Dan Moore's Reviews > Think Like a Chef

Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio
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May 12, 2008

really liked it
Recommended for: Cooks, foodies, wanna be chefs
Read in May, 2008

This book was a quick read for me. I made it through, with kids around, in a few hours. Based on previous reviews I thought it was more of a book, with some cookbook type recipes thrown in. Now that I've been through it, it's a cookbook, organized to teach a lesson, but still a cookbook. Lot's of mouth watering pictures, plenty of recipes, and very short stories on how and why you are doing what you are doing. Each "lesson" is a quick read. The recipes look great, and help you to hone your skills and learn the craft.

I think the author did a good job in bringing his technique to the masses, and I better understand now the magic that happens in a chef's brain that allows him/her to see a few ingredients and picture a complete meal. I also respect and agree with the premise of starting with the basics, braising, blanching, etc. As with most complex endeavors, a firm background in the basics makes all the difference.

There is one complaint that I have with this book, and perhaps it will go away if I can COOK my way through the book rather than read my way through (the recipes are there for practice, not just to eat). Although I see how the professional chef combines ingredients and techniques and the end result just happens, and I understand that what is fresh at the market tells you what to make, when I get to the fresh market, I'm still overwhelmed with what to pick and what to do. Mustard greens, fresh tomatoes, turnips, carrots, lettuce, etc, etc. What goes better with pork? Can I put corn and turkey together? Apples and chicken? It's like I need a color matching wheel to match foods together and I didn't get that out of this book. I still cannot see the end of the road, the final product, and always end up with too many shelled peas and having to run back for mushrooms, which I didn't even think about. I know others who put together meals easily on the fly, so it may be some mental block in my head but I still find myself backing my way into a recipe by picking one main ingredient, then looking for something that includes it, then hunting all over for all the other ingredients.

I did build a meal on the fly one time, as the author does and professes, and it was pure nirvana. The family loved it; the ingredients were all fresh from the garden and simply prepared, and spiced up with simple additions. But don't read this book thinking it'll have "the secret." Putting these combinations together requires knowledge and experience, neither of which is fully available from a book.
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