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The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,744 Ratings  ·  288 Reviews
Now in paperback, the eye-opening book that was nominated for a 1998 James Beard Foundation award in the Writing on Food category.

In the winter of 1996, Michael Ruhlman donned hounds-tooth-check pants and a chef's jacket and entered the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to learn the art of cooking. His vivid and energetic record of that experience, The
Paperback, 305 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I'm a food lover, I love talking about it, reading about it, preparing it, and yes, eating it. Chefs? They are some of my rock stars.

I recently picked up Michael Ruhlman's book Ruhlman's Twenty: The Ideas and Techniques that Will Make You a Better Cook from the library and loved how he takes the simplest food items and actually makes you think about them.

In 1996 Ruhlman enters the Culinary Institute of America aka the CIA as a student. They know he is writing a book based on his experiences the
Petra X
This book stands alone as a brilliant introduction to exactly why the CIA is such a fantastic education for a chef. Nothing is left to intuition or presumed knowledge, everything is taught whether it is culinary maths or exactly how you lay out bones to roast for the perfect stock.

Michael Ruhlman did most of the course both training to be a chef and writing about it as a journalist and so the book is rich with personalities and anecdotes.

Molecular gastronomy is not something that the CIA has mu
Jul 04, 2011 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am not a "foodie" and I'm a lousy cook, but I love cooking shows, the Food Channel, and interesting books about food and cooking. This is not an interesting book about food and cooking.

Ruhlman is a writer who went to chef school (at the Culinary Institute of America, America's premiere cooking school) to write about it, but one of his teachers told him he wasn't a real chef. This pissed Ruhlman off, so he decided to prove he could become a real chef, and he went through the whole program with
Julie Davis
Feb 17, 2015 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing
I remember how impressed I was by this book when it first came out. Rereading it so many years later, I am still impressed. You are pulled inside the Culinary Institute and also that mentality which separates the chefs from the cooks.

And, most importantly, it is thoroughly enjoyable although conveying tons of cooking information. No wonder I love it.
Apr 21, 2010 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, 2010
It's possible that this book has helped change my life... I was already leaning towards trying to become a chef, but this book may have provided the push that I needed.

I have never before been so engaged in a subject, literally hanging on every word. I mean who wouldn't be interested in the best rue to use for making the consummate brown sauce??!?!! All right, I know that most of you wouldn't, but to me, that was fascinating. Told with interesting anecdotes and insightful musings, Ruhlman paint
Ellen Keim
Apr 24, 2015 Ellen Keim rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is primarily about the Culinary Institute of America (aka CIA), the way it trains chefs (or did, at the time when this book was written), its history and personality sketches of some of the key players (instructors, the president, other students). But there is also a slew of information about cooking itself (how to make a roux, different kinds of sauces, etc.), how to work the front of the house (i.e., wait staff), the meaning of food, and most of all, what it takes to make a chef. I t ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Harlan rated it really liked it
This is a mediocre book about a really great experience. Mr. Ruhlman's writing is inconsistent, and a little hero-worship-y. This said, it is a book about become good at something that he (and the other chefs and students in the book) clearly loves, and the enthusiasm shines through and makes for a compelling read. This said again, this is only a compelling read if you know something about fine dining and food, and are interested in immersing yourself in that world. There's not much to this book ...more
Feb 28, 2011 Phillip is currently reading it
I got on to this book after getting hooked on the Bravo TV show "Top Chef". Seeing these chefs work with such short time frames and surprise ingredients and still produce dishes that looked amazing and (presumably - it is TV after all) tasted amazing inspired me to see what I could find at the library that taught more than just recipes: a book that carried some insight into the art of cooking. Hearing that a number of the chefs on the show had studied at the Culinary Institute of America, I look ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Andy rated it liked it
Shelves: kitchenxplosion
Michael Ruhlman's account of studying at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) reminds me of all those crazy George Plimpton books in the Sixties, but Ruhlman is more than just a mere dabbler in the art of cookery.

