I will admit, I do not know my celebrity chefs as well as I should (being a baking blog and all), so I started reading this without knowing who Rick TI will admit, I do not know my celebrity chefs as well as I should (being a baking blog and all), so I started reading this without knowing who Rick Tramonto is (please don't give me that look). I honestly did not know which famous restaurants he worked at or any honours he had been awarded. I went in thinking it would be a memoir about a chef rising to the top - which it was, but far more interesting when the restaurant names started to sound familiar.
Tramonto actually begins working at Wendy's (yes, the burger joint) and moves up to Scotch 'N Sirloin and Strathallan. I really liked how the book was divided into parts that reflected an education system that he never graduated from. Instead, he made his own route for Culinary High School, College and Grad School. No matter where he worked, Tramonto went in early, stayed late, and worked hard. His drive to learn how to prep, cook, and run a restaurant is evident: It took me about two years of working double shifts at the Scotch 'N Sirloin to fully understand all of the different stations, prep recipes, and kitchen procedures. As I listened to my coworkers discuss the merits of acid level and tannins, I realized that I had learned more in that time than I had in ten years of school. This was my culinary high school. My classes included Food 101, Butchering 101, and Wine 101. It's not really a rags to riches kind of story, nor a religion made me a better person story, but more of a if you have talent, ambition, and work hard, you will succeed. The focus was on Tramonto's dedication to food and learning more about cooking. However, I did find him to be restless for something new or something more. Always on the go. What amazed me most was how easy he made it sound to get a stagiaire or a new job. I don't know whether it was the right timing, pure luck, or his amazing talent, but he was able to find great mentors and was given unheard of opportunities to expand.
I was even more intrigued when I read about his relationship with Gale Gand, pastry chef extraordinaire (yes, I know who she is thank you very much)! They were a great culinary couple that probably most chefs dream of being in. They got to travel, eat, learn, and work towards building their dream restaurant together. When it got tough to separate work and family life, they eventually decided to keep their divorce a secret in order to remain strong for their restaurant. Now that is some serious dedication towards their colleagues.
Reading about their restaurant "dream" and "wish" file is the kind of insight I like to learn about chefs. Tramonto and Gand would record their favourite things into this file in hopes of being able to use it for their own restaurants. It's also an insider's look at what some chefs strive for. They wanted to create a brand by being on television, going to festivals, and publishing cookbooks. Most importantly, earning the stars and rave reviews for their food.
Tramonto's writing style (with the help of Lisa Jackson) is very simple and straightforward, but to the point. Occasionally, you would understand his strong emotions - whether it was anger, sadness, or worry. Each chapter ends with one of Tramonto's recipes, while I would have preferred them to all tie in with the chapter, sometimes there is no recipe suitable for what he is going through. I've read that the hardcover includes an insert of photographs, but I'm afraid that my e-book version did not.
After reading his story, I did end up picking up one of his cookbooks, Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites That Delight Before the Meal Begins, at a book sale after. Would I have if I had not read this back story? Probably not....more
This is another title I found from NetGalley (my second e-book!), I requested it because the description piqued my interest. It's about a newly divorcThis is another title I found from NetGalley (my second e-book!), I requested it because the description piqued my interest. It's about a newly divorced woman, Rachel Goldman, who starts a blog (aptly titled Life from Scratch, tagline: blogging about life one scrambled egg at a time) about teaching herself to cook. Something she never bothered to learn when she was married. Rachel worked at the New York City Library as a graphic designer and has taken the year off to "find herself" if you will. I know, not the most original idea. Her husband, too busying trying to make partner at his law firm was never around and so their relationship lacked everything Rachel wanted.
Here's an excerpt of the first page of the book had me laughing with guilt already, it starts off with this blog post: June Cleaver beat the crap out of me with her rolling pin.
In my dream, Martha Stewart, June Cleaver, Bree Van De Kamp, and Marion Cunningham (who they were all affectionately calling “Mrs. C”) were baking a pie together in my kitchen and arguing about the best way to pit cherries. They hadn’t really noticed me lounging around by the sink until I pointed out what a waste of time it would be to pit your own cherries when there were perfectly decent ones that you could get in a can when June Cleaver turned with a maniacal gleam in her eye and started beating me on the face and shoulders with her flour-dusted rolling pin.
Just imagine what she would have done to me if I had suggested frozen pie crust.... Yes, we've all had that thought when we pit our own cherries and make our own pie dough. Sometimes working with store-bought things are easier. Plus, I love the group of women that are in her kitchen dreams!
