Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Soul Of A Chef~The Journey Toward Perfection

The Soul Of A Chef~The Journey Toward Perfection is the book of the month for The Kitchen Reader chosen by yours truly and it was written by Michael Ruhlman. 

Did you ever take a test or get involved in something and discover quickly that you were in over your head?  Did you ever want something so badly that you would make yourself crazy to achieve it?  Want a title or a label simply so that you could say you had it?  Hard to imagine?  You need to read this one.

I did not truly understand how competitive the cooking world really was until I read this.  I mean....Top Chefs?  Okay.  The Next Food Network Star?  Yep.  Get that, too.  It's about viewers and numbers and titles but that's not what I mean.  These chefs risk a lot.  Money.  Time.  Family.  Energy.  Life. Simply for a title.

Let me start at the beginning.  Michael Ruhlman went under cover.  He wanted to dive into the competitive world of the chef's life.  He wanted to grasp the magnitude of the Certified Master Chef's Exam given by the Culinary Institute of America.  It was a test that lasted ten days and gave chefs little time to think, process, breathe, sleep.  A test that could get them a higher salary.  One that was designed to allow chefs to prove that they truly are "masters" in the kitchen.  Ten days of classical French cuisine, American cuisine, foie gras pates, duck terrines, cooking, baking , presenting, making mistakes and making up for those mistakes.  Risk.  And, Ruhlman was there to witness it all.  

He dressed in a lab coat and waltzed in and out of testing areas throughout the entire testing time.  He pretended to be from the "National Council of Accreditation", a group that does not actually exist.  He watched it all. He took notes.  He carried a clip board.  His heart broke for some of the participants while he cheered on others who survived.  He got to be on the inside of something so prestigious, so intriguing and then the product?  This book.

 "To review: ten days of grueling work, away from home and family, living in a motel, and spending thousands of dollars to take a test that an important part of your industry openly denigrates. This is simply not something that normal people do. But seven chefs were committed to taking it this year."  ~The New York Times 

It was truly an interesting read.  I enjoyed it start to finish.  Although, at times, I felt like I was listening to descriptions of operating rooms and doctors hard at work on complex surgical procedures.  But, I guess that is definitely the point.  These "master" chefs are more like surgeons than any bakers or chefs I know.  Paying huge attention to details and making sure that every last particle is executed exactly as it is supposed to be.  

Read The Soul Of A Chef and thank this guy...

And, if you have already read it or are interested in more reviews of this book, check out The Kitchen Reader.  Or, if you love to cook and love to read, join The Kitchen Reader.  How better to spend our days than doing things we truly enjoy and sharing it with others who understand our pleasures!  Happy Tuesday from Charleston Treasures!


  1. Hi Lisa, great choice. I think this is a book I would be unlikely to pick up myself. I learned a lot from it. I think that usually restaurant cooking seems otherworldly to me, but, surprisingly, I was encouraged by the way all the chefs focused on the "basics" of cookery. I think I was a bit inspired by their dedication to doing things so carefully and correctly.

    So, would you read another of Ruhlman's books?

  2. I probably will read more of his books. ~Not because I truly loved him as an author but the topics that he has chosen to write about are so near and dear to my heart. I love learning about all aspects of food and cooking :)


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