The Making Of A Chef is a very amusing book in places, i.e. his fellow students explaining why they're in school, "I'm not good at anything else", "I thought it would keep me out of trouble", sounding like a bunch of enlisted men in the Army and realizing it wasn't as easy as they th
Feb 09, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Umm, it was an interesting book, I thought I'd like it a lot more since I'm obsessed with cooking, and it is good and inspiring and reminds me that I'm quite happy cooking but NOT going to culinary school ever. Still, I think Ruhlman's Walk on Water was ten times better.

Also, I'm not particularly impressed with the audio version. It's been entertaining while I'm cleaning my apartment or knitting and such, but the reader's voice is kind of irritating and not really very emotional, or at least doe
Gina Money
Nov 17, 2009 Gina Money rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read this after reading Ruhlman's latest, "Ratios." It's a compelling read about working through the culinary program at CIA, but it also delves into ruminations about quality that reminded me of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." The passion with which these chefs teach is inspiring, not only for cooking but may be applied to whatever you are passionate about. Not only was this a good book exploring American cooking, the CIA experience and cooking in general, but it inspi ...more
Tara Madden
Sep 02, 2014 Tara Madden rated it it was amazing
This book was required reading for my Culinary Skills class but I really enjoyed it all the way around. A very well written peak into the lives of culinary students and what they go through. It's a fun and entertaining read while still be informative. Enjoyed it so much I've off to read the second book.
Nov 06, 2011 Josephine rated it it was amazing
You know that old saying about how some people live to eat while others eat to live?

I think foodies think that living to eat automatically makes them somehow knowledgeable about food — you know, just because they like to stuff their gobs and eat a lot of both good and bad things.

I refuse to call myself a foodie because what I respect is different from a simple appreciation of good food — it’s the process that goes into growing food and getting it to the table.

When you read Michael Ruhlman’s “The
The Making of a Chef is an interesting peek inside the Culinary Institute of America, which is the most important culinary school in the United States. Ruhlman is passionate about food, and writes about it well. Had I read this book in the 90's, I would have given it 4 stars.

Many things in the world of food, however, have changed significantly. In the 90's, food wasn't intellectualized beyond the small sphere of bay area hippies who championed farm-to-table operations. That's not just speculatio
I am still wavering between a three and four star, I may upgrade it if the book stays with me. This is a non-fiction account of journalist Michael Ruhlman's experience in the Culinary Institute of America. I found the first half of the book extremely interesting as it got into the science of cooking, and the chemical reactions that different ingredients and cooking methods had on food. The author's journey into feeling like a real cook, rather than just writing about cooking is also very interes ...more
May 23, 2016 Cissa rated it it was amazing
I love Ruhlman's thoughtful writing, especially when it involved food and cooking. This was no exception!

I would recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about cooking professionally. While there are way to incorporate that into a balanced live... most people cannot. And, honestly, I do not think I EVER had the sheer physicality required of a pro cook/chef!

Thing is, though, even us less-energy types can strive for excellence...albeit not in the food service industry! I find some restaurant
Jul 27, 2013 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
Interesting though not riveting tale of a writer who goes to school at the CIA. I liked learning how Ruhlman made the transition in his head from "writer" to "cook" and I enjoyed the descriptions of the classes and the outsized personalities of the instructors. The narrator said ri-CO-tah instead of RI-CAH-teh, which bid fair to make me crazy every time. Yes, yes, I know it's a perfectly acceptable alternate pronunciation. But it's wrong to my ear.
Aug 15, 2016 Jill rated it liked it
After reading "The Hundred Foot Journey," "Delancey," and "Delicious" and seeing movies like "Burnt" and "Chef" my fascination with restaurants and chefs and all of the intensity behind it was piqued. And reading this book has only cemented my fascination with it all. The chemistry, the artistry, the business management and knowledge of agriculture comes exploding out of a kitchen and to our plates. Reading about the intensity behind this Culinary education, the sacrifice of those whose vocation ...more
May 04, 2015 pianogal rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, food, z2015-reads
I really liked this one for as long as it took me to get through it. Now I want to go to culinary school. Sigh. If only I were independently wealthy...

