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The Making of a Chef

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  6,139 Ratings  ·  300 Reviews
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 ...more
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Published October 1st 1998 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1997)
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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 Eggs
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
May 09, 2011 David rated it it was ok
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
Mar 18, 2014 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Dec 08, 2016 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-star
The Making of a Chef documents Michael Ruhlman's experiences inside the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The first half of the book was especially interesting to me -- the approach to the training and content of the classes, the seriousness of the instructors, the techniques and cooking details, the overall intensity of the experience. But it's told from the perspective of a journalist. While Ruhlman had interest and potential as a cook, he didn't approach things with the same focus and abso ...more
Sep 23, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2012 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2009 Gina 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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 09, 2011 Josephine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 27, 2013 Melody rated it liked it
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.
Jan 23, 2015 pianogal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 10, 2013 Phil Breidenbach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 14, 2012 Ruedebac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 30, 2015 Christy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 26, 2013 Debra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, culinary
A writer goes through the CIA and learns to become a cook. Kudos to my cousin Aaron for surviving this!
Mar 20, 2017 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly engaging read that really gets to the heart of what it means to be a food service professional. I'll be sharing this read !
I had to sell back 6 books to Half Price Books to get enough credit for this, I really hope it's worth it!

This is a 3-star book that I'm giving 4 stars to. Because it's exactly my interests, and because it really spoke to me and my level of culinary understanding, I enjoyed it to a 4 star level. But I think in point of fact it isn't more than a 3 star book. Part of that, if I'm honest, is that I was really annoyed at how poor the editing was. "Peak" instead of "peek", words that shouldn't have
Bradley Flower
Mar 09, 2017 Bradley Flower rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are very interested in professional cooking, this is a very interesting book. I found it facinating and was hard to stop listening to. If you do not know the "industry" it might be hard to follow. I bounced between this book and another because the other one just would not keep my interest that well.
Amy Sunshine
Sep 29, 2016 Amy Sunshine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read. A writer enrolls at the CIA (google it if you don't know) and learns what it takes to become a cook. Great inside look at the rigors it takes to be a chef and the complexity of the food business (culinary math?!) Fascinating and inspiring, but I think I'll remain a home cook.
Brian Chang
Feb 21, 2017 Brian Chang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome book about both the people & experiences at the CIA. Captivating descriptions of the food and great interviews. Begins as a book about cooking and becoming a chef, and finishes as a commentary on life and the sacrifices we have to make to truly succeed.
Brent Hughes
Aug 31, 2010 Brent Hughes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2016 Cissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Wanting to learn how to cook and to understand what goes on at America's most famous cooking school, Ruhlman arranged to spend time sitting in on classes at the CIA. There's some interest in the content of the classes themselves (I did really like the baking class), though Ruhlman's account of them are generally way too detailed. And honestly, given that Ruhlman wasn't truly going through the CIA's very tough program, I didn't really care that much about his personal vicissitudes (especially the ...more
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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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