Having already read Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential a while ago, I decided to get some new reads. I finished the other books save for Cookwise as Amazon was actually sold out of it with no date in the foreseeable future for shipping. I want to read some accounts on being a chef to understand what that really means. I want to get under the skin of it and see what’s in the blood so I’ve chose the following books:
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford. This is an autobiographical account of working with renowned chef Mario Batali at his New York City restaurant Babbo.
I also chose two books by Michael Ruhlman, The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute and its sequel, The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection which chronicle Ruhlman’s experience at the Culinary Institute of America as well the preparation for the Certified Master Chef exam at the CIA of chefs Michael Symon of Lola and Thomas Keller of French Laundry.
Hopefully these three books will provide a progressive knowledge base about what it means to be a chef and will add to my steadily growing foundation.
Any new skill requires learning and there’s just no way around that. While attaining instant mastery of a skill a la The Matrix might seem ideal at first glance, I realize that it’s the injuries, the surprises, the mistakes and the successes that make knowing anything in life so worth it.
While I’m not prepared to quit my day job and plunge head first into culinary school, I do appreciate that I must study the basics and build a foundation if I am to go anywhere. Reading has always been a great way for me to learn, second to in-class instruction. After much research I selected the following books to begin building my culinary foundation.
In order to gain a broad overview on the culinary world I decided to get Running a Restaurant for Dummies with the hope that I can gain some insight into the business. I hope to learn how you choose a concept, plan a menu and the steps from idea to opening day and beyond. I’ve always been a macro type of guy who liked to see the big picture before getting into the details.
I enjoy watching Good Eats, a show hosted by Alton Brown. His zany approach to food as a science is appealing and informative. I appreciate how he is able to break down complex subjects into easy to understand concepts and therefore I chose to buy not one but both of his books on cooking, I’m Just Here for the Food: Version 2.0 and I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking. The culinary arts diverge into two distinct but complementary paths of cooking and baking, both of which his books cover. I also chose to purchase his book on equipment Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen. On his show he does a great job of explaining the appropriate use of cooking equipment and also how to come up with substitutions if you don’t have a particular item at home.
Lastly, I am excited to buy Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by: Shirley O. Corriher. It’s another well reviewed book on the science of cooking which I hope will help me understand not only the what and how’s of cooking but the why’s that one needs to know to be truly great.
I hope these books will start me off on the right path on my journey and look forward to more suggestions from readers and friends.
The new year has started and with every new year there is a chance for a new beginning, new adventure and new challenges. Each year also begins with an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go. As the year begins, I ask myself: What skills do I need to acquire? What do I need to improve on? What new experiences will I find enjoyment in?
I’ve reflected a lot, considered what my passions are and how I like to spend my free time. I’ve evaluated what my strengths are and what I find enjoyment in and have resolved that expanding my culinary aptitude is something that I want to do. It’s something I need to do. It’s something that I can throw myself at with excitement and commit to totally .
Cooking as a skill is something that in my 28 years has eluded me for one reason or another. It has always been an interest, but always felt like a skill, one that I could be good at that was out of reach.
Growing up I always marveled at what a good cook my mother was and I still marvel to this day. Taking ordinary ingredients in appropriate proportions with a combination of innate knowledge, applications of cold, heat and chemistry and creating something that is greater as a whole than it’s part was a form of magic I always wanted to possess.
I also appreciated the cultural identity associated with food and its preparation, the stories it tells about people and society, and the history it passes on from generation to generation. The culinary arts are truly that, an art form that while attempted by many, done well by small number and mastered by a select few.
So here I begin my training and chronicle my learnings. I look forward to connecting with many, sharing knowledge and ideas and some fun along the way.