The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America Rating:
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Journalist Michael Ruhlman talked his way into the CIA: the Culinary Institute of America, the Harvard of cooking schools. It had something to do with potatoes a grand-uncle had eaten deacades earlier, how the man could remember them so well for so long, buried as they had been in the middle of an elegant meal. Ruhlman wanted to learn how to cook potatoes like that--like an art--and the CIA seemed the place to go. The fun part of this book is that we all get to go along for the ride without having to endure the trauma of cooking school.

Ever wonder what goes on in a busy kitchen, why your meal comes late or shows up poorly cooked? The temptation is to blame the waiter, but there are a world of cooks behind those swinging doors, and Ruhlman marches you right into it. It's a world where, when everything is going right, time halts and consciousness expands. And when a few things go wrong, the earth begins to wobble on its axis. Ruhlamn has the writerly skills to make the education of a chef a visceral experience.


  • ISBN13: 9780805089394
  • Condition: New
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  1. Rating

    And then after all of that I read it again. This book was and is truly amazing! It is a definite must read for anyone wishing to train and work in the field. I read this book in my first semester of College at a SUNY school, when I was doing a lecture series on cooking for a communications class. After reading this book, now I wished I had opted to attend the CIA as originally planned(It’s a pity that they don’t have accomodations for single mothers with small children).

    Now my nephew is considering persuing a career in Culinary Arts and I handed him this book. He’s already excited about the prospect of being a chef!

    Everything Rulhman writes about regarding working in the food industry is true, demands are made on you to preform on que. And forget the holidays you celebrate the day after. I work in a restaurant kitchen right now, it does take a special breed of people to support feeding hundreds of mouths a night while standing baking in 120 degree heat. But I wouldn’t have as much fun any other place!!!

  2. Rating

    I devoured this book as soon as it arrived! Michael conveys the rigors and detail of cooking along with the passions and complete dedication of those who choose this profession, framing it all in a personal story. I feel that I’ve lived my fantasy of training at the CIA and I’ve met some fascinating people along the way. This book is a must-have for anyone with any curiosity about this profession, or for anyone who just loves food.

  3. Rating

    Noboday could possibly convey what it’s like behind the scenes at Amaerica’s top chef’s school as well as Michael Ruhlman has. Like many others, I read this book before attending the CIA. I didn’t really beleive that things could be as hard and exciting as he made them out to be. But after 2 of the most excrutiating/rewarding years of my life, I now look back on this book as if it were my own memoirs, he is that accurate. A wonderfully written book that will please anyone, whether you’re a cook or just eat like one.

  4. John Robinson says


    Why are you here? Are you interested in this subject? Then buy it. It’s 11 bucks and an absolutely magnetic read. Talk about a deal.

    More specifically, the author takes us through the CIA, from weeks spent in Sanitation and Skills and a plethora of other courses, to one week in the best restaurant in the Culinary Institute’s portfolio. Along the way, we learn about the hard-charging personalities who become Chefs (with a capital “C”), we hear alot about different kinds of food (and what it takes to prepare them really WELL), and, above all, we become inspired to get more deeply involved with whatever we are doing in the kitchen. Even if it is just our own home kitchen.

    The world of great cooking is theatrical and exacting and a lot of darn hard work. There are only three ways to learn about the premier training ground for this fabulous profession: pay a ton of money and become a student there, take a tour if you are visiting in the area, or buy this book.

    Or, for that matter, do all three. But start with the book.
    Buy it now.

  5. Rating

    I loved this book it took me back to my days as a student at the Culinary School at Kendall College which was founded and started by CIA alum. I had gone back to school to change careers with the evening and part-time program Kendall offered. Being a chef is very demanding physically, emotionally, creatively and finacially. Despite my graduation almost two years ago I haven’t quit my day job yet but I still have hope of breaking into the field further. The snow storm story reminded me of the time my roommate woke me up at 4:30 a.m. Because of the cold and snow her car wouldn’t start and she had to get to her 5:00 a.m. pastry class come hell or high water. Yes, it did start at 5:00 a.m., how else do you have fresh sweet rolls for breakfast at 7:00 a.m.? I would have to drive her. That is the level of determination that exists. I also recall driving to class with blizzard-like conditions, after working all day and also rushing to my part-time internship in the middle of a summer heat wave to work in a kitchen that was about 110 degrees. I would recommend this book for anyone considering attending culinary school.

  6. Gregory Collyer says


    Buy this book, read this book – then get into your kitchen and feel inspired to create something amazing. For those of us who love to play around with food, wine and cooking – this is an inspirational read. You will never take eating at a good restaurant for granted again. I eat out a lot – maybe too much, and never really thought about the process and techniques which went into each dish I ordered.

    Reading this book makes you stop and appreciate the effort which goes into food at this level. At one point many years ago, I thought briefly about becoming a chef – but after this read, now have absolutely no doubts of the level of commitment and work it requires.

    The descriptions are so precise you can sense the aromas of almost every creation. Just buy the bloody thing, you won’t regret it. I originally bought this as a gift for somebody else, now I have to get another copy for her. I want to read this again.

