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The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,466 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
The acclaimed author of The Soul of a Chef explores the allure of the celebrity chef in modern America

Michael Ruhlman has enjoyed a long love affair with cooking and food. His explorations of kitchens and the professionals who call them home led Anthony Bourdain to call him "the greatest living writer on the subject of chefsand on the business of preparing food." But ev

Kindle Edition
Published (first published May 1st 2006)
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Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The other day, I came across this paragraph from Michael Ruhlman’s “The Reach of a Chef”:

“The work is hard; no one’s forcing you to be here. If you don’t like it, leave. If it’s too hard, if you can’t do it, we’ll find someone who can — nothing personal — but service starts at 5:30 and there’s a lot to do.” (p.119)

It gave me pause because it made me realize that this applied to every work environment and not just a restaurant kitchen.

I know it’s a little unrealistic to compare a restaurant kitch
Aug 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After really enjoying Ruhlman's The Soul of a Chef, I was really looking forward to his next book, The Reach of Chef. Whereas "Soul" was about what drives chefs to do what they how and how they go about doing it, "Reach" is subtitled "Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity" and promises an exploration of the current celebrity chef phenomenon. I was a little worried, however, when he started the book with the confession that he wanted to write this book because he really wanted to get back in ...more
I almost quit reading this book a third of the way through (the author spent too much time talking about himself and interjecting personal opinion/experience...not why I bought the book). I'm glad I didn't, because the remainder of the book was rather fascinating to me.

The reader is granted an inside look at restaurants the average person will probably never get to actually eat at--and reading about the details of the chefs who founded them and the menus/venues they've created is (almost) the n
Jan 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I'm very jealous of Ruhlman's career trajectory. He had a pretty brilliant idea when he started on The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute.

This book helped me understand the differences between a chef like Jose Andres and a chef like Barton Seaver -- they're passionate about food in different ways, and those differences are amplified out in all aspects of their careers, both in and out of the kitchen. This book was published in 2006, with most of the research and writing a
Robyn Mathews-Danforth
I did enjoy this book, as a chef myself I truly understand the work. I think I liked The Soul of a Chef better though for pure entertainment and suspence. This book does, however, inspire me to be a better chef.
Tuesday H
Not unreadable but you get the distinct impression Michael is a bro’s bro. Not in the least because of the sexist way he insists on describing Michelle Kelly as if you’re party to his teenage dream. He has no other way of describing her, despite her constantly saying she wants to be taken seriously as a chef. Also, did you know Rachel Ray was sooo hot in person? This plus poor analytics around what it means to actually be a chef in today’s world makes it difficult to follow throug ...more
Mike Zyskowski
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Reach” came across more as Re-Visiting episodes of “The Soul of a Chef” and “The Making of a Chef” than a book unto itself. Which isn’t a bad thing. If you’ve read the other two, you’ll find plenty to feed your interest in the restaurant world, and in the larger picture of our times
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
The rise of celebrity chefs.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've heard about Ruhlman many times from trusted sources so I was rather disappointed about this book which is so full of name dropping I was drowning.

I get it: chefs have it hard. Chefs are tough. But if I hear one more time about how chefs must "be unusually driven just to stay alive", I'm going to use this book as fuel to cook marshmallow!

The whole behind-the-kitchen stories was interesting when Bourdain came out of the closet. It was touching to read how tough Achatz had it. But I think I've
Oct 12, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
Tom Ryan is the Head of the Culinary Institute of America and this is his list for “greatness” in a Chef:
They are excellent craftsmen
They are innovators – they do something that no one has done before
They are ”on-trend” – innovations perceived to be of value; people buy their stuff; they aren’t tragic and misunderstood, appreciated for their innovations after they’re dead
They are influential – others begin to do what they started

A good phrase, “on the bus and in the right seat.”

Thomas Keller (F
Patrice Sartor
Full disclosures:

1) I started this book, but when it got sluggish I set it aside in favor of reading Catching Fire. When I was done with Catching Fire, I had no desire to return to this title, so instead I went forward with Mockingjay, happily.

