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

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Overview

In the ultimate food-lover's fantasy, journalist Michael Ruhlman dons chef's jacket and houndstooth-check pants to join the students in Skills One at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country. His goal is to document the training of America's chefs from the first classroom to the Culinary's final kitchen, the American Bounty Restaurant. The result becomes more than a rote reportage of a school for cooks. Ruhlman learns to cook as though his future depends upon it, and ...
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The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America

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Overview

In the ultimate food-lover's fantasy, journalist Michael Ruhlman dons chef's jacket and houndstooth-check pants to join the students in Skills One at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country. His goal is to document the training of America's chefs from the first classroom to the Culinary's final kitchen, the American Bounty Restaurant. The result becomes more than a rote reportage of a school for cooks. Ruhlman learns to cook as though his future depends upon it, and this complete immersion enables him to create the most vivid and energetic memoir of a genuine culinary education on record. He learns fundamental skills and information about the behavior of food that make cooking anything possible. But he also finds that a professional cook needs more than just knowledge and skill. Ultimately Ruhlman propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms, from Asian and American regional cuisines to lunch cookery and even table waiting, in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great cooking.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Beginning with Skills One, where Chef Pardus guides his charges through the complexities of creating a perfect stock, journalist Ruhlman provides an insider's view of the exacting program that many consider to be the best formal training a chef can partake of in this country. In his condensed tour of duty at the attractive, suberbly equipped upstate New York campus of the CIA, Ruhlman spends six months sampling the arduous 81-week regimen the institute employs to both educate and toughen students for the competitive, frantic environment of cooking in fine restaurants. Discerning character sketches introduce the diverse group as the author explores the passion for fine food that makes them pursue this difficult calling. An examination of the curriculum and its philosophical framework is provided along with profiles of the master chefs who deliver this demanding training. The program ends in the institute's restaurants, where recently acquired skills and knowledge are put to the test as students perform everything from menu planning to serving actual customers. Although Jeff Riggenbach's reading is too pedestrian for the occasional comic moments, this audio is recommended for larger cooking collections.--Linda Bredengerd, Hanley Lib., Univ. of Pittsburgh, Bradford, PA
School Library Journal
YA The Culinary Institute of America is known as "the Harvard of cooking schools" and many of this country's best-known chefs are graduates. Ruhlman enrolled as a student with the intention of writing this book, which begins as a chronicle of the intense, high-pressure grind of classes and cooking. However, it turns into an engrossing personal account as, his every effort critiqued, the author determines to become a student and not just impersonate one. YAs will enjoy Ruhlman's anecdotes about his instructors and his classmatessome of whom are still in their teens. The appendix offers a chart showing the course work for associate degrees. This will appeal to anyone aspiring to a career as a chef as well as to those interested in food preparation, presentation, and the restaurant industry in America.Patricia Noonan, Prince William Public Library, VA
From the Publisher
"Well reported and heartfelt. Ruhlman communicates the passion that draws the acolyte to this precise and frantic profession." —Peter Kaminsky, The New York Times Book Review

"Anyone who is thinking about atting a culinary school, or even getting into cooking period, should read The Making of a Chef to understand the intensity of effort, the sincerity and the focus that all cooks must have in order to succeed." —Charlie Trotter, chef-owner of Charlie Trotter's

"Ruhlman's love of cooking bubbles on every page." —Marcia Goldberg, Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786197125
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged

Meet the Author

Mike Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman is the author of twelve books, including The Elements of Cooking and The French Laundry Cookbook. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, daughter, and son and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and Gourmet.

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Read an Excerpt



CHAPTER ONE

Secret Sharer

The bundle waiting for me on the couch had been secured with butcher's string and looked as ordinary as laundry. I tucked it beneath my arm and strode out of the office and through Roth Hall, the main building of the Culinary Institute of America, slipped into a bathroom, and closed myself off in the farthest stall. I removed my sweater and jeans and stuffed them into my leather shoulder briefcase. I untied the bundle, shook out one of two pairs of houndstooth-check trousers, and stepped into them, then buttoned the immaculately white, double-breasted chef's jacket over my white T-shirt. I jammed the extra set of pants into the briefcase along with my street clothes, snapped it shut, grabbed my black overcoat and knife kit, and pushed out of the stall.

