The question of what drives a person to push themselves in an effort of achieving perfection is one that runs throughout author, Michael Ruhlman’s book, The Soul of a Chef. In his book he exams the DNA of a chef by breaking up the book in three parts. First we read through the torturous exam that few put themselves through for a title of Master Chef, then we get into more personal stories of the long journeys of two famous chefs and their culinary careers. All of these amazing chefs started out as cooks then became students of gourmet (knows a lot about good food and drink) and finally leaders in the food world. A Chef is an experienced culinary professional who manages commercial kitchen staff, but Ruhlman dives deeper into the driving forces behind who becomes a successful chef. As you read through the stories you find that there is not just one formula or recipe that makes a great chef, but there are definitely some common traits across the board.
One of these traits is determination. In reading this book, I was brought back to my year of culinary school and reminded of my own determination to follow through with this desire of studying culinary. For one year, I drove three days a week, two hours each day, after working my full time Monday through Friday job to take cooking classes in San Francisco. It was an amazing experience, yet, at the same time I had to face my husband and children who did not approve of me pursuing this dream. Getting through that year and not giving up was not a typical move of mine. There was something profound within me that held me together, because without those cooking classes, I think I would have fallen apart. This same unseen thread holding the most extraordinary chefs together under the unimaginable amount of stress that they have to undergo, is depicted in these chapters. Even if you haven’t experienced something like this, you can still really enjoy the stories and gain a new appreciation for the restaurant industry.
With mouth watering descriptions of Chef Thomas Keller’s food and the detail included with Chef Michael Symon’s large personality, you get drawn into the book. Even in part one, which talks about the CIA Master Chef exam, the level of detail written out really evoked emotion for me. I felt bad for the the chef’s going through that process. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to like this book because of the negative emotions I was feeling in the beginning, but then moving on to parts two and three, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these two chef’s that I have know about, but never really knew their story and how they got where they did in their careers. I think anyone who enjoys eating out at non-chain restaurants and has admired their food before devouring it would enjoy this book.
If you enjoy reading biographies or interviews of food network stars, you’ll also enjoy this book. There is no mystery and suspense that keep you from putting the book down, but there is discovery that leads you to want to know more about these great chefs.