For the sake of my own archives, I will start reposting recent pieces written for the San Francisco Book Review. On occasion I might add some additional material that I may have left out due to space and time constraints.
A slightly different version of this review first appeared last November 3, 2011.
Weighing seven pounds and six ounces, is the new edition of The Professional Chef a heavyweight worthy of shelf space? Should a person buy it if he has the revised editions of everything from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking to Larousse Gastronomique? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. To a casual cook, the sheer volume of material can be daunting. Yet to any reader with dreams of becoming a professional, this book is an excellent start on the path of culinary greatness.
Students and restaurateurs should consider investing in this tome written by the Culinary Institute of America. The beautiful photos serve as a visual reference to almost all available ingredients in North America and as a refresher course on techniques. Indeed, reading through this book reminded this reviewer of her grueling months in culinary school. Methods for fundamental recipes are described both in detail and in “at a glance” sections, making the book easy to use no matter how much time you have.
A casual cook may be surprised by some of the proportions. Like other cookbooks designed for professionals, recipes (like for soups and salad dressings) are meant to supply a banquet. Happily, a lot of the entrées can serve ten to twelve people. While it’s too heavy to bring along on a daily commute or to even read in bed, The Professional Chef is an essential manual for aspiring and experienced cooks. It’s time to make space on the shelf.