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How I Learned To Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs
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How I Learned To Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  556 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
From the editors of the internationally critically acclaimed Don't Try This At Home, stories by forty of the world's great chefs about how they learned their craft -- not in the confines of culinary school, but in the inspiring and sometimes death-defying moments of trial-and-error that can happen anytime, anywhere. Hilarious, touching, and always surprising, they cover ev ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Alexa Hamilton
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
I did not expect fantastic essays from chefs about the origins of their cooking careers or skills or whatever but I have to say, despite the fact that many of these chefs are not writers, or the writing they do is limited to cookbooks, the essays were very good. If you don't have the attention span to read twenty essays in a row, just grab the book and read "The Crack-Up" by Johnathan Eisman. A story about the height of the eighties drugged out kitchens, the story will make you laugh out loud. I ...more
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: from-library
There are some charming stories in this little collection. There are also a stunning array of egos, superiority complexes, and self-promotion. As well, some of the chefs I would have liked to have seen weren't there. I think perhaps putting a story at the beginning that states that "no home cook can do anything a trained chef can do" might have been a mistake considering the likely demographic of the readership. It's never good to insult your readership right out of the gate, unless the publishe ...more
William Graney
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
The title of this book is a little misleading; a more appropriate title might have been “Mildly Amusing Anecdotes From Professional Chefs.”
While reading the book I kept thinking that the editors opted for quantity over quality and I think having more expansive entries from fewer chefs would have improved the book.
As it was you don’t learn much beyond the “I spent summers shucking clams in Nantucket to support my drug habit” type of narratives. I would have appreciated more Ruhlamn-esque type de
Dec 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Miriam by: Kim K
Shelves: culinary
Anecdotal and generally quite short essays from various chefs. Given the title I was surprised at how many of them began in medias res with their culinary careers already underway. I felt that most of them were reluctant to expose anything to intimate or unflattering. Like, Anthony Bourdain's contribution (which was actually one of the better-written, a lot of these chefs suck at prose) was entertaining, but was about something that happened when he was already nationally famous and appearing on ...more
Rachel Rogers
Feb 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Mostly enjoyable tidbits from renowned chefs on how they learned to cook or learned that cooking was their career. Some funny, some poignant, some distasteful. Interesting read in light of Adoxograph's career as a pastry chef. I found the final essay a downer and a negative way to finish a mostly enjoyable read: call me stuffy but reading about a gang of early 20-something getting high on anything they could in the early 70s is not my cup of tea.
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I actually hate giving ratings to anthologies, since Invariably there seems to be a range on quality within. This book had some very fascinating stories and some rather dull ones.
Kati Davenport
This collection of essays includes poignant stories from some of the leading names in the culinary community. Chefs, such as Mario Batali, Ferran Adria, David Chang and Mark Bittman (and many others!), discuss significant moments that shaped their culinary careers — from their first foyers into the kitchen (whether professionally or as a child) to unforgettable mistakes and errors. Yet, out of all these essays, the two that stuck with me the most were Marcella Hazan's "Lunch with Victor" and Mar ...more
Feb 15, 2012 rated it liked it
While most of the contributors share anecdotes that have nothing to do with the way they learned to cook, and it is questionable whether they are all among the ranks of the “world’s greatest chefs”, there is enough interesting material to recommend this to people addicted to food memoirs. Rick Bayless's story about how Julia Child affected his life was amongst the best, and more than made up for the self-serving, score-settling anecdotes of some of his peers.
Jul 20, 2007 rated it liked it
Famous chefs describe pivotal moments in their early careers. All of the stories are interesting and will bring a smile to your face. (Most of these involve harrowing kitchen incidents and punishments.) These stories really don't gloss over the drug culture that used to (still is?) reign in professional kitchens. It's a little disconcerting to read about the mild, sensible chef you see on tv and imagine her throwing back shots and dropping acid at work.
Jan 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like to eat.
Recommended to Jess by: Julia Child
I love food. I am fascinated by chefs. How could I not love this book.