The book doesn't include recipes, but I like it for capturing a blogger's experience. She learns about sitestalker and finds out that she does have a lot of readers. She frets and compares herself to Smitten Kitchen and Pioneer Women Cooks when her blog is nominated for Bloscars. Really, who can compete?
In the end, this book read like a mash-up of Emily Giffin's Baby Proof and Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess. It's a light, even a little sexy, and easy-to-read novel that makes it a good beach or summer read. The voice of Rachel is candid and humourous, so while she's still pining over her ex-husband, you can see that her year alone has really helped her grown....more
Nicole Mones introduces us to Maggie McElroy, an American food writer who recently lost her husband, Matt. However, the bad news doesn't stop there, sNicole Mones introduces us to Maggie McElroy, an American food writer who recently lost her husband, Matt. However, the bad news doesn't stop there, she soon finds out from an old colleague of Matt's that someone has placed a paternity claim on him. A woman in China - Matt met her on a business trip a few years ago.
That premise alone triggers so many questions. Did Matt cheat on her? Is the child really his? Did he lead a double life? What does the child's family want from her? Was she with him when he died? Were there others?
Sarah, Maggie's editor then proposes an idea, go to China and find out the truth. Meanwhile, take on an assignment featuring a half-American and half-Chinese chef about to open a restaurant and compete in a culinary competition. Sam Liang.
I think this is one of those books that work best if you don't know what's going to happen next, because then you learn about the surprises when Maggie does. I loved that the story gently sweeps you along and before you know it, you're completely wrapped up.
The author uses pinyin for Mandarin phrases and dish names - which I enjoyed because food and words are so important in Chinese dishes. If you are ever invited for dinner during Chinese New Year or for a Chinese wedding, you will learn that each dish represents certain words and meanings. For instance, when Sam is describing it to Maggie:
"It's a literary finish. This last dish creates a word, perhaps the single most important word in the Chinese culinary language - xian, the fresh, clean taste. The character for xian is made up of two characters - the character for fish combined with the character for lamb. In this dish the two are joined. They mesh. They symbolize xian. They are xian."
There are no recipes in the story itself, but this edition included three on the very last pages: steamed clams and eggs, beggar's chicken, and pork spare ribs in lotus leaf. Each recipe is printed with permission from three different chefs, which can be found on the author's website.
Mones writes food very well, try reading this without feeling the comfort of a good chicken meal:
"Maggie couldn't wait. She picked up a mouthful of chicken that fell away from the carcass and into her chopsticks at a touch. It was moist and dense with profound flavor, the good nourishment of chicken, first marinated, then spiked with the bits of aromatic vegetable and salt-cured ham which had been stuffed in the cavity and were now all over the bird. Shot through everything was the pungent musk of the lotus leaf."
As you may already suspect, Maggie learns a great deal about real Chinese food and her relationship with Sam also grows, but very gently. It's not a quick, strong passion - the slow growth between them was believable and realistic.
The Last Chinese Chef is a fascinating look at the art of Chinese cooking. I enjoyed every moment of it and learned a lot of background information about preparing a banquet (not that I would ever be able to cook one)....more
This is a book full of love. Julia Child tells us right from the start: "This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life: my husbandThis is a book full of love. Julia Child tells us right from the start: "This is a book about some of the things I have loved most in life: my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating." How amazing is it that? I can't speak for everyone, but if I were to write about anything, it would loosely be about those topics. (Well, what is this blog about anyways? My partner, Howard; travel, which I would love to expand on; and the pleasures of cooking and eating.) It's no wonder we're drawn to her, we can relate.
As Julia recalls her journey to France, we get a sense of her adventurous spirit. Best of all, we get a glimpse as the book includes photos that Paul took. Of course, the pages that really make you lean in are her lessons at Le Cordon Bleu, opening her own cooking school, the work behind creating Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the frustrations of getting published, and her rise to fame on television. And funnily enough, she even writes, "In late 1949, the newspapers informed us that something called 'television' was sweeping the States like hailstorm ... we read an article about the horrifying effects of TV on American home life..."
Most of all, this read provided insight to her friendship to Simone (Simca) Beck and Louisette Bertholle. To say that Julia had dedication towards their project is an understatement. No matter where she was, she was determined to work on recipes, test them until they were right, and research all the right measurements and ingredients for the American household.
Regardless of Julia's frustrations, ups and downs, you become immersed in her world. My Life in France is lighthearted, humourous, and an engaging recollection of a woman who changed the food landscape in America. She was brave and fearless, and not only in cooking!...more