  7. Susanne Frerichs says


    Wow, what a great book! This book was given to my 20 year old son by his mentor chef just days after being accepted for the CIA program. What an incredible look into the school and the curriculm. After reading it cover to cover twice – he finally parted with it long enough for his dad and I to read it too. You have no idea how much better we felt sending our son clear across the country, knowing almost EXACTLY what he’d be going through, step by step. We now own two copies – one with us here in Washington State and one with our student in Hyde Park, NY. He’s been in classes since June and says the book is right on the money. Also been great fun for him to expereince the different chef instructors that he’d read about in the book. Thank you Michael. You have no idea how jealous my friends are that there’s not a book such as this about the colleges their kids are attending. Also loved “Soul” just as much. Who knows, maybe our CIA student will be taking that test someday in the future too!

  8. Rating

    In his book, The Making of a Chef, Michael Rhulman takes us into the depths of the culinary catacombs that is the Culinary Institute of America. As a writer and researcher, he took it upon himself to actually enroll and participate as a student in the school–making significant impacts to his family life. Quite a noble goal indeed.

    The book is a narration of Michael’s experiences at CIA–the classes, the people, and the food. The writing is on spot, giving a riveting account of the fantastic characters that represent what the institution is all about. From the concocting of brown sauces, to the baking of baguettes, to the produce hunting, Michael reveals how difficult and rewarding a life at CIA is. Being a chef is a work that combines art, form, practice, and physical finesse. And, at the start of everyday, you must prove your worth all over again, because there will always be hungry people waiting in line.

    From Skills I (the beginning class of CIA) to the last class in a restaurant before graduation, Michael writes an amazingly detailed narration that should be read by anyone even remotely interested in how good food is made (and how as consumers we take it for granted). This is also an absolute must read for anyone interested in actually attending CIA or an equivalent cooking school.

  9. Rating

    This 1997 second book by journalist Michael Ruhlman is his first of several essays and collaborations in writing about the upper reaches of the American culinary scene. The most fascinating thing about the book is in learning with Ruhlman, as an outsider to the culinary profession, exactly how demanding a job in the culinary arts can be. What is taken as a matter of course by people like Daniel Boulud and Jaques Pepin comes as a surprise to outsider Ruhlman. The surprise is in the commitment to performance which chefs are expected to make to maintain a service to their customers.

    The book is a reporting on Ruhlman’s taking an abbreviated version of the full curriculum at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where only the President of the school and a few select senior instructors know of the author’s real role at the school. This means that when the author did attend classes, he attended the full class, from start to finish, and was expected to perform as well as any other student. While the CIA has many of the appearances of a liberal arts college, it is much closer in practice to a trade school. One symptom of this is that the stocks produced by the basic kitchen skills classes are then used by other classes at the school and they are used by each of the four restaurants run by the school for students, faculty, and outside guests. In a sense, this is a mix of trade school and graduate school, where it is expected that no one will do work worthy of a grade less than a B-.

    The epiphany that reveals how serious the culinary profession is about uninterrupted service comes early in the first year when the school is hit by a serious snowstorm and the author considers whether or not he should attempt the difficult trek into the school. The great revelation is that the school and the instructor of Ruhlman’s class on that occasion did not expect it to be above and beyond the call of duty to make it to class, and they would have not thought twice about lowering Ruhlman’s grade had he been a true, full time student.

    When I left school, I was surprised at how much easier life at a job was compared to life in school. I am sure that had a lot to do with the fact that I entered a largely intellectual avocation where so much about how things are done and how long they will take can change from job to job and even lowly technicians are give some opening to contribute to setting target dates. Culinary trades are a much different kettle of fish, literally.

    In a professional kitchen, the line cook is totally at the mercy of who happens to walk into the restaurant that day, and how many people walk into the restaurant that day, and at what time. The challenge is to prepare so well and exercise one’s skills so often that making six or eight different dishes to perfection at a sauté station becomes second nature. Since it is the job of the CIA to teach you how to do that, the classes can be very demanding.

    The first 30% of the book covers the introductory class on basic skills and the main character is the instructor of that class. The last 30% of the book covers time spent in two of the CIA’s four practice restaurants. The middle of the book covers experiences in specialized classes for Garde Manger, baking, and other specialities. If you do not already know the serious difference between savory cooking and baking, the books chapter describing the baking class will clear this up in a big hurry.

    I confess that I am very fond of this type of book. To me it represents a successful presentation of material that reality TV shows can never hope to achieve. The paradigm for this kind of writing is Tracy Kidder’s book `The Soul of a New Machine’, to which I would favorably compare this work. You should find it doubly interesting if, as I do, you have an interest in the how and why of the culinary arts and personalities.

    Very highly recommended.

  10. Rating

    As someone who is considering attending culinary school, this is truly an informative and inspiring read. Michael Ruhlman truly takes us into the heart of the CIA to experience the hard work and dedication of their students! It’s obvious that he put great effort into telling the unbiased story, which is that the life of a chef is in no ways glamorous. This is one of the few non-fiction books I have actually enjoyed reading, and where I actually felt interested in the characters. My one complaint is that the sequence of his storytelling was sometimes confusing, and he skipped over some units while spending way too much time on others. I know Skills is important but I would have liked to hear more about the Pastry units! Overall, though, a worthwhile read for anyone considering becoming a chef or even if you’re just curious as to what it takes to become a chef!