I stopped at the mirror. I had not been in a uniform since high school football and I sent myself an ironic lift of the eyebrows, then an uncertain shrug. The figure in the mirror—dressed as a culinary student—looked like me and did not. The figure seemed more a secret sharer. I could not dwell long on this uniformed other self—I had only a few minutes to find K-8, the Skills kitchen run by Chef Michael Pardus.

I hustled down a dark brick corridor—to my right a long, glassed-in kitchen, to my left display cases inlaid into the brick facade. I turned left at Alumni Hall, the main dining room, once the chapel of this former Jesuit monastery, strode past a dishwasher's station, and turned left again. The first kitchen on my left was K-8 and I would arrive, thankfully, a minute or so before two, whenthis class was scheduled to begin.

I stepped through the doorway and eighteen pairs of eyes cranked in my direction.

Chef Pardus halted in mid-sentence. The seventeen students, already lined at attention along four large stainless-steel tables, two on either side of the room, regarded me curiously. Chef Pardus wore the standard chef-instructor uniform, similar to the students' but with fancy round white buttons on his chef's jacket running up each breast, green and gold stripes along the collar, a green name tag pinned above his breast pocket, and a paper toque that was an inch or two taller than the students'. He was trim, measured about five feet ten inches without the hat, which revealed a few light brown curls kept well above his collar, and he wore wire-rimmed glasses.

"Michel," the chef said. We'd been introduced the previous week, and he had given me course information and homework assignments.

"Yes, Chef," I said. "Sorry I'm late."

"You're number eighteen. I've put you at Table One." He pointed to my spot, smack in front of him at the head of the class. He stood in front of a beat-up, circa-1960 metal desk. Behind him on the board in bright ink marker he had written:

DAY ONE

2# mirepoix
2 tomato concasse
1 sachet
1/2 minced onion

I took my spot and shoved my belongings on the shelf of the steel table.

"Do you have a hat?" Chef Pardus asked.

"They didn't give me one," I answered

"A neckerchief?"

"No." "You need to have those in this kitchen. I'll call central issue in a minute and see if we can hook you up." Chef Pardus seemed a little annoyed. I was late and my uniform was incomplete.

But I was here, and that's all that mattered now, the physical fact of my presence. This was a physical place.

I'd made it to Culinary Skill Development One, the first kitchen in the intricately scheduled curriculum at the Culinary Institute of America. It was a move I felt that, in some ways, had been foreordained a decade earlier.

Shortly after I graduated from college and began work in New York City, my granduncle, Bill Griffiths, wrote a letter to me outlining some definitions of art, and in doing so, he described a meal he'd had at Gallatoire's in New Orleans decades ago. "The total meal involved many things," he wrote, "but what I have never forgotten is the potatoes. There were no fancy sauces, no tricky seasonings, no admixture with other ingredients—just plain small cubes of potato cooked in such a way that the surfaces were delicately crisp and crunchy and the inside, rich, smooth, and flavorful. One was simultaneously aware both of exquisite texture and marvelous taste. The lesson it taught me was that the chef hadn't used the potato as a basis for displaying flashy, flamboyant skills, but had placed his skills as an artist in the service of the potato."

I found a fundamental truth in these words and I wrote the last sentence on a three-by-five-inch card and stuck it to the wall beside my desk.

Nearly ten years after my uncle Bill wrote those words to me—faded but still affixed to my wall—I intended to learn how to cook and to write about how one learned. And I hoped to use my uncle's words regarding art and potatoes as a kind of lantern to light my way. I would not strive to learn the sort of stuff being photographed for food magazines, but instead how to make the kind of potatoes Bill had described.

My goal was both humble and presumptuous: I wanted to learn how to put myself in the service of the potato. This was to me the key phrase, in the service of, the axis, the unmoving shaft, of a statement with many ramifications.Is great cooking really art? Are chefs artists? What is wrong with flash and flamboyance? How could the lowly potato become so important in a meal as to be the one thing my uncle remembered decades later?

Also, I love to eat potatoes.

