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Ratings and reviews for The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection

Ratings and reviews for The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection
based on 71 rating(s)
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Price: $18.00 $13.39 (26% off)
Trade In Value: $0.11
Author(s): Michael Ruhlman
Release Date: 8/1/2001
Binding: Paperback
Number of Pages: 370
Studio: Penguin Books
Manufacturer: Penguin Books
Dewey Decimal Number: 641.50922
Product Group: Book
Edition: Reissue
Sales Rank: 83393
Description: 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.
ISBN: 0141001895
UPC: 0141001895

Reviews 1 to 10 of 71
Pageof 8
amazon logo A must for foodies!
this new hardcover, written by michael ruhlman is excellent. the first section in particular is truly gripping(esp. if you are a food nut like i am!) the almost blow by blow account of a group of chefs trying to pass a series of incredibly arduous tests (a ten day herculean nightmare)in order obtain the title of master chef from the Culinary Institute of America makes the Iron chef challenge look like a stroll though the park! one of the main themes of the book is the quest for

perfection in cooking and it's intriguing to say the least. it is like night and day, comparing the book to kitchen confidential by anthony bourdain where it focuses mostly on the dirt and the dysfunction that goes on. needless to say both capture many different truths about the restaurant industry. another exciting section is the fascinating behind the scenes of The French Laundry, a highly acclaimed restaurant and how the chef's personal philosophy affected the running of the restaurant.there is also a well written account of a dinner with john mariani, one of america's preeminent food writers. the author's journalistic objectivity has served the book very well especially in a field that is filled with hype.

45 of 47 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo And he calls himself a writer?
How good can a "foodie" book be written by a wanna-be foodie who misspells MFK Fisher's name and mascarpone?
3 of 33 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Great Read, Good Insight into American Culinary Culture
`The Soul of a Chef' is the second of Michael Ruhlman's journalistic explorations into the world of culinary life in America. The book contains three long essays that chronicle parts of the careers of three different chefs at three different levels of achievement. Thus, the journey toward perfection is more the journey of the author than it is a journey by a single chef.

The first essay is a telling of the events in one examination for the title of `Certified Master Chef'. The certification is carried out and bestowed by the Culinary Institute of America, often characterized as the Harvard of American cooking schools. The examination runs for more than a week when, on each day, the candidate must complete a particular task. The candidate knows the object of each task at least a day in advance, so they may at least mentally prepare for their challenge. Almost all tasks are taken from the pages of classic French cuisine, some lifted almost directly from the pages of Escoffier's books on the subject. Out of about a dozen qualifiers competing at each session, held once every six months, usually only two or three candidates pass the test and are awarded the title. The author participates in the competition under the ruse of being an inspector from a fictional qualifying organization that is verifying that the tests are worthy of an imaginary certification. In that way, the author can observe and interview all the candidates without arousing suspicion or apprehension in the candidates. Thus, this book picks up the narrative on American culinary careers at very much the same place the author left off at the end of his first culinary investigation `The Making of a Chef'. Most candidates have been chefs for a few years and are looking to add to their credentials and marketability, especially those who work as consultants to food service organizations. In many ways, this chapter is the most interesting, as it holds your interest to see if the featured candidates in the narrative will achieve their certification.

The second essay had a much weaker hold on my interest, although the quality of the writing was equal to that in the first essay. The essay title, `Lola' is the name of a major Cleveland restaurant whose owner and head chef is Michael Symon, a CIA graduate, who may be familiar to some of you as one of the co-hosts on the Food Network show `Melting Pot' where he and Wayne Harley Brachman explore eastern European cuisines. In addition to this distinction, Symon has been recognized as a `Food and Wine' best new chef, so he really does not need the kind of recognition one achieves by earning the Certified Master Chef award. Symon's position in the middle essay is a sign of his rank above the CIA Master Chef candidates and below the very top of the American culinary scene represented by the chef in the last essay. The most interesting episode in the tale of Symon and `Lola' is in the story of a visit by John Mariani, a major American restaurant critic where it seems as if just about everything goes wrong. The moral of this story to me is its demonstration of how difficult it is to maintain 100% food quality in a very good restaurant. There is a very good reason why the executive chef stands at the expediter's table and checks on outgoing dishes. The connection between the second and third essays is the fact that Symon and his new wife go to Napa Valley to dine at the French Laundry restaurant for their honeymoon.

The third essay takes us to the very top of the American culinary hierarchy of achievement. It deals with the career of Thomas Keller, the owner and executive chef of The French Laundry. He has been recognized as the best chef in California, followed by recognition as best chef in the country by the James Beard awards. His quest for perfection is legendary. It is no coincidence that Ruhlman is the co-author of Heller's `The French Laundry Cookbook' as I am sure this essay was done at the same time as he was working on the cookbook. Keller's reputation is well known among foodies, so I won't dwell on it here. I will only recommend this essay, plus a chapter in Tony Bourdain's `A Cooks Tour' as excellent profiles of this very important American chef.

For knowledgeable foodies, this book is a pure delight. Just knowing how to make pasta Puttanesca enhances one's enjoyment of the story in the second essay. For non-foodies, the book will appeal as well or better than other famous journalistic essays such as Tracy Kidder's `Soul of a New Machine'. The book contains some recipes.

