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Letters to a Young Chef: The Art of Mentoring

Overview

From the reinvention of French food through the fine dining revolution in America, Daniel Boulud has been a witness to and a creator of today's food culture. A modern improviser with a classical foundation (a little rock 'n' roll and a lot of Mozart, he'd say), he speaks with the authority that comes from a lifetime of preparing, presenting, and thinking about food-an ancient calling with universal resonance.In Letters to a Young Chef, Boulud speaks not only of how to make a career as a chef in today's world, but...

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Overview

From the reinvention of French food through the fine dining revolution in America, Daniel Boulud has been a witness to and a creator of today's food culture. A modern improviser with a classical foundation (a little rock 'n' roll and a lot of Mozart, he'd say), he speaks with the authority that comes from a lifetime of preparing, presenting, and thinking about food-an ancient calling with universal resonance.In Letters to a Young Chef, Boulud speaks not only of how to make a career as a chef in today's world, but also of why one should want to do so in the first place. As he himself puts it, it is "a tasty life." The love of food and the obsession with flavors, ingredients, and techniques are the chef's source of strength, helping the young chef to survive and flourish during the long years of apprenticeship and their necessary sacrifices. Part memoir, part advice book, part cookbook, part reverie, this delicious new book will delight and enlighten chefs of all kinds, from passionate amateurs to serious professionals.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
You can say one thing for Boulud, owner of top-flight New York restaurants Daniel, Caf Boulud and DB Bistro Moderne: he's not one for coddling. In this rather skimpy collection of advice to recent culinary school grads, he shoots straight from the hip. Working as a chef in someone else's restaurant wouldn't be his choice, he explains, or the choice of anyone with true passion, he implies. "Still, it is a life." Instead, these brief chapters on topics like finding a mentor and controlling one's ego and ambition ("I have a healthy dose of both," he confesses) are aimed at a very specific audience: those who want to open their own restaurants, and they'd better be young (over 30 is over-the-hill) and hungry-and not just for a perfect coq au vin. The book is long on generalities, but rather short on specifics. One exception is the chapter on wine and dessert, which explains that 10% to 15% of an average check is generated by the latter, and one-third by the former. Boulud can also be maddeningly contradictory, as when he lauds all things seasonal, then broadens the definition to include chanterelles from Oregon, because they reach New York in two days. A final chapter listing the 10 commandments of a chef (including keep knives sharp and learn the world of food) restates much of the previous information in pithier form. This book is the Monsieur Hyde to the Dr. Jekyll version of culinary training presented in Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice (Forecasts, March 3). Recipes not seen by PW. (Sept.) Forecast: Boulud addresses a limited audience of young people on the verge of graduating from culinary school. The few curious foodies who do pick this up are likely to be disappointed, so expect less than stellar sales. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Talent and passion alone do not ensure success as a chef and restaurateur; also required are the complementary abilities to identify critical people and resources, organize and manage them, and ultimately deliver the best dining experience possible to one's customers. This is the straightforward message delivered by Boulud, author (Caf Boulud Cookbook) and well-known restaurateur (New York's Daniel and Caf Boulud), in this short, informative book. His targeted reader is the young chef, eager to embark on a challenging career with diploma in hand. Boulud describes the key factors that distinguish good cooks from great chefs, including a commitment to procuring top ingredients, managing diverse personalities, and welcoming new cooking and eating experiences. Anecdotes from his own career are tantalizingly sprinkled throughout his narrative. While Boulud's advice is undeniably sound, the device of couching it in the form of letters to beginners is sometimes strained. Nevertheless, this makes a fine companion to Jacques Pepin's recent The Apprentice: A Cook's Memoir. Recommended for larger public libraries. (Recipes not seen.)-Andrea Dietze, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stern but realistic advice to those with their hopes pinned on the art of cooking, along with some strangely obvious culinary comments for such an audience. Boulud's short, formal-toned work is ostensibly aimed at those who have already logged some substantial hours in the kitchen: "You, on the other hand, having spent three years in cooking school, know a lot more about our craft than I did when I threw myself into this career." But why, then, does he write, "It all starts with heating the ingredients"? Doesn't his audience know, when it comes to roasting and sautéing, that this is the case, or that "braising means to cook on a braisier"? Such comments suggest that Boulud, celebrated chef at New York's four-star Daniel, among others, is reaching for a wider audience, but it also reveals a modest lack of focus, for most home cooks don't need to know his more arcane details-for instance, that venison "does not have space in its fibers to absorb and hold moisture." Still, there's information here that anyone with a glimmer of interest in top-level kitchen life will find intriguing, including even the dedication: "When you are not working, you are thinking about work." Boulud tells us everything from where the profits come from (dessert and wine) and what the team character of a great kitchen is like (woe to the sous-chef who forgets that "there is only room for one ego in a kitchen when the crush of service is on"), to the need for paying your dues at each station in the kitchen and the absolute necessity of attention to detail, from the quality of the ingredients to the welcoming smile of the maitre d'. Something more fascinating than advice and admonitions: the chance to live brieflyinside the head of a great chef who keeps more balls in the air than any juggler ever attempted.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465007356
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/2/2003
  • Pages: 166
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Boulud was born in France in 1955 and trained under renowned chefs Roger Verge, Georges Blanc, and Michel Guerard. He moved to the United States, where he served as Executive Chef at Le Cirque in New York. In 1993 he opened Daniel, Zagat's top-rated New York restaurant for two years running, followed by Cafe Boulud and DB Moderne. Among numerous other awards, he has been named "Chef of the Year" by Bon Appetit, and has received Gourmet's "Top Table" award. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Do You Really Want to Be a Chef? 1
Mentors 13
The Trinity of Heat 29
Your Sense of Taste 41
Ingredients 53
Wine and Pastry 61
The Grand Tour 71
Desire, Drive and Discipline 79
Self-Management: Interest, Ego, Focus and Teamwork 89
Passing the Who Cares Test 97
The Front of the House 107
Is There Life After Restaurants? 117
The Ten Commandments of a Chef 121
"You Are What You Have Cooked": A Selection of Favorite Recipes 125
Acknowledgments 163
About the Author 166
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