Given these two qualities—desire to learn to cook and to write about it, with all the notions of artistry, history, gastronomy inevitably orbit this learning, and a simple and perhaps atavistic love of eating—I had hatched a plan to attend the Culinary Institute of America, the most prominent cooking school in the country, a food-knowledge mecca. What did they teach here? According to the Culinary Institute of America, what did a chef need to know above all? What was the inviolable core of a culinary education? What were the secrets of truly great cooking?

All this I wanted to know, and I'd come here to impersonate a student. I would learn to cook as though my future depended on it. When I entered Chef Pardus's Skills kitchen I stepped into a new world. I would learn what it took to be a professional chef. I would start at the beginning, and the beginning of Culinary Skill Development was stock.

"Making stock is one of the primary purposes for being in this class,"Chef Pardus said as we began our tour of the kitchen. Our first stop: the steam kettles. The three enormous tanks, each a hot tub for one, were bolted to steam pipes and accommodated by two water faucets. Each day, the center kettle would be filled with 120 pounds of chicken bones? 22 1/2 gallons of water, and 15 pounds of mirepoix, along with bay leaves, peppercorns,parsley stems, and thyme wrapped in cheesecloth and called a sachet d'epices. This combination would yield 15 gallons of chicken stock by the end of class, to be cooled, labeled, and stored before lecture.

"You want to cook stock at what?" Chef Pardus asked.

Several voices called out, "At a lazy bubble." Everyone in the class should have learned this from the video assigned for homework. The library contained about twenty-three hundred videos, some of them made for television by the Culinary Institute—Cooking Secrets of the CIA, a cooking show featuring individual faculty, had recently begun to air on public stations throughout the country—but most were utilitarian, made solely for the students, such as "Making Brown Stock," "Shucking Oysters," and "Calf Slaughter."

"Right, a lazy bubble," Chef Pardus repeated. "A few bubbles breaking the surface every few seconds. Why? Because we don't want to emulsify the fat into the stock and stir up other impurities. We're looking for clarity here."

Chef Pardus squatted at the end kettle's spigot, opened and closed it, saying, "Make sure this is closed all the way or you're going to have wet shoes." He turned the knob on the steam pipe and the kettle began to clank like an old radiator as its jacket filled with steam. Chef Pardus hefted a large white tub from table to kettle and dumped its contents, forty pounds of beef bones. He pushed the faucet over and turned the water on.

"We're going to blanch the bones first," he said, "to get rid of impurities, mainly blood. The water's going to get a rich, funky, gray color. We'll skim that off and then we'll empty it. In Skills One, I want everybody to make stocks to measure. By Skills Two, you can do this by sight." On an easel to the left of his desk was a large pad of paper with the stock ratios on it—water to bones to mirepoix to tomato. For the first three weeks, Pardus wanted us to measure in order to know how high seven-and-a-half gallons of water rises above forty pounds of beef bones. "After four hours, we're going to add what? Mirepoix, right. An hour before finishing, the sachet d'epices." The stocks would be about 145 degrees when we strained them, he said, and we would cool all stocks—typically thirty gallons a day—to70 degrees in two hours and to 45 degrees in four hours, as sanitation guidelines require. "But don't worry," Pardus said. "We can go from kettle to cooler in eighteen minutes. The record I think is sixteen minutes."

"Make sure you skim the fat before you cool it," he added. "If you forget, and you're making consomme, your classmates are going to hate you because you dropped the consomme grade by two points."

He introduced us to the ovens. Two banks of ranges ran nearly the lengthof both sides of the room. "When you come in, make sure your oven works. Students don't light pilot lights. We have someone come up from maintenance. If you do it wrong it will blow you across the room." He crinkled his nose and grinned. "It's kinda scary. You lose all your facial hair."

He then addressed the burners and cast-iron flattops, particularly the latter: "You don't always know if they're hot. If this were hot," he said, feeling for heat, then pressing his palm to the black metal, "my hand would probably stick to it. These get very hot, and you'll need to use tinfoil rings to regulate the heat when you've got a lot of pans going."

Chef Pardus returned to the beef-stock kettle, which had begun to steam. Behind him, taped to the wall, a giant piece of paper read:

A great stock is judged by

—Flavor
—Clarity
—Color
—Body
—Aroma

"A lot of blood is coming out," he said, peering into the enormous kettle. "As soon as it comes up to temperature it's going to turn gray."

