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

Overview

Read Kathleen Flinn's posts on the Penguin Blog.

This is the funny and inspiring account of Kathleen Flinn’s struggle in a stew of hot-tempered chefs, competitive classmates, her own “wretchedly inadequate” French, and the basics of French cuisine. Flinn was a thirty-six-year-old middle manager trapped on the corporate ladder—until her boss eliminated her job. So she cashed in her savings and moved to Paris to pursue her lifelong dream of attending the venerable Le Cordon Bleu ...

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

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Overview

Read Kathleen Flinn's posts on the Penguin Blog.

This is the funny and inspiring account of Kathleen Flinn’s struggle in a stew of hot-tempered chefs, competitive classmates, her own “wretchedly inadequate” French, and the basics of French cuisine. Flinn was a thirty-six-year-old middle manager trapped on the corporate ladder—until her boss eliminated her job. So she cashed in her savings and moved to Paris to pursue her lifelong dream of attending the venerable Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Fans of Julie & Julia and the late Julia Child will be richly rewarded by this vibrant tale of self-discovery, transformation, and ultimately love.

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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
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
This tasty offering . . . seems destined to earn an honored place on the crowded bookshelves of many foodie readers.
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: 9780143114130
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/2/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 301,441
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (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     ix
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
LaDanse     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
Menu Guide for Book Clubs     286
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 5, 2009

    "Live your life the way it's meant to be lived."

    The author closes her book with this line and it's true, and a lesson she learned along the way. Her story is one I can relate to since I went back to culinary school a few years after being out of college and found I hated being stuck behind a desk all day. The book is just a fun read about love, finding yourself and achieving your dream. It is hard working in a professional kitchen, as she learned it school, but it certainly is rewarding. Great recipes too!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    A 'life change' with food....what a yummy book!

    So far, besides me, my husband, our 20-something daughter, and one of my husband's male buddies have read this book, and we ALL loved it! I should note first that we all love to cook complex recipes and eat fabulous food. And, because of that, it may be that we all loved the book for it's lessons on better cooking steps, intriguing preparations and great recipes. (We highly recommend that readers read the recipes completely as they appear in the book---don't leave them until the end. They help you understand what is happening in the cooking classes as you go along.) The story about a 30-something business woman chucking it all to go to school at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris is a tantalizing fantasy for anyone who loves to cook. We're all jealous! But her telling of the story is more than just a recount of her experiences at the school. It's about changing, learning, growing, accepting and embracing life---and all while describing the making and devouring of delicious foods! There's a very sweet love story, tales of friendship, competition among students, mean and harassing instructor/chefs, fear of failure, and achieving success all wrapped up in the writer's lively telling of her diversion from 'real life' into her life's fantasy. We have decided that this book will not reside in our library, but will stand on our kitchen cookbook shelf so we can pull it out often to try the many incredible-sounding recipes found within. What a yummy little book this is!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2009

    Good Book

    I really enjoyed this book. It is a quick and easy read. It describes her struggles and joys while attending the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. I would recommend this book if you love reading about Paris and cooking.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 23, 2009

    A true culinary adventure--full of fun

    I loved the telling of this culinary experience at Le Cordon Bleu. It was funny, romantic, enlightening, and I love having some of the recipes included. I love Paris, and this is a great way to "take yourself there," especially if you like to cook. Enjoyable to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    I am a chef, graduate of a Le Cordon Bleu school in America. I

    I am a chef, graduate of a Le Cordon Bleu school in America. I was given a copy of this book a few years ago by an employee who worked under me. I laughed and cried and sighed my way through this book. It brought back a lot of memories. In looking at the dates, we were in school about the same time. I'm now getting a copy for a niece who is in culinary school realizing her dreams. I thought about sending her my worn out falling apart book but can't bear to part with it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2012

    A great read and a great lesson about pursuing your passions in

    A great read and a great lesson about pursuing your passions in life. I am a foodie and love to cook, but I'm pretty sure Le Cordon Bleu is way beyond me!! Kudos to Kathleen Flinn for following her dream and sticking with it. She's an excellent storyteller who has woven a wonderful tale of love, adventure, laughter, and tears. Have recommended it to all my "reader friends!"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Really enjoyable reading, well written and humorous.

    A great book for anyone who has ever considered attending the famous Cordon Bleau cooking school in Paris. The book is well written and enjoyable to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable read

    This book is great for anyone who has a passion for cooking or just a passion that they have yet to pursue. It is filled with recipes and culinary information. It also tells a sweet love story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    for the aspiring chef!

    This was an excellent and absorbing book, expecially for a self taught gourmet cook with aspirations to learn more. It was also poignant, funny, and entertaining at different moments. I have given several copies to friends already. I highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2008

    I loved this book

    This book is one my favorites from the past couple of years. I have now read it twice. The story starts when the author came back from vacation to find that she had lost her job -- one that she was unhappy in but could not find the resolve the quit. Almost on a whim, she cashes in her savings to attend Le Cordon Bleu, the famous culinary school in Paris. Her new boyfriend quits his job in Seattle to go with her and the result is a romantic, inspirational story about what can happen when you follow your passions. <BR/><BR/>The author is a great storyteller and draws a reader into her daily life in Paris, the difficulties and the joy of studying French cuisine at a high level and the many intriging characters that she meets along the way. She also weaves in about three dozen recipes, mostly French. In the paperback, she has a menu guide for book clubs. My book club read this title in October and the guide was very useful. <BR/><BR/>I have given this book to several people, and they have all loved it. It's sort of got it all -- Paris, food, love -- but at the heart of the story is the issue of what's important in life, and how we all keep thinking that we'll do something "one day." It's truly inspirational.<BR/> <BR/>I read recently that it is being turned into a movie. when you read it, you'll see why.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    Fun Read

    I enjoyed this book start to finish. As a bonus, there are recipes throughout.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Funny and touching

    Has some very funny parts. An enjoyable read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews

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