Friday, August 14, 2009
A Good Read
I recently picked up a book to read during my 62 minute (each way) train ride into Philadelphia. I was torn about genre, so I decided to do something I had always found to be a bit silly: read a book about the culinary world from someone who had never worked in it. I had heard about Michael Ruhlman for a few year from people who touted his writing. I then saw him on No Reservations (the show hosted by culinary bad-ass and lifetime skeptic Anthony Bourdain) and Iron Chef America as a judge. During one of the Iron Chef battles, Jeffrey Steingarten called Ruhlman an expert on food, so I figured me must have something useful to say.
So, I purchased his book The Making of a Chef: Mastering the Heat at the Culinary Institute. In the book Ruhlman audits classes at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He attends classes in the order they would be attended by a full-time student. Although he does not partake in all of the classes' exams, and thus does not feel the real pressure other students do, he does find out what it is like tobe a cook, working in a kitchen on the line. He asks the right questions and searches for the answers in a interesting way: by doing. Some people have been critical of this book, in that Ruhlman was not a true student and did not get the real experience. While this is true in application, it did not prevent him from writing a cohesive account of culinary school and an accurate description of where some of the nation’s best chefs began. Give it a read, it is worth it just for the lessons on making brown stock.