Chef Pardus continued the tour of the kitchen, moving clockwise past the ranges to the sinks, three basins for hot soapy water, hot rinse water, and cool water with sanitizing fluid. The sanitation steward, a position that changed daily, was responsible for keeping them clean, not easy when eighteen people are making bechamel sauce. Before leaving the sinks he said. "Please help everyone out here if you're not completely in the weeds. You'll get a lot more out of this class if you're not here washing pots all night."

The food steward, the other position assigned daily, and the sanitation steward were responsible for making sure people helped out. "They are second in command," Pardus said. "They are the sous chefs in this kitchen. If they ask you to do something—if anyone asks you for help—you don't say, 'I'm too busy, I have a headache, my dog ate it, I lost it in the sun.'" He paused, scanned our faces. "You say, 'O.K.'"

We passed the ice machine, which faced the huge maple cutting boards we would he usings; passed the dry storage, where food that didn't need to be kept cold was located; and then went to the cage, which was the size of a large closet and filled with stock kettles, food mills, china caps and chinois, ladles, skimmers, colanders, Robot Coupes, and one giant ladle that we would use for shoveling steaming bones and vegetables out of drained stock kettles. He held or pointed to each item. "This is a solid spoon," he said. "This is a slotted spoon. This is a perforated spoon." He alternately held up the slotted and solid spoons. "In some places they call this a female spoon. They call this a male spoon. If you're working with a guy who spent his formative years in Nazi Germany, he may start yelling, 'Give me a female shpoon, give me a female shpoon!' And you better know what it is. But—it's ancient history. We don't use that term here, but you should know what it is."

He held up bain-marie inserts, hotel pans, and spiders.

Sensing that the large, carbon-encrusted roasting pans he'd put in the oven earlier were hot, Pardus pulled two tubs of veal bones from the reach-in, to the right of his desk at the head of the kitchen. The bones had been delivered Friday and sat for the three-day weekend. He smelled them, turned a few in his hands, scrutinizing them. "These are a little off, but I think they'll be O.K.," he said.

Adam Shepard, a tall thin student with a narrow face, sharp nose, and dark hair, asked, "Is this a flavor issue?"

"Yeah, we're talking flavor here. We're going to be cooking it so we don't need to be worried about any residual toxins, like, I don't know, staph toxins. It would just have an off odor."

He removed one hot pan from the oven and poured Wesson cottonseed oil from a large white jug into the pan. "It's the cheapest oil you can buy. We use it only for this." He dumped half the tub of bones in. They hissed as they hit the oil. "You want an even layer, not stacked. Why is that?"

"So they caramelize evenly?" one student asked.

"Well, yes," the chef said. "But you could get that by turning them frequently." He waited. "The reason is that the bottom and top layer would caramelize but the middle would sweat and release liquid, and the liquid would form at the bottom of the pan. So instead of a good fond, you'd end up with a crust of blood and coagulated protein. Don't try to squeeze eighty pounds of bones into three pans."

The final stop on the tour was the pot room, filled with sauteuses,sautoirs, marmites, sauce pots, rondeaux, and plastic two-gallon stock containers.He held up a saute pan with sloping sides and asked for its name. "Sauteuse." He held up a pan the same size but whose sides were at right angles to the bottom. "Sautoir."

Chef Pardus returned to his desk and said loudly and with finality, "This is your kitchen for six weeks. Keep it clean."

It did seem to me a fine kitchen, spacious and bright. It measured thirty-seven-and-a-half feet by twenty-six feet. The two Hobart reach-in coolers—one for the A.M. class, one for the P.M.—at the head of the kitchen included an exterior digital read of the internal temperature. The reach-ins faced one end of a long bank of Garland ranges comprising three sets of four burners alternating with three large flats above six separate ovens. Across the kitchen were the Wolf ranges, seven burners lined side by side, behind which were seven flattops. This side also contained the deep fryer, which remained empty and covered for all but one day of this class. Two industrial extension cords hung from the ceiling. There were three separate sinks, one just for cooling stocks, as well as a giant ice machine. Even the cutting boards were substantial, three inches thick and weighing, I'd guess, twenty-five pounds. You had to use both hands to carry them to your station.

