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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,291 ratings  ·  332 reviews
Now in paperback, the eye-opening book that was nominated for a 1998 James Beard Foundation award in the Writing on Food category.

In the winter of 1996, Michael Ruhlman donned hounds-tooth-check pants and a chef's jacket and entered the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to learn the art of cooking. His vivid and energetic record of that experience, The
Paperback, 305 pages
Published October 15th 1999 by Holt Paperbacks (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
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
Dec 08, 2016 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 ...more
May 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Feb 28, 2011 is currently reading it
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 ...more
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2009 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 ...more
Tara Madden
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Christine Proulx
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting look at how chefs are taught at the CIA-- at least, how they were taught in the late 90's.
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
The distinguishing factor between a cook and a chef is the possession of a culinary degree. Michael Ruhlman had always considered himself a “cook”. While working towards his literature degree at Duke University, the author enjoyed trying new recipes and cooking for his friends, but never considered cooking as a profession. After graduating and realized his passion for food was only growing, he decided to enroll in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Documenting ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Phil Breidenbach
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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!
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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!
I thought this book did a great job of showing how intense being a student at the CIA is. The writer started out trying just to observe but quickly got caught up in the first skills class and decided he really wanted to be a real cook.
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, culinary
A writer goes through the CIA and learns to become a cook. Kudos to my cousin Aaron for surviving this!
Luke Johnson
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone who has worked in food service for twenty years I have mixed feelings about culinary schools. I have very clear memories of a guy (fresh out of Johnson and Wales) who even though he and I worked in different departments of a restaurant (and even though I had my own chef to answer to), thought it necessary to come over to my department and tell me what I was doing wrong. So even though I have no classroom cooking experience, I did come into this book with the belief that a cooking ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, food
I'm gonna go ahead and agree with the inimitable Charlie Trotter here: If you're thinking about attending culinary school or getting into cooking, read this book.

What I appreciated most about this book was that it didn't presume to insult your intelligence by explaining every French culinary term that came up. Too often, writers of these books belabor the definition of mise en place or go into lengthy descriptions of things that you, you plebe, could never have heard of, since you are reading a
Mike Meyer
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ruhlman goes to the Culinary Institute of the Arts to give us an inside look. I read this right after reading Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain didn't say too much about the Culinary Institute of America and it sort of left me wanting more. He didn't even make a joke about how cool it is that the initials are CIA. Seriously, nothing at all. I know, I was surprised too.

The Making of a Chef was the perfect next read for me. This one offers a detailed look at what happens at the CIA and
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, owned
It's interesting to get an inside perspective of what the training of a professional chef at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA, really!) looks like. While I don’t think you will learn something about how to cook from this book, it provides context. If the author is to be believed, the CIA instructors are without exception larger-than-life, drill-instructor like figures. The key to being a good cook? Organization and the drive for perfection.

Where the author does a rather good job is in
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Michael Ruhlman is first a foremost a writer, he “enrolls” in The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to write about his experience. This means, he is not a chef and has no experience in the culinary field prior to entering this rigorous program. This book is DENSE, especially for someone with limited cooking knowledge and vocabulary such as myself. I am not, and don’t pretend to be, the chef in my own house; sauce from a can is more than sufficient for me and I do not find myself seeking out ...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
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