The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School

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A delightful true story of food, Paris, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream

In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a thirty-six-year-old American living and working in London, returned from vacation to find that her corporate job had been eliminated. Ignoring her mother's advice that she get another job immediately or "never get hired anywhere ever again," Flinn instead cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream-a diploma from the ...
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Overview

A delightful true story of food, Paris, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream

In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a thirty-six-year-old American living and working in London, returned from vacation to find that her corporate job had been eliminated. Ignoring her mother's advice that she get another job immediately or "never get hired anywhere ever again," Flinn instead cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream-a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry is the touching and remarkably funny account of Flinn's transformation as she moves through the school's intense program and falls deeply in love along the way. Flinn interweaves more than two dozen recipes with a unique look inside Le Cordon Bleu amid battles with demanding chefs, competitive classmates, and her "wretchedly inadequate" French. Flinn offers a vibrant portrait of Paris, one in which the sights and sounds of the city's street markets and purveyors come alive in rich detail. The ultimate wish fulfillment book, her story is a true testament to pursuing a dream. Fans of Julie & Julia, Almost French, and Eat, Pray, Love will be amused, inspired, and richly rewarded by this seductive tale of romance, Paris, and French food.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When the author, an American journalist and software executive working in London, is sacked from her high-powered job, she enrolls as a student at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris. With limited cooking skills and grasp of the French language, she gamely attempts to master the school's challenging curriculum of traditional French cuisine. As if she didn't have enough on her plate eviscerating fish and knocking out pâtéà choux, she determines to write a book about her experience and gets married along the way. The result is a readable if sentimental chronicle of that year in Paris in which her love life is explored in great detail, dirty weekends and all, and cooking features as a metaphor for self-discovery. Some readers may feel disappointed that the narrator's encounters with French cookery remain largely confined to her lessons at the Cordon Bleu. On those rare occasions when she ventures into the food-obsessed city, the descriptions of meals are glancing at best. Although her struggles with the language and lack of knowledge about the culture lend comic elements to the story (once, trying to order a pizza over the phone, she said, "Je suis une pizza"-I am a pizza), they, too, constrain the author's culinary explorations. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
An American expatriate follows her dream to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. When 36-year-old software executive Flinn got fired in 2003, she was faced with a choice: She could look for another job or pursue her passion. Actually, it's two passions: cooking, and a man. While a corporate wage-slave, she feared making a commitment to Mike back in Seattle. Now unemployed, single and with no country to call home, nothing held her back. She called Mike, drained her savings, moved with him to Paris and started classes. Part memoir, part insider's look at the famed culinary institute where the world's elite chefs have been trained in the art of French haute cuisine, the text takes the form of chronological chapters interweaving lessons learned at the school with lessons learned about life. We meet characters both eccentric and multicultural, from the seemingly bipolar Gray Chef to a roster of far-flung classmates. The range of students from Europe, America, South America, Asia and the Middle East makes it apparent that French cuisine is now global, but Flinn merely touches on that theme. It's not the only potentially fascinating topic she scants; she barely seems to notice that Paris now competes with London, formerly the butt of many jokes about bad food, as the home of superlative dining. Instead, Flinn attempts to use cooking as a life metaphor, a dicey tactic when your personal revelations mostly resemble outtakes from Sex and the City. The book is best when she sticks to cooking, France's culinary history, diverse regional traditions and the challenges of meeting the impeccable standards of Le Cordon Bleu's demanding chefs. A fascinating look inside a famed elite institution, unnecessarilygarnished with lackluster autobiography. Agent: Larry Weissman/Larry Weissman, LLC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670018222
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/4/2007
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Flinn

Kathleen Flinn has been a writer and journalist for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, USA Weekend, Men’s Fitness and many other publications. She is a proud member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Author’s Guild. She divides her time between Seattle and southwest Florida.