A kitchen like this costs about $330,000 to equip. There were thirty-six others scattered throughout the Culinary.

Chef Pardus instructed us to distribute chairs around the tables and we sat at our stations. 'I'm Chef Pardus, but if you see me at Gaffney's or wandering around Woodstock, call me Michael. I graduated from here in 1981. I got my bachelor's in, I don't know what it's called, management and hospitality, something like that, from Johnson Wales—boo hiss, boo hiss."He smiled. Johnson & Wales University, while not devoted solely to the culinary arts, is among the Culinary Institute's biggest competitors. "I began teaching here last July."

Michael Pardus, thirty-seven years old, had spent much of his cooking career in high-end French restaurants and had watched most of them go under as the appeal of French restaurants faded. His last position had been executive chef of the Swiss Hotel in Sonoma. He loved northern California,decided that was where he wanted to end up, but he didn't want to be cooking fourteen hours a day. Not far from him in St. Helena, the CulinaryInstitute of America's new facility called Greystone would soon be opening. There, he decided, was his future, and he began a long-range plan to earn a teaching position at the Culinary's West Coast campus, built within a nineteenth-century winery and seeing only professionals in the food industry. The first step was to apply to his alma mater in Hyde Park severity-five miles north of New York City on the banks of the Hudson River. The school gave him a shot at the chef's practical, then offered him a job; he packed his car and headed east. He intended to show the administrators at the Culinary that he was willing to do anything to earn a position at Greystone.

He sat on the desk and tried to get to know his new students. He pointed to a big guy with thick dark hair, Lou Fusaro, the oldest student in the class at thirty-seven. "Why are you here?"

Lou said. "I don't know, really." There seemed a genuine plaintiveness in his voice, a concern: it wasn't that he hadn't thought about it. Lou was a longtime resident of Poughkeepsie, immediately south of Hyde Park; he was married, had three children, and had for years been a manufacturing operator in the shipping department at IBM, a company that once girded the local economy here. Lou could watch the dynamics of his future changing by the year. Computers kept getting smaller and smaller, requiring fewer people like him to ship them; Lou said while he was there computers that once filled a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot room had become desktop computers. Clearly, IBM would not provide the stability he needed. His father had owned a bar with a kitchen and in the early eighties he'd owned a sandwich shop; this satisfied the Culinary's entrance requirements, but practically speaking, he had zero kitchen experience. He scarcely knew how to hold a knife. At last Lou said, "I guess to see where I fit in."

Chef Pardus nodded, said that was a good reason to be here. "How about you?" he said, pointing to one of the youngest in the class, Matt, not yet out of his teens. Matt simply said, "I don't know," and that was that. Chef Pardus said there were many reasons to be here; one of them might be to increase your skill level. Happy to have been supplied an answer. Matt nodded and said, "To increase my skill level."

Each of these students had been here for nine weeks already, since shortly before Christmas, in an incoming class of seventy-two. Everyone had begun with fourteen days of Introduction to Gastronomy and Culinary Math. Then they had had seven days of Sanitation and Nutrition, seven days of Product Identification (learning about produce, evaluating quality, buying it and studying food purchasing)—six-and-a-half hours of class, then two hours of Culinary French in the evening. They moved into Meat Identification next, learning the muscular and skeletal construction of animals, and after seven days they had moved to the basement for Meat Fabrication,where they would practice their subprimal cuts, their boning, theirFrenching.

Bob del Grosso, a slender forty-one-year-old with a narrow face and dark features harkening back to his family's roots in Italy, taught Introduction to Gastronomy to everyone who entered the Culinary Institute of America. His resume was filled with Connecticut restaurants: line cook at the Black Goose Grill in Darien; chef at the Lakeville Cafe; at Le Coq Hardi Restaurant in Stamford, he was, variously, charcutier, first cook, sous chef, and finally executive chef. Del Grosso was also a trained micropaleontologist,with a master's from CUNY at Queens College. A booming oil industry had ensured plenty of jobs in his field, but as he was considering a Ph.D. in micropaleontology in the early 1980s, the oil bubble burst and his future grew cloudy. He gradually became so anxious about what he would do, he couldn't sleep and took to pacing. One morning he fell asleep on the livingroom floor. When dawn came, he was awakened by a beam of light in his eyes. "I had an epiphany," he told me. "I thought, 'I can cook!"