This is a collection of short stories from some of the best chefs in the world. They give you a snapshot of how they realized their place was in the kitchen. The stories are comical, to say the least. If your hungry for a peak inside the lives of the all-mighty celeb chef then check it out.
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The individual chefs' stories of the formative experiences that preceded their coming into "great chef" status were so interesting and diverse. Some were heart-warming, some were horrifying, and each gave the reader a little glimpse into life in an inspired chef's kitchen. Good stuff!
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was interesting. I couldn't get into many of the stories that were about chefs I've never heard of but those that I did read were interesting. It wasn't quite the book I was expecting it to be. I was thinking it would be the entire story of how each chef got their start but I guess that would be a much bigger book.
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I received this book because the giver knew I was a Top Chef/Master Chef fan. I put it on the shelf and thought I'd never read it but happened to pull it down one day and give it a shot. I thought it was a lot of fun, funny, and interesting stories from many very famous chefs. If you enjoy this world you'll enjoy this book. An easy read and enjoyable read.
Sep 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cooks,and foodies
Shelves: justread
I enjoyed reading these short essays from some of the royalty of the food world. How funny was it to read about
Sara Moulton's drinking and toking college days and how she began in a dive cooking burgers. I loved Jacques Torres' story f how he got his first restaurant job on a dare and went on to become one of the premier pastry chefs.
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in the culinary world.
Shelves: food
This book has been wonderful - it's a collection of stories by many different chefs. It's easy to read a story or two and then set the book down and pick it up again later.

My favorite story is by Masaharu Morimoto (who you may recognize from tv's Iron Chef.) His story is very touching and thought provoking - a story I will think about for years to come.
Feb 21, 2007 rated it liked it
They're chefs, not writers, and you can see it in the erratic writing style. The essays are loosely edited, and not well-organized. But since it's about a topic dear to my heart, I did enjoy reading this book quite a bit.

For a really great book on the professional kitchen, I'd recommend Michael Ruhlman's Making of a Chef.
Apr 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Although I didn't know of some of the chefs featured in this book, I was surprised by how many I was aware of. I'm not always a fan of compilation books, but I enjoyed reading the majority of the stories featured in this book. Some stories were amusing, some were serious, but all held my interest.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Little vignettes of how popular chefs came to their discipline, learned something important about their cooking or an experience they had in the kitchen. I had hoped for useful techniques that beginning cooks could learn from and even some recipes, neither of which is here.
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved how unique and fun some of those stories are, I really enjoyed it, and recommend it a lot. The memories are a great way to give us a glance of what our food means to the people that creates it.
Samantha Bustos-Hubeny
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book made me want to learn from a professional- or at least all the best cooks I know. I don't want to go to culinary school or work in a restaurant, I just want to learn how to cook amazing food so I never eat boring again!
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved the first few stories in particular. Rare for a compilation to capture the stories in the subject's voice. All of your favorite chefs telling the stories that helped shape their careers or at least their interest in cooking. Nicely done.
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A fun read. I enjoyed the variety of stories. Some humorous, some sentimental, some a good explanation of why they are who they are. Quick, easy, and worth it for anyone who enjoys the world of cooking.
Lisa Lawless
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Mostly great stories with just a few that were less interesting. My two favorites were Chris Bianco's story about visiting family in Italy and Nancy Silverton's story about developing her bread recipes.
Diane C.
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dozens of chefs, each in a short chapter, talk about how they got started in the biz, who taught them, where they learned the most important things about cooking and/or running a restaurant. Each as different as the chef him/herself. I loved this book!
Jun 26, 2012 added it
Shelves: shelved
This is gone from my e-reader...looked for it a few times on my various reader apps to pick up again. I can't recall what site I got it from as a freebie. Going to try and find it again. I only read Mario Batali!
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's interesting to read how the renowned chefs featured in this book got into the craft of cooking/baking. Many by sheer chance and many more by hard work and unwavering passion to be where they are today.

It could happen to any one of us. =)
Rebecca Huston
Aug 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
A very funny anthology of stories from some of the world's best chefs. Stories of disasters, successes, rotten customers, bad nights and other bits of mayhem. Foodies will love this one. Recommended.

For the complete review, please go here:
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
A hodge podge of unrelated and nonparallel stories by chefs about there experiences, early or late in their career. I got it b/c I thought there'd be things like, "Step 1) Hold the knife this way." I finished it because the stories are interesting enough to make it likeable.
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Entertaining stories about professional chefs, as capable of making mistakes in the kitchen as anyone. Provided helpful tips as well.
Ann Mah
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes hilarious, often moving essays about memorable culinary moments in the lives of chefs. Highly recommended for anyone interested in food and/or the hellfire of a professional kitchen.
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