdotal and generally quite short essays from various chefs. Given the title I was surprised at how many of them began in medias res with their culinary careers already underway. I felt that most of them were reluctant to expose anything to intimate or unflattering. Like, Anthony Bourdain's contribution (which was actually one of the better-written, a lot of these chefs suck at prose) was entertaining, but was about something that happened when he was already nationally famous and appearing on ...more
Rachel Rogers
Mostly enjoyable tidbits from renowned chefs on how they learned to cook or learned that cooking was their career. Some funny, some poignant, some distasteful. Interesting read in light of Adoxograph's career as a pastry chef. I found the final essay a downer and a negative way to finish a mostly enjoyable read: call me stuffy but reading about a gang of early 20-something getting high on anything they could in the early 70s is not my cup of tea.
I actually hate giving ratings to anthologies, since Invariably there seems to be a range on quality within. This book had some very fascinating stories and some rather dull ones.
Little vignettes of how popular chefs came to their discipline, learned something important about their cooking or an experience they had in the kitchen. I had hoped for useful techniques that beginning cooks could learn from and even some recipes, neither of which is here.
This book was interesting. I couldn't get into many of the stories that were about chefs I've never heard of but those that I did read were interesting. It wasn't quite the book I was expecting it to be. I was thinking it would be the entire story of how each chef got their start but I guess that would be a much bigger book.
Diane C.
Dozens of chefs, each in a short chapter, talk about how they got started in the biz, who taught them, where they learned the most important things about cooking and/or running a restaurant. Each as different as the chef him/herself. I loved this book!
Wonderful, fun stories from chefs about the moments in their careers that partly or completely determined who they are.
While most of the contributors share anecdotes that have nothing to do with the way they learned to cook, and it is questionable whether they are all among the ranks of the “world’s greatest chefs”, there is enough interesting material to recommend this to people addicted to food memoirs. Rick Bayless's story about how Julia Child affected his life was amongst the best, and more than made up for the self-serving, score-settling anecdotes of some of his peers.
Famous chefs describe pivotal moments in their early careers. All of the stories are interesting and will bring a smile to your face. (Most of these involve harrowing kitchen incidents and punishments.) These stories really don't gloss over the drug culture that used to (still is?) reign in professional kitchens. It's a little disconcerting to read about the mild, sensible chef you see on tv and imagine her throwing back shots and dropping acid at work.
Feb 01, 2008 Jess rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like to eat.
Recommended to Jess by: Julia Child
I love food. I am fascinated by chefs. How could I not love this book.

This is a collection of short stories from some of the best chefs in the world. They give you a snapshot of how they realized their place was in the kitchen. The stories are comical, to say the least. If your hungry for a peak inside the lives of the all-mighty celeb chef then check it out.
I received this book because the giver knew I was a Top Chef/Master Chef fan. I put it on the shelf and thought I'd never read it but happened to pull it down one day and give it a shot. I thought it was a lot of fun, funny, and interesting stories from many very famous chefs. If you enjoy this world you'll enjoy this book. An easy read and enjoyable read.
Aug 07, 2010 Jenn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in the culinary world.
Shelves: food
This book has been wonderful - it's a collection of stories by many different chefs. It's easy to read a story or two and then set the book down and pick it up again later.

My favorite story is by Masaharu Morimoto (who you may recognize from tv's Iron Chef.) His story is very touching and thought provoking - a story I will think about for years to come.
Sep 07, 2009 Lucy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cooks,and foodies
Shelves: justread
I enjoyed reading these short essays from some of the royalty of the food world. How funny was it to read about
Sara Moulton's drinking and toking college days and how she began in a dive cooking burgers. I loved Jacques Torres' story f how he got his first restaurant job on a dare and went on to become one of the premier pastry chefs.
They're chefs, not writers, and you can see it in the erratic writing style. The essays are loosely edited, and not well-organized. But since it's about a topic dear to my heart, I did enjoy reading this book quite a bit.

For a really great book on the professional kitchen, I'd recommend Michael Ruhlman's Making of a Chef.
I really enjoyed this book. The individual chefs' stories of the formative experiences that preceded their coming into "great chef" status were so interesting and diverse. Some were heart-warming, some were horrifying, and each gave the reader a little glimpse into life in an inspired chef's kitchen. Good stuff!
Although I didn't know of some of the chefs featured in this book, I was surprised by how many I was aware of. I'm not always a fan of compilation books, but I enjoyed reading the majority of the stories featured in this book. Some stories were amusing, some were serious, but all held my interest.
Rebecca Huston
A very funny anthology of stories from some of the world's best chefs. Stories of disasters, successes, rotten customers, bad nights and other bits of mayhem. Foodies will love this one. Recommended.

For the complete review, please go here:
A hodge podge of unrelated and nonparallel stories by chefs about there experiences, early or late in their career. I got it b/c I thought there'd be things like, "Step 1) Hold the knife this way." I finished it because the stories are interesting enough to make it likeable.
Loved the first few stories in particular. Rare for a compilation to capture the stories in the subject's voice. All of your favorite chefs telling the stories that helped shape their careers or at least their interest in cooking. Nicely done.
It's interesting to read how the renowned chefs featured in this book got into the craft of cooking/baking. Many by sheer chance and many more by hard work and unwavering passion to be where they are today.

It could happen to any one of us. =)
Oct 06, 2013 Ellyn added it
Shelves: shelved
This is gone from my e-reader...looked for it a few times on my various reader apps to pick up again. I can't recall what site I got it from as a freebie. Going to try and find it again. I only read Mario Batali!
A fun read. I enjoyed the variety of stories. Some humorous, some sentimental, some a good explanation of why they are who they are. Quick, easy, and worth it for anyone who enjoys the world of cooking.
I loved how unique and fun some of those stories are, I really enjoyed it, and recommend it a lot. The memories are a great way to give us a glance of what our food means to the people that creates it.
Lisa Lawless
Mostly great stories with just a few that were less interesting. My two favorites were Chris Bianco's story about visiting family in Italy and Nancy Silverton's story about developing her bread recipes.
Ann Mah
Sometimes hilarious, often moving essays about memorable culinary moments in the lives of chefs. Highly recommended for anyone interested in food and/or the hellfire of a professional kitchen.
Very interesting, some famous chefs were trained since childhood, and others faked their way into when grown! I want to try some of the foods discussed, and buy some of the chefs cookbooks.
a perfect read for someone stepping into the world of culinary and in back-of-the-house. gave me hope that i too can follow my passion toward success.
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