Del Grosso taught in what appeared to he an old-fashioned lecture classroom—with posters of fish, vegetables, and pasta shapes taped to the wall, an extended blackboard, long curved multileveled rows of permanent seating. When he began teaching the course he was amazed to find out how few people even knew what gastronomy was. "Astronomers know what astronomy is," he said. "Physicists know what physics is. But people who claim to be "astronomers, or gastronomes, don't know what gastronomy is."Del Grosso stood before the rows of seats and talked questioned the students, paused, squeezing his chin thoughtfully, a near caricature of Ed Sullivan, in what seemed an endless digression on food. The course did have an agenda and schedule, beginning with the notion of etiquette, and moved from there to the history of the chef in French cuisine, into nouvelle cuisine, followed by the contemporary scene, Alice Waters, and the cheffarmerconnection. One class was devoted to the question "What is food?"and the final class addressed the ethics of food production.

"Let's identify the process of nouvelle cuisine," he would say to his class. "Not an easy thing to do. My belief is that you must cook to the essence. Think of nouvelle cuisine as Socratic cooking. How many of you have read Plato?" About a half dozen hands rose in a class of thirty-six. Del Grosso briefly mentioned The Republic, the allegory of the cave, and the notion of Platonic forms. "There is a perfect form of the salad," he said. "Say you're a Socratic cook and you want to make a hamburger. You would begin the process by posing a question: 'What is a hamburger?'" He posed this to the class. One intrepid student offered, "A round patty of ground beef put between toasted buns." Del Grosso clarified: "Round? Let's call it disc-shaped." A lively discussion of the hamburger followed. The point, delGrosso said, was to get them thinking critically about food. Many of the students had little education beyond high school, and many, whether from the armed services of the United States or having worked only in kitchens were not used to this sort of thinking. "A chef should be Socratic," del Grosso continued, "questioning everything, including the placement of the silverware. Cooking to the essence," he said with a flourish. "'What are you, beef?' Cook to your answer. It's a very different way to cook. It requires a lot of thinking. I'm not going to encourage you to cook this way all the time becauce I don't. Imagine if every time you cooked an egg, you had to ask.'What is an egg?' But it's useful to do so every now and then."

This course aimed to introduce the students to the culture upon which the school was based—and that culture had its roots in classical French cuisine. But his was a class, by design, of rambling. Del Grosso would expound for fifteen minutes on Celebration, the Walt Disney Company's planned town. And when a student mentioned the word "confit, he stopped the discussion of Gault and Millau, the journalists who coined the term "nouvelle cuisine," to ask if everyone knew the word "confit." Sensing that not everyone did, he began with the meaning of confit, and confitures, the history of confit, its purpose of preservation, and concluded with a small discourse on how he personally prepares confit de canard.

After describing his dry marinade and the cooking of the confit, del Grosso explained that he stores the duck legs, submerged in their congealed fat, for at least two weeks, preferably in glass jars, but plastic will do if you're in a restaurant kitchen and don't want glass jars all over the place. After two weeks, he would simply remove the legs from the fat, wipe them off, pass them under a broiler or salamander to crisp up the skin and heat the meat some. He would then serve them with potatoes that had been fried in clarified butter, along with deep-fried parsley. "Have you had deep-fried parsley?" he asked. He closed his eyes and said, "It's a miracle."

Such a class seemed spiritually at odds with Culinary Math, which took up the other half of an incoming student's day.

Homework questions: Convert twelve quarts and twelve tablespoons into a single unit of quarts. How many cups are there in four pounds of honey? You are catering a function of 350 people; you estimate that each personwill eat three quarters of a cup of potato chips; how many pounds of chips should you order?

Such things were important to know. A pint is not a pound the world round A pint of ground cinnamon, for instance, is only half a pound; a pint of honey is a pound and a half.

"You will be doing a lot of conversions when you get to Skill Development One," Julia Hill told her class. "If you're not comfortable with conversions, get comfortable." Hill used to be an accountant. She left that profession to become a restaurant manager. Eleven years ago, she arrived at this school to take a continuing education course and never left. "The moment I set foot on this campus," she said, "I knew this was where Ibelonged.

