Cera's Reviews > The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
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's review
Jan 28, 2009

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Read in December, 2008 , read count: 1

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 Ruhlman's own feelings about all of his experiences are a large part of the story, he is explicitly there as a writer who is going to write a book, and thus has access to people & a freedom to ask questions he might not have otherwise been granted.

Ruhlman does a great job portraying the intensity of life in the kitchen, from the first day of culinary training to his experiences as a line cook in one of the CIA restaurants. I came away amazed at the sheer amount of physical labour involved in being a chef.

My one frustration with this book was that Ruhlman didn't really explain who he was before he went to the CIA, so it took me a while to figure out that he went there as a food journalist rather than as a guy who then decided to write about it. The early part of the book was pretty confusing to me due to that lack of understanding.

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