Highly recommended reading.
25 of 25 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Possibly the worst writing style I've ever encountered
THe only saving grace of this book is the subject matter....which I must say, is fascinating enough to have kept my attention from cover to cover. But this author's style, grammar, and flow is so difficult to read that on several occaisions I considered throwing the book away. He should DEFINITELY stick to cooking, and leave the writing to the professionals. I recommend finding another book about food to keep you entertained.
4 of 20 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo A delectable reading experience
I lived with this book from cover to cover - not able to leave it for long. What insight I got in the 'behind the scenes' lives of chefs! I can't wait now to visit The French Laundry - and taste some of the wonders I read about. I found Michael Ruhlman to be a really terrific food writer - and insight into what it takes to be a really fine chef. I've now started his first book. I look forward to more of his writings.
16 of 19 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Partially satisfying sequel
Ruhlman's first book, Making of Chef, was a terrific, in-depth account of his time as a journalist/student at the Culinary Inst. of America. For people with some appreciation for the tradition and craft of cooking, it's full of "So that's how" moments and conveys the so-different challenges of being a professional chef. It's also personal and dramatic. Just a pleasure to read.

This book is the uneven sequel. The book is in three parts. 1) An account of one's year's Certfied Master Chef exam/cook-off at the CIA; 2) the story of Michael Symon and his highly successful Cleveland restaurant, Lola; 3) likewise Thomas Keller and his Yountville, CA phenom The French Laundry. Part 1 is a gripping and fitting follow-on to the first book. He follows the contestants through their week of mystery-ingredient cook-offs, portraying their triumphs and failures through moment by moment. After a while, you can predict when that consome is going to break, too. Part 2 covers interesting ground in portraying the day-to-day workings of a successful restaurant. But Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain's story of NYC's Les Halles, is more insightful and Bourdain's dark, wry voice can't be beat. In Part 3 Ruhlman faithfully details Keller's obsession with craft. It's a love note to Keller and the restaurant that in the end didn't quite hold my interest. Hard to push aside thoughts that it would help sell the cookbook the two wrote together.

If you liked "Making", you'll enjoy part 1 enough not to regret having bought the book. Otherwise, unless you're a habitue of Lola or French Laundry, I'd pass.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful.
Although I love to cook, for some reason I never got around to reading The Making of a Chef when it first came out. However, I realized that one third of Soul of a Chef was devoted to Thomas Keller and The French Laundry, so I ordered it. To my suprise, I could not put it down. The book is wonderful because the subject matter is interesting, and the writing is excellent. Mr. Ruhlman is a writer who became a cook, not a cook who became a writer. While I was reading the book, I laughed out loud, I did high fives in the air, I muttered, and when I was done, I wanted to hang out with the author. I can't say I've had that reaction to a book before. If the subject matter interests you at all, you won't be sorry you got this book while it is still a hardback. Then if you haven't read The Making of a Chef, it will be your next purchase! If you enjoy this book half as much as I did, it will still be five stars. They wouldn't let me give it 10. The Soul of a Chef and The French Laundry Cookbook together would make a fabulous gift.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Three Fascinating Journies
Ruhlman does a fantastic job of exploring the development and nature of three chefs. This book is particularly intriguing if you have read "Kitchen Confidential." It shows the more civilized side of professional chefs. The tension of the Certified Master Chef exam in Section 1 is intense. In Section 2, Ruhlman does a superb job of detailing the visit of a well known food critic to a new restaurant. The third and last section is a well-balanced look at the Tom Keller's French Laundry in Yountville. Througout, Ruhlman uses his CIA training to give vivid descriptions of menus and preparations.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Beautiful, beautiful book.
In this book, Michael takes us into the kitchens of the CIA once again. He shows us some of the best chefs in the country, as they labor under the enormous stress of taking the CIA's 'Certified Master Chef' exams.

He then travels to two of America's finest restaurants and explores the character of the Chefs who created them. Along the way, we meet some other colorful characters and some very delightful-sounding food.

That's it in a nutshell. The reason I love this book is because it shows the heart and intensity of what I can only call the 'love of food' and the 'striving for excellence' that both of these Chefs possess. The discussion of their ingenuity in creating new dishes is very interesting as well, but it is the sheer PASSION for cooking that Michael communicates to us that kept my eyeballs glued to the pages.

I have now read both of Michael's books on this subject: The Making of a Chef and The Soul of a Chef. I finished them both in about two weeks and my understanding of the world of cooking, not to mention my faith in the human race (how could you not love a species that is capable of such positive, again, passion??), has simply been...transformed.

Thank you, Michael.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo A book to salivate over
This is a joyous day. Michael Ruhlman captures, in The Soul of a Chef: the Journey Toward Perfection, the glint of exotic peaks and brings them to the page. This page is immensely edible. It sparkles to the eye, the brain, and dances on the tongue. This is a book to salivate over.

Makers of foie gras should double their production. This book does not bring cuisine to the masses, it merely wafts the reader to the true heights of the table. Merely? This is reportage with soul, an epic of culinary discovery.

There is a lot of craft to good writing, to really good writing like Ruhlman’s. There is a touch of art, too, when a common thing like food is distilled and made clear. The Soul of a Chef educates. It nourishes. It sparkles with the clarity of perfect consommé.

Green beans. Have you ever had perfect green beans? Read Part III, chapter 8. You will never go back. You will see every restaurant with less-than-perfect green beans for what it is: something in the cafeteria class.

I think I must immediately buy three of Amazon.com’s best cookbooks. I must digest them.

On the coattails of master chefs, certified or uncertified, Ruhlman brings the heat of the kitchen to our favorite armchair. It is an adventure on a scale of great mountains – K2 comes to mind – an adventure each reader can join each day at each meal.

Read this book with a napkin close at hand. Saliva, you know, spots the pages.

7 of 12 people found this review helpful.

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