The only thing that's not my favorite about Ruhlman's books is that he breaks them up into almost completely unrelated sections. You keep having to recommit each time the section changes. Not bad, just a little unexpected.
Phil Breidenbach
Sep 16, 2013 Phil Breidenbach rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, even though some of the things he wrote about were unknown to me. I enjoy cooking, but not at the level of the Culinary Institute of America, but then again, maybe I should! They strive not for just good, but for perfect! It isn't a cookbook or a "how to" book, it tells Michaels journey through the school. He tells it well!
Jan 21, 2015 Bear rated it liked it
This book was OK. It was a decent look into the CIA. BUt my main problem is the Ruhlman goes through all this trouble to see what it's like to be a chef at the CIA and skips one of the major steps!!! Doing a station at a restaurant. When it comes time to put in those hours he just jump ship and come back to finish the remaining steps! What?! Sure he visit some fellow students where they are stationed but it is not the same thing. And that one misstep for me discredits the premise of the book! I ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Don rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After a lifetime of eating, years of watching a variety of Food Network competition shows, and several TV encounters with Michael Ruhlman in his guest appearances with Anthony Bourdain, I finally took the plunge into this, his tale of his stint as a student at the Culinary Institute of America. While I'll probably never make a brown roux (I am, after all, the dishwasher in my family), I have such an increased appreciation for the depth of knowledge, skill, commitment, and perseverance that is in ...more
Apr 06, 2015 Christy rated it really liked it
My favourite aspect of this well written book is the author's refusal to make this book about himself. It's not a narcissistic, dream-come-true-but-woe-is-me book that is so typical of many non-fiction today.
Mar 14, 2012 Ruedebac rated it it was amazing
My favorite "chef" book. Ruhlman really hits it with his description of life at the Culinary Institute. One feels the stress and perceives the development of the pride at becoming a potential chef. Great read!
Mar 26, 2013 Debra rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, culinary
A writer goes through the CIA and learns to become a cook. Kudos to my cousin Aaron for surviving this!
Jun 29, 2014 Whitney rated it really liked it
I loved reading about Michael Ruhlman's experience at the CIA. As his intro said, the book has inspired many to go, and many others to NOT go as a result of reading his book. My takeaway (as someone who does want to do culinary school at some point) is that the CIA full course is not for me. Too much about commercial kitchens, health and cleanliness laws, and things that wouldn't be directly related to my culinary desires. But this book is a great inside read of what they learn, how hard they wo ...more
May 12, 2016 Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Why is a book about studying at the Culinary Institute of America a page turner? That's a recipe well executed. Ruhlman enters the school as a writer and leads a cook, telling us along the way about some of the techniques and history he's learned and the people he's worked with; also, more ineffably, what it means to be a cook and what kind of person thrives in this kind of training and work.

All in all, a fascinating glimpse into a fascinating world. And I even learned some good cooking tips. A
Jan 28, 2009 Cera rated it liked it
This cross between personal memoir and journalism focuses on Ruhlman attending classes at the Culinary Institute of America in the mid-late 90s. Although about food and cooking, this isn't the sort of book that has recipes in the back; instead it's a look at a lot of different things around the way the CIA trains chefs, including descriptions of classes, arguments about cooking methodology, and interviews with different instructors. I see it as a cross between memoir and journalism because while ...more
Brent Hughes
Oct 12, 2010 Brent Hughes rated it really liked it
I have had this book for a few years and finally sat down to read it. I have ambitions for the kitchen and Ruhlman's writing seemed like it got into what I was interested in. For a while I have been anti-recipe/pro-technique and skills and to that end I was going to work my way through the CIAs "Professional Chef"(which I still intend on doing). As I started on that daunting task I realized, "I could make a hollandaise 1 millioin times and not know what it should taste like." So, I took a step b ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Bcastle rated it really liked it
If you have any interest in attending culinary school, especially the Culinary Institute of America, I highly recommend this book, it gives good insight into what a culinary student encounters during their time at school. As someone who would love to attend culinary school, some of the situations the students face makes me second guess if I could handle it. It still sounds like fun and a great experience overall.
That being said, the author mentions many times that he is a writer and does not par
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Michael Ruhlman (born 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an American writer. He is the author of 11 books, and is best known for his work about and in collaboration with American chefs, as well as other works of non-fiction.

Ruhlman grew up in Cleveland and was educated at University School (a private boys' day school in Cleveland) and at Duke University, graduating from the latter in 1985. He worked a se
More about Michael Ruhlman...

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