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

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  4,324 ratings  ·  235 reviews

"Well reported and heartfelt, Ruhlman communicates the passion that draws the acolyte to this precise and frantic profession."—The New York Times Book Review

Just over a decade ago, journalist Michael Ruhlman donned a chef’s jacket and houndstooth-check pants to join the students at the Culinary Institute of America, the country’s oldest and most influential cooking sc

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Paperback, 305 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1997)
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Matt
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...more
Phillip
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
Harlan
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
Emily
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...more
David
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...more
Josephine
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...more
Casey
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...more
Andy
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...more
Gina
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
Phil Breidenbach
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!
Ruedebac
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!
Debra
A writer goes through the CIA and learns to become a cook. Kudos to my cousin Aaron for surviving this!
Whitney
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
Cera
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
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
Bcastle
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...more
Patty
I always enjoy reading about food, which is not surprising since I love to cook and eat. So when I saw that my library was getting rid of this book, I brought it home. Not a good idea since my shelves are already packed, but I couldn't pass this up. I like Ruhlman's book called Ratio and I wondered how he became a cook.

All became clear with this book. Ruhlman spent half a year researching the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). Long before immersion memoirs or stunt non-fiction became so popula...more
Ashley
I think I wanted to enjoy this book more than I actually did. It's an excellent look at the instruction and culture of the Culinary Institute of American. For those who have considered culinary school, this will probably give you as good of an idea of what you're getting into as anything. The book is also good at describing the assignments, the dishes, the courses, and the students. There are interviews with some of the chefs that Ruhlman works into his book as well as discussions of what makes...more
Gabriel Thurau
I have always been a sucker for shows like: "Hell's Kitchen", "Iron Chef" and the like, so it's kind of surprising that this is my first taste of the culinary genre, although those shows barely scratch the surface of the philosophy of gastronomy and the deeply embedded psychology lessons prevalent in this book.

The author did a good job describing the conversations and the details regarding the classes and the lectures involved in the institute, but I wish he would have explained a little more a...more
Robyn
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...more
Margaret
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
Alice Rawal
Ruhlman didn't actually attend the CIA. He was there for a few weeks or so, which I suppose is fine to give an overall sense of the place, but it doesn't give you the day to day feel. I know people who have attended, and have read this book, and they told me it fails to capture some of the realities of culinary school...the verbal abuse, the tears, etc.

Ruhlman's attention to detail is great, however, and for someone who wants a light read this is a great book.
Ben Exner
Jun 20, 2007 Ben Exner rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cooks and foodies
A first hand account of what it's like to attend the most prestigious culinary school in the U.S.--the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. A good companion to Kitchen Confidential, The Making of a Chef reveals a lot about the macho, you work-until-you-keel-over culture of professional chefs, and provides some insight into how that culture is evolving as cooking becomes more of a glamour job rather than the back-breaking blue collar work it was always seen as in the past. It's e...more
Wendy Greenberg
Found this hard to start with..but very quickly I was enchanted with the story. A writer goes through the training at CIA...no, not that CIA -Culinary Institute of America - the apotheosis of culinary expertise. We move with the fellow students through each block of the training and, by consequence, learn a lot about techniques particularly sauce making along the way...Now going to read The Soul of a chef by the same author
Kelly (TheWellReadRedhead)
I thought this book was fantastic. Ruhlman is a writer who was granted special permission to go through segments of the culinary degree program at the Culinary Institute of America, and write about the process. However, in the course of the degree program, he starts to become a cook himself, and you see the line between writing and cooking start to blur for him.

Full disclosure: my stepfather is a CIA graduate and I have eaten in the Escoffier Room, so I am probably more interested in this book t...more
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Straight forward telling of the author's coursework at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde's Park. The lack of histrionics is a pleasure - Ruhlman works hard, without complaint and whining thanks to learning well and native organizational skills. The CIAs emphasis on professionalism and respect is a surprise given what appears to be a kitchen culture of bad boys.

I love Ruhlman's focus on THE BROWN SAUCE as an obsessive narrative thread, and I love that he comes to acknowledge himself as a...more
Jedrek Kostecki
Great book about food, even if it includes some hilarious 1990s broscience about making food healthier by reducing protein and increasing carbohydrates. If you love food and like to cook, it might open your eyes to certain techniques and delicious foods.

The audiobook seems poorly produced with lots of odd pauses.
Tom
Ok, I'm bailing on this book. Just kind of ran out of steam. It was really good for the first quarter, good for the second quarter, and after halftime came out with the same plays from the first half (can you tell I'm ready for the Superbowl???).

What I mean is, the author is taking an abridged version of the full cooking school at the Culinary Institute of America, and it truly is fascinating to climb inside the heads of people who all at once are chemists, artists, and at their core, cooks. It...more
Apryl Anderson
Respect! I truly appreciate Ruhlman's honest delivery of how, what he'd intended as pure observation, became inspiration. His words reflected his process; and as a result, I found his humility encouraging. The CIA is training masters in their field, and straining out the less flavorful individuals. True creation requires commitment and personal investment.

(pg.52) "This is an inexact science, this is where the art comes in....You can't ever send out a product if it's not right," he continued...."...more
Lisa
This is an excellent book! This book changed my life, caused me to change my career, and spurned me to dive right into the culinary world. This is a up close and personal, behind the scene look at the inner workings of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. The fact that the author is a writer and went there as research (not undercover and not with the intent to become a chef) allows for great storytelling and a knack for details but a little bit of separation that a person living and b...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
More about Michael Ruhlman...
The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef's Craft for Every Kitchen

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