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Letters to a Young Chef: The Art of Mentoring [Paperback]

Daniel Boulud

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Book Description

6 April 2006 Letters to a Young...
From the reinvention of French food through the fine dining revolution in America, Daniel Boulud has been witness to, and creator of, our contemporary food culture. A modern man with a classical foundation, he speaks with the authority that comes from a lifetime of experience, and no small amount of passion, about the vocation of creating and serving food. Part memoir, part advice book, part recipe book, this delicious celebration of the art of cooking will delight and enlighten chefs of all kinds, from passionate amateurs to serious professionals.

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About the Author

Daniel Boulud was born in France in 1955 and trained under renowned chefs Roger Verge, Georges Blanc, and Michel Guerard. He moved to the United States, where he served as Executive Chef at Le Cirque in New York. In 1993 he opened Daniel, Zagat's top-rated New York restaurant for two years running, followed by Cafe Boulud and DB Moderne. Among numerous other awards, he has been named "Chef of the Year" by Bon Appetit, and has received Gourmet's "Top Table" award. He lives in New York City.

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First Sentence
Writing these letters to you has inevitably made me think of myself when I started out in this business more than thirty years ago. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Advice for any professional. Pure gold for Chefs 7 Dec 2003
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
This essay recommends practices which an aspiring chef of haute cuisine should follow in order to succeed in this very demanding profession. Many of Boulud's recommendations are as applicable to a professional in information systems as they are to a culinary professional, but some are distinctly applicable to crafts where one works with ones hands. For example, one of the things which distinguish professional chefs from the home chef or, for that matter, from culinary journalists, is the fact that they have prepared some dishes thousands of times over, so they can judge the doneness of a cooked material by the simplest sound or feel or smell. They are so well practiced at knife skills that many kitchen aids are, for them a waste of time. So, there are some suggestions which may actually be better advice for a carpenter than they are for a statistician.
The recommendations are golden. I find nothing here which runs counter to anything else I have read about the culinary profession. Two of the most distinctive aspects are the importance of mentoring in a culinary education and the need to be prepared to give up a normal life at home. The first aspect repeats the similarity between culinary arts and other manual trades. Carpentry and plumbing still follow mentoring career paths