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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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780141001890
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/31/2001
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 336,072
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.77(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Michael Ruhlman’s classic book on professional cooking—winner of the IACP Cookbook Award

In his second in-depth foray into the world of professional cooking, The Soul of a Chef, 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 future Iron Chef 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.

“A hold-your-breath while you turn the page thriller that’s also an anthropological study of the culture of cooking.” –Anthony Bourdain, The New York Times Book Review
Michael Ruhlman is the author of many books, including The Elements of Cooking, Live to Cook (with Michael Symon), Bouchon (with Thomas Keller), Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing (with Brian Polcyn) and Ruhlman’s Twenty.


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.

Table of Contents

The Soul of a ChefPart One: Certified Master Chef Exam (or the Objective Truth of Great Cooking)
Part Two: Lola
Part Three: Journey Toward Perfection
Epilogue: It Begins When You Wake Up

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The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
sturlington on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book contains three ¿backstage¿ views on cooking in contemporary America. My favorite two pieces were the opener, describing the excruciating Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, and the closer, spent in the kitchen of French Laundry ¿ reportedly America¿s best restaurant. Both accounts were crammed with detail, enabling the reader to experience an otherwise closed-off world to most of us. Ruhlman does get a bit long-winded and, frankly, over-effusive at the end, especially for someone who gets offended when anyone calls cooking an ¿art.¿ But the otherwise fascinating writing more than makes up for that.
suniru on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was a fun book. It can be a little wordy and over the top in parts..but so is the author's enthusiasm for his subject. I have no desire to eat dishes on the culinary levels of these chefs but really enjoyed learning about the process, mechanics and inspirations that drive them.
Harlan879 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is almost impossible to review objectively. Like Making of a Chef, the book is aimed at foodies, people who know their French mother sauces and the difference between a saute pan and a sauteuse. If you're not in that group, you may not be able to share Ruhlman's crazy passion and hero-worship of his subjects. Ruhlman's writing, if you are not into food, can be repetitive and cliched, and he doesn't break any new ground in terms of understanding food culture (cf. Michael Pollan's work). This said, Ruhlman has had some amazing, enviable experiences, and he writes about them with great zeal and clarity. The first section, about the CIA's Certified Master Chef exam, is totally compelling. The bio of Michael Symon is fun. The section about the French Laundry and Keller feels tagged on and thin in some ways, but is interesting nonetheless.
nakedsushi on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Soul of a Chef is food writer Michael Ruhlman¿s experience as a student going through the esteemed Culinary Institute of America. For someone who¿s thought about working in a restaurant, the book was an eye-opener; it gave me a view of the CIA without actually having to attend it.Ruhlman manages to deftly convey his enthusiasm for food as well as the enthusiasm of the people he writes about. Instructors and teachers all have their own personal quirks and beliefs and Ruhlman writes them down without seeming too didactic or biased. I especially liked the section on the bread baking course because it¿s easy to imagine the love the instructor of that course has for something as seemingly simple as a loaf of bread.Soul of a Chef is informative and enjoyable to read, but I wouldn¿t call it a page-turner. I had been stuck at the last few chapters of the book for a while because I just didn¿t feel like finishing it. I do recommend reading it while eating though, because I found myself getting hungry otherwise. The book isn¿t the most exciting thing I¿ve read, I would recommend it to anyone thinking of attending the CIA.
cissa on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I love cooking, but I now know I have NO desire to be a chef! This was a really fascinating read, though, and very inspirational.
piefuchs on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The Soul of a Chef is really three short books all based on Michael Ruhlman's observation of what it takes to become a chef. In the 1st , and by far the most enjoyable, Ruhlman observes the 14 day examination for the Certifed Master Chef title. In the 2nd, he follows Michael Symon's early career as he opens the Lola restaurant. In the 3rd, and least enjoyable, he describes his love for Thomas Keller. Ruhlman is a good writer, he knows food, and his books are definately worth reading - they are also annoying. When Ruhlman is observing and sharing, the books are fantastic - when he is opining, you just want him to shut up. He is always waxing poetical about the French style of cooking - he never talks about cooking in France. If you look at Thomas Keller as just another three star chef (who learnt from apprhenticeships) then he fails to look like the second coming. Furthermore, Ruhlman can cook - but he has never been a chef - still he accepts a holier than thou attitude about how to do things that is independent of financial necessity. Restaurants sink or swim based on profit margin, not on being true to Escoffier.
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