March 3, 2005
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Making of a Chef

by Michael

A delightful little book, essentially a travel essay about the journey into school and back again. Ruhlman, a journalist who likes to cook, gets permission to take Skills 1 at The Culinary Institute of America, and finds the professional kitchen so exciting that he returns from time to time, over the next two years, to study with his temporary classmates until they graduate. Ruhlman is not a fancy writer but he can turn a phrase when he needs to: making his way home from school through the blizzard of '96, he spins out and recalls that

I was fortunate to have fishtailed into the oncoming traffic at a moment when no traffic happened to be coming on to halt, with a muffled thunk, my graceful spin.

When the class's worst student suddenly has everything fall into place and hands in a superb plate:

Erica, who had scrambled the eggs meant for sauce hollandaise, clouded her consommé, served onion soup in a cold bowl, Erica, whose roux had caught fire, was improving.

You've got to envy that casual caught fire.