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Table of Contents


Author's Note     xiii
Prologue: This Is Not for Pretend     1
Basic Cuisine     5
Life Is Not a Dress Rehearsal     7
Lost in Translation     17
Culinary Boot Camp     25
Taking Stock     35
Memoirs of a Quiche     46
La Vie en Rose     56
No Bones About It     66
Splitting Hares     74
The Souffle Also Rises     83
As the Vegetables Turn     92
Final Exam-Basic     103
Intermediate Cuisine     113
Class Break: Spain     115
C'est la Vie, C'est la Guerre     118
A Week in Provence     128
Rites of Passage     134
The Silence of the Lamb     143
"I Am a Pizza for Kathleen"     150
A Sauce Thicker Than Blood     158
La Catastrophe Americaine     164
Bon Travail     171
Final exam-Intermediate     177
Superior Cuisine     183
Class Break: Normandy, then America     185
Back in Bleu     189
Great Expectations     202
Gods, Monsters, and Slaves     211
La Danse     220
Bye-bye, Lobster     231
I Didn't Always Hate My Job     243
An American Hospital in Paris     249
Final Exam-Superior     259
Epilogue: Thanksgiving in Paris     271
Extra Recipes     275
Acknowledgments     279
Selected Bibliography     281
Index of Recipes     283
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

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(24)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2007

    Inspiring, Hopeful

    I thoroughly enjoyed Kathleen Flinn's story of her adventure at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. The whole concept of leaving a corporate job to pursue one's dream is inspiring in itself but to do it for the love of cooking, a dream of my own, is doubly so. I laughed and cried as I listened to the books on CD version. I especially liked hearing the day to day frustrations and joys at preparing a particular dish for a group of very discerning teachers who were surprisingly compassionate as well as demanding. The friendships she made with other students, the chefs and with parisians add charm to the story. The author's romance and marriage woven into the story was marvelous and icing on the cake.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a great book for a chef or a wannabe chef.

    Flinn takes us on her journey through her life and her time at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, she takes a chance and enrolls when she loses her job in London. The trials and tribulations of attending the toughest and most famous cooking school are amusing, touching, and endearing all at once. Chefs will pick up cooking and food preparation tips as well as full recipes at the end of each chapter. Flinn shares not only what she learned at school about cooking, but also what she learned of life. Along the way, she falls in love, gets married, and begins to look at the world in a different light because of her associations with the students, teachers, and culture of food at Le Cordon Bleu.

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  • Posted October 31, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    very very good book

    i love all things that deal with cooking. i actually want to go to culinary school so when i heard of this book i ran to the store to buy it. i really like how it is her own experience in the culinary school and how she gives you an inside scoop. really recomend this book

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

    Posted August 12, 2008

    For the Dreamer In All of us

    I spotted this book while shelving cookbooks during work one day and read the book jacket and was immediately drawn to it. I picked it up after work and read nonstop through the night. From page 1 Kathleen Flinn crafts a breathtaking and enticing picture of life at the world's most elite cooking school. Each character is described so vividly and cames to life. From 'The gray chef' to Liz-Cat to the over achieving Margo, Kathleen's tale of life school in 3 courses (Basic, Intermediate, and Superior). Each chapter left me wanting to know who would pass and where life would take everyone. One of the best books I've read in quite a long time. With a dash of romance, a sprinkle of humor, and kitchen disaster, this book is a must read for anyone who ever has/had a dream sitting on the back burner.

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

    Posted January 13, 2008

    Outstanding Read!

    What a year in Paris, huh? What an entertaining book. I just loved it. What an inspiration Ms. 'K' is. I think most who enjoy a great story will enjoy reading this wonderful book. I am happy to recommend it!

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

    Posted October 15, 2007

    Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School

    What a find! This is funny, touching and just all around inspiring. I picked it up at a local BN store and eagerly awaited coming home each night to read it and wished it would not end, which is probably best compliment I can think of for a book. I also learned a lot by the information tucked in here and there by the author. The cooking school portions were intriguing but it was the story of personal evolution that really spoke to me. I identified with the author a lot. I¿m in my late 30s, unmarried and feel like a slave to my career. Lately, I¿ve been thinking of just chucking it in and doing something altogether different. If she can do it, maybe I can, too. (Of course first, I need to go visit Paris.) This would also make a great gift book for many different kinds of people, especially as it contains many tempting recipes.

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

    Posted October 16, 2007

    A reviewer

    This was a truly enjoyable story about love, life and food.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2007

    Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School

    I thought the subtitle 'Love, Laughter and Tears' sounded kind of corny -- until I read it. It is such a cliche but I literally laughed and cried while reading this book. It's fun, intriguiging and ultimately an inspirational story about what happens when you take a risk to pursue your dreams. A great book club selection.

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

    Posted June 17, 2007

    Loved The Sharper Your Knife!

    Really liked this, it's a fun and easy read...loved the humorous and fascinating look behind the scenes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Great for someone who has always dreamed of attending. Wonderful reading for us cooks and want-to-be-chefs...

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

    Posted October 29, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted February 4, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2008

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