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The Soul of a Chef: The Journey toward Perfection

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey toward Perfection

by Michael Ruhlman

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In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, Michael Ruhlman journeys into the heart of the profession. Observing the rigorous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country, Ruhlman enters the lives and kitchens of rising star Michael Symon and renowned Thomas Keller of the


In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, Michael Ruhlman journeys into the heart of the profession. Observing the rigorous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country, Ruhlman enters the lives and kitchens of rising star Michael Symon and renowned Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. This fascinating book will satisfy any reader's hunger for knowledge about cooking and food, the secrets of successful chefs, at what point cooking becomes an art form, and more. Like Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef, this is an instant classic in food writing-one of the fastest growing and most popular subjects today.

Author Biography: Michael Ruhlman has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Gourmet, and Food Arts Magazine and is the recipient of a James Beard award for magazine writing. He is the author of The Making of a Chef and co-wrote the French Laundry Cookbook.

Editorial Reviews

To learn what it takes to become a great chef, you can take the rigorous Certified Master Chef exam at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA to cognoscenti). Or you could read Michael Ruhlman's captivating book The Soul of a Chef. This diverting tome chronicles the passage of would-be master chefs through the grueling (and sometimes heartbreaking) requirements of the CIA regimen and provides behind-the-swinging-door portraits of chef stars Michael Symon and Thomas Keller.
Los Angeles Times
....The Soul of the Chef is a lively blend of reportage, reflection and recipes.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this follow-up to his cooking school odyssey, The Making of a Chef, Ruhlman examines what causes chefs to seek absolute perfection. The book is divided into three parts: in the first, Ruhlman observes the arduous Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, which was the setting for his first book. The second segment focuses on Michael Symon, a rising star at Lola (in Cleveland) who was recently dubbed one of the 10 best chefs in America by Food & Wine. The third is dedicated to Thomas Keller, chef of California's esteemed French Laundry. While Ruhlman's play-by-play descriptions of chefs struggling to cook exactly as Escoffier dictated 90 years earlier can be exciting (and the stories of those who failed heartbreaking), they strongly echo his previous book's account of culinary education. The author fares better in his portrait of Keller's development into an exacting perfectionist. But even here Ruhlman often slips into simply writing about the process of working on The French Laundry Cookbook, to which he contributed the text, or repeating stories that appear in it. Overall this book makes a fine introduction to Ruhlman's writing, but readers of his previous books will be disappointed to find the chef reheating leftovers. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Writer and trained chef Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef) claims to be searching for the essence of what drives a great chef. In 1997, he attended the Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most grueling, comprehensive, and controversial cooking test in America. He observes and interviewed, among others, Bryan Polcyn of Five Lakes Grill in Michigan. Next he moved to Cleveland to report on another star chef, Michael Symon of the Lola Bistro and Wine Bar. The third section of his book concerns Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in the Napa Valley, called by many the best chef working in America today. Each section of the book is fascinating in itself, especially the introductory section on the Certified Master Chef exam, an ordeal of almost hellish intensity. Unfortunately, his search for "the soul of a chef" is laid over what are essentially three separate pieces. Less than the sum of its part, the book will eventually test anyone's patience for reading page after page of menus and description of nouvelle cuisine creations. An appendix offers a selection of recipes from each chef profiled. Recommended for large public libraries.--Tom Cooper, St. Louis P.L., MO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Internet Bookwatch
The author's prior Making Of A Chef became a cult classic in 1997; Soul of a Chef is a companion volume further exploring the world of professional cooking, blending an autobiography with insights into what it takes to become a top-ranking chef in the industry. From his experiences with three distinctive chefs to his attempts to understand culinary and restaurant success and failure, Soul of a Chef is a revealing winner.
Anthony Bourdain
Ruhlman sets out to . . . delve so deeply into the hearts and minds of a few select chefs that he may discover the essence of haute cuisine. Amazingly enough, he succeeds -- by turning his investigation into an adventure story . . .
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Part One

Certified Master Chef Exam (or the Objective Truth of Great Cooking)

Chapter One

Chef Dieter Doppelfeld leads the way to kitchen station four, followed by two men in lab coats with clipboards. Brian Polcyn stands before these men attentive but at ease in a paper toque and chef's whites. He has set his stainless steel table with cutting board, slicing knife, bain-marie insert filled with hot water, and latex gloves.

The day before the Certified Master Chef examination began I arrived at the office of Tom Peer, food and beverage director at the Culinary Institute of America, the nation's most prominent cooking school. Peer was for years the executive chef at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh, and he was now the certification chairman for the American Culinary Federation, a trade organization representing tens of thousands of chefs. Peer oversaw the master chef certification program.

This grueling cooking test, simply the idea of it, had completely captivated me, and it would become for me the beginning of a two-year immersion in the work of the American chef and professional cooking. But for a long while I couldn't get to the core of my fascination with the CMC exam. I asked Peer and Doppelfeld why they thought this test was important. Doppelfeld explained that this profession, the profession of chef in America, was relatively young. For most of its history the United States imported great chefs; we did not train our own because we didn't have anyone to do the training; the country didn't even have a cuisine it could call its own or any kind of tradition to speak of, beyond the home ec-style teachings of Fannie Farmer, perhaps, or the worldwide impact of McDonald's-style fast food. Yet in the past fifty years, most noticeably in the past two decades, the culinary scene had exploded. Cooks had become chefs, and chefs had become celebrities. Food magazines proliferated. National and local radio shows devoted to food filled the air on weekends. An entire television network was created to broadcast food and cooking shows twenty-four hours a day. Restaurants were becoming as famous as Broadway shows. And the work itself-once the labor of the lower classes-had become fashionable. Parents, once proud to say that their child had entered law school, now boasted that their child was in culinary school. An industry that was still young, huge and growing ($336 billion in overall food service sales in 1998, $376 billion expected in 2000) needed recognized standards of uncompromised excellence, standards that were acknowledged by everyone. The Certified Master Chef exam aimed to create exactly that.

—Reprinted from The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman by permission of Viking Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Michael Ruhlman. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Meet the Author

Michael Ruhlman is the author of many books, including The Elements of Cooking and The French Laundry Cookbook. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, daughter, and son; is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Gourmet; and has a highly popular blog at Ruhlman.com.

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