2) I skipped/skimmed about 100 pages in the middle of the book. I think it's either the entirety of Section III, or both Section II and III.

I liked The Soul of a Chef quite a bit, and expected more from this title. Instead, Ruhlman talked about himself far
Nov 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies
If you haven't read The making of a Chef and The Soul of Chef, Ruhlman's previous to books, I strongly suggest checking them out first. The Reach of a Chef dips back into the Culinary Institute of America 6 years after Ruhlman left it and discusses the changes that the celebrity chef, the avialable of better ingredients, the branding of chefs and restauranteers, and the way American society's views of chefs has evolved over the last 10 - 15 years.

Ruhlman's sketch portraits of Grant Achatz from A
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book in the oeuvre of Michael Ruhlman's books on becoming/being a chef. This one is a logical extension (the first about becoming a chef, the second about what it means to be a great chef) as it examines the "branding" and celebrity of being a chef. As a finance professional, I most appreciated how it provided a glimpse of the economics and strategy in the the restaurant industry. It really surprised me how little a great, single restaurant chef/owner was going to earn in his career unle ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruhlman thanks his editor, Ray Roberts at Viking, for his work on this third (and last) of the "Chef" series. The book would have been improved by a bit more serious work by Mister Roberts. Surely "Reach" is the weakest of the three offerings, which is not to say that it is not witty, in-depth, perceptive, insider, sympathetic, inspiring and worthwhile ... just not as good as the first two. Ruhlman worships Thomas Keller, which is very much to his credit, but gives too little consideration to a ...more
Ben Exner
Jun 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cooks and foodies
One would think Ruhlman has reached the logical conclusion of his "... of a Chef" series with this 3rd edition. While not as good as the 2 earlier books, The Reach of a Chef is still a must read for most people who enjoyed them. Going beyond the pure love of cooking of the earlier 2 books, this one delves more into the restaurant business, focusing on celebrity chef restauranteurs such as Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse. The most interesting part of the book is regarding the growth of Las Vegas ...more
Sep 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-writing
Here, Ruhlman examines the rise of the celebrity chef; he returns to Thomas Keller (memorably profiled in his The Soul of a Chef) and the Culinary Institute of America, explores the popularity of Emeril Lagasse, Rachael Ray, and the Food Network, and visits chefs Grant Achatz and Melissa Kelly in their very different kitchens and restaurants.

I loved The Soul of a Chef; the wider focus of The Reach of a Chef was less intense and so less riveting, but I liked it a lot. Ruhlman's writing is crisp
Jo Lin
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like this book as much as the 2 earlier books in Ruhlman's Chef series, mainly because I felt that he raised thought-provoking questions on what it means to be a chef in the age of celebrity chefs and high-end restaurant chains, but fudged slightly when answering these questions.

An interesting update on the American restaurant world, but just not as arresting as his first 2 books. In fairness, perhaps that's because the subject matter isn't as romantic compared to the first 2 books (i.e
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The second half of the book is more what I expected: the history of the celebrity cook, a deep look into the kitchens and cultures behind a few up-and-coming chefs with different points of view, a balance of Food Network personalities and more "foodie" chefs, discussion of why it's almost impossible to make money as a chef (or chef-owner) without some kind of brand.