Her class, a review of math applications relevant to the food-service industry, was an interesting series of puzzles. When possible, she would have students bring their knife kits, hard black briefcases filled with tools. They would take apart pounds of carrots in problems addressing "as purchased quantity" and "edible portion quantity." The class began with three days of basic math, fractions, decimals and how they behaved, then moved into conversions, cost, costing recipes, ratios, and lastly alcohol measurements.

"The definition of `cost' this industry," she told the class, "is: cost is what you use, not now much you bought it for." Cost, therefore, was an idea, not necessarily an absolute. But this was about as close to the world of ideas as the class got, and many were glad for this. Some loathed del Grosso's class, but loved the concreteness of Culinary Math. Others hated both classes and spent nine weeks longing for the kitchen.

This was A Block. The people in it were called A Blockers. Their average age was twenty-six, and 10 percent of them would drop out. Twenty-five percent of them were women, 12 percent were minorities. A Blockers wore street clothes, but were requested to dress in light shirts, dark slacks or skirts, and dark shoes, B Block, which included sanitation and nutrition, followed A Block, and C Block—Meat Identification and Fabrication—came after that. This never varied; every graduate had gone through the school this regimental way since 1976, when the Culinary shifted to what it called a progressive learning year, though the curriculum itself expanded considerably during the following two decades. Each block, fourteen class days spread over three weeks, built upon the previous block.

This idea of building on the knowledge and skills learned in the previous class is the overarching agenda and method at the Culinary. A student doesn't enter the first kitchen until he has a basic understanding of sanitation (including, for instance, why stocks need to be cooled quickly). In Skills, students learn to saute one chicken breast so that in the next class they can saute sixteen of them fast. This idea carries the student through thirty weeks and seven different kitchens to Garde Manger, the final class before externship. After externship—a minimum of eighteen weeks' paid work in the industry, at restaurants, hotels, food magazines, or even the TV Food Network—they ease into the cool kitchens of baking and pastry. They then spend six weeks out of their whiles in a lecture hall, learning about wines and menus, restaurant planning, and restaurant law, after which they move back into the kitchen for the final chunk of their degree, which concludes with twelve weeks in the school's four public restaurants, half the time as cooks, half the time as waiters.

The curriculum is logical in conception and relentless in practice. Life here is marched out in three-week intervals and there is no stopping. Once every three weeks, the halls fill with parents and relatives of seventy-two graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, and the following week seventy-two new students begin Gastronomy. Every three weeks seventy-twostudents leave for their externship, and seventy-two return. The school allows itself a two-week break in the summer and winter. There are no classes on Sundays. Other than that, the place never shuts down. The first class, A.M. Pantry, or Breakfast Cookery, begins at three-fifteen in the morning, about four hours after the last class of the previous day ends. There are twenty-one blocks in all, eighty-one weeks including externship,or roughly two years, depending how long one spends on extern. The total cost, including a dormitory room, is about $34 thousand. If a student has more time and money and stamina, he or she can spend two more classroom years here, what will then be considered junior and senior years, and graduate from Culinary Institute of America with a bachelor of professional studies degree.

But there is more to the Culinary Institute of America than these seventy-two students graduating every three weeks no matter what. The institute has become, in the words of one food journalist, "a paragon of culinary education." When the CIA does something—whether adding a new class, opening a new restaurant, or producing a new book—the $313 trillion food service industry watches. While it's never been known for creating legions of cutting-edge chefs, and its graduates are often criticized en masse for thinking they know more than they do and demanding more money than they're worth, the CIA is nevertheless often called the Harvard of cooking schools and boasts many famous graduates: Jasper White, Waldy Malouf, Chris is Schlesinger, Dean Fearing, Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen, Charlie Palmer, David Burke, and Todd English, for instance, are CIA alumni. Through its continuing education programs and new California campus, it educates thousands of industry professionals every year. Its several cooking programs outside the United States make its impact international.