The first half/third is more of a set up, putting things into context -- cooking schools and how they've changed with the way cooki
Nov 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is the third in a series, following MAKING OF A CHEF and SOUL OF A CHEF. I didn't read the first two but from reading reviews by others, I gather that the first two were much better than this one. I didn't read the first two, but found this a very entertaining and informative read. Did skim over large sections because it went into much more detail than I needed about the peculiar antics of given chefs. Certainly did not endear me to the world of celebrity cooking or working in the kitchen
Cyndi J
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd Michael Ruhlman book I have read. Ruhlman presented the classic argument of "real" chef vs. celebrity chef. At best, celebrity chefs have inspired us, as slovenly, unsophisticated Americans, to return to the kitchen and stop the bloody Hamburger Helper, DiGiornio, Lean Cuisine imitation food-stuffs. If you can't respect Emeril, Sandra Lee, Rachel Ray (which I happen to actually respect), you should respect that they encourage people to stop eating crap that was freeze-dried month ...more
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm a person who thinks some activities should be left to professionals and cooking is one of them. I keep reading chef books because I just love all the stuff about how the food actually gets made, what the kitchen is like, the drama of service. As in all Michael Ruhlman's books, it's in there but this book is also about what a prominent chefs career trajectories looks like as they age. this book was published in 2006 before the great crash in 2008. I wish there were a sequel to show us how all ...more
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, cooking
I have been fascinated by Michael Ruhlman's whole series about chefs and restaurants. In a different life, I might have become a professional chef. Meanwhile, I love reading about how chefs train, how the students grow and change through the process, and, of course, the mechanics of cooking. In this book, Ruhlman examines what it means to be a chef in this age of Food Network. Sometimes it is good to cook just for cooking's sake, because it is what you love, not because you aspire to celebrity.
Chris Aldrich
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, owned-ebooks
An interesting read to be sure, particularly in light of several of his previous books. It's interesting to see a semblance of follow up on some of the stories and characters he'd written nearly a decade before.

I appreciated the sections dealing with the CIA more than some of the latter specific restaurant and individual chef bios. There were some interesting pieces of overview of the restaurant business which were also quite interesting. I'm curious how there isn't a show on the Food Network wh
Apr 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ruhlman certainly has access--"ho, hum, here I am at dinner at Masa with Tony Bourdain, Thomas Keller, and the ghost of Escoffier"--but rarely is he able to convert that access and interesting material into a well-organized book. Reading this is like riding literary bumper cars; I frequently got whiplash as he jerked from one subject to the next (as another reviewer mentioned, the Masa chapter is the best; at the same time, it's the most-stand-alone chapter of the book, divorced from Ruhlman's t ...more
Yelena Malcolm
Aug 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in food and restaurants
This is the last of Ruhlman's books that I read, and while I've never been blown away by his writing style, I have always found the content quite engaging. This book, however, I found was the least successful simply because it is dated in a way his others were not. It concerns a precise point of time and follows the trajectories of specific chefs in specific projects without addressing the social motivators behind them.
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? I love Ruhlman's writing, except that it always makes me hungry. Reading his writing is pure recreation for me, the perfect thing for a long weekend. His descriptions are clear, his narrative strong, and he has a gift for making the individuals he writes about come alive. Best of all, he knows his subject and has the ability to see the culinary experience from both sides of the table.
May 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm generally fond of books about food - and Ruhlman writes really excellent ones. This is a return to two topics in previous books - Thomas Keller (a chef) and the Culinary Institute of America.

I'm not sure that I'd recommend this as a book of his to start with (you'll have much more fun if you've read his previous work) but his style is, as always, great fun, and there's lots of excellent food geekery.
Beth Harper
I have such mixed feelings about Michael Ruhlman's books on cooking. I think at times he goes in to too much detail, is repetitive, or too worshipful of chefs he writes about. Parts of this book I really liked (profiles of Melissa Kelly and Rachael Ray; the last part, about "The Chefs at Columbus Circle"), and parts that dragged. I liked this better than "Making of a Chef" and "Soul of a Chef."
Tim Ryan's definition for greatness in any artist:
--excellent craftsman
--"on trend": innovation perceived to be of value, people buy; not tragic, misunderstood, or only
appreciated post-mortem
--influential - others copy

Cases: Thomas Keller of French Laundry & PerSe (NYC)
Melissa Kelly of Primo (Maine + Tucson Marriott)
Grant Achatz of Alinea (Chicago)
Masayoshi Takayama of Masa (NYC)
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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
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