Opening in 1946 as the New Haven Restaurant Institute with an enrollment of fifty men, and moving to its current campus in 1972 to accommodate an enrollment of more than a thousand students, the school now enrolls more than two thousand students each year—some just out of high school, others middle-aged and beginning second careers. Tim Ryan, senior vice president of the Culinary, with telling understatement, told me, "We're a food and beverage place." But the Culinary is in fact the oldest, biggest,best-known, and most influential cooking school in America, the only residential college in the United States devoted solely to the study of the culinary arts. It employs more than a hundred chefs from twenty countries.This brick monastery on the verdant banks of the Hudson River contains more food knowledge and experience than any other place on earth.

Sex, Laws and Cyberspace


By Jonathan Wallace & Mark Mangan

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1996 Jonathan Wallace and Mark Mangan.All rights reserved.
TAILER

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Part I Skill Development
Secret Sharer 5
Routine 29
Day Eight 46
Brown Sauce 55
The Storm 65
The Making of Chef Pardus 74
You Understand What I Am Saying? 82
A System of Values 01
Roux Decree 110
Part II The Formative Kitchens
Introduction to Hot Foods 117
Lunch Cookery and the Burnt Parsnip 133
President Metz 144
Part III Keepers of the Food
Garde Manger 151
The Second-Term Practical 158
Bewitched 164
Externship 178
Part IV Second Year
Thermal Death Point 187
St. Andrew's Cafe 203
St. Andrew's Kitchen 223
Taste 244
Part V Bounty?
Theater of Perfection 261
The American Bounty Restaurant 275
Afterword: Benediction 304
Appendix: The CIA Curriculum 306
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2002

    A "PAPER CHASE" FOR CHEF WANNABES

    At first, this author might seem a bit nutso, but you have to admire his determination, to uproot his family just to get the story. On further reading, it's the gourmet's ultimate dream, being able to "audit" the full Culinary Institute oif America's (CIA) course. The story as such is straightforward, coming-of-age, education-of-a-pro stuff, with professors with personality, students with personality, tasks with personality. This author then shows us his personality, his passion for pitch-perfect technique, and his own obsession(s) with stocks and sauces -- the basis for all classic cuisine. This is a wild, fun ride, interesting and wondrous.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 14, 2013

    A must read for foodies considering a culinary career.

    A recommended read by the CIA, I found this book to be insightful and enjoyable. The author writes well and is the book is interesting to read. The book articulates the work ethic required to have a career and not just a job...and this extends beyond the culinary arts.

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  • Posted October 18, 2011

    Loved It

    I read this book after I graduated Culinary School. I absolutely loved the book. It reminded me of why I went to culinary school in the first place. Michael Ruhlman is an amazing author, and this book is a must-read for culinary hopefuls.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    Great Read!

    I'm starting at The Culinary Institute of America here in about 2.5 weeks and this book was on the recommeded reading list. After reading it I am now even more excited to be attending this prestigious institute. If you are thinking about attending the culinary make sure to give this book a read first. It goes very indepth into the program and gives you an idea of what you're getting into.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fit for Foodie

    Nice book for anyone contemplating culinary school. Although a bit outdated at this point in time it still provides insight on the inner workings of the CIA. Enjoyable read for anyone who has a passion for food.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2007

    Effectively Translating the Language of Professional Cooks

    The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute is a revelation to food-lovers and aspiring cooks of what goes on in a professional kitchen. Immersed in the Culinary Institute for six months, Michael Ruhlman effectively translates the cook's jargon of technique and skill into a language that everyone can understand. Ruhlman also touches upon the essential qualities beyond the cook's passion for food: consistency, curiosity and the capacity to evolve.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2001

    Could not put this down!!

    This book was utterly, totally fascinating. I was a cook at a seasonal conference center for 4 years, learning as I went along. I can totally relate to this book. As well as writing about the culinary school, Ruhlman also writes about the chefs and students, so the reader really gets involved in this wonderful book. If you have any interest in cooking, read this book. It is a book you will want to read again and again!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2001

    Fabulous!

    Ruhlman's delightful account of his days at the CIA dismayed me only because I can't be there now! Reading this book I could smell the consomme as the 'raft' floated to the top and feel the refreshing coolness of the bake shop. The Making of a Chef was an easy and fun read for anyone interested in the Culinary Institute of America. It gave me a better idea of what the school is like than the information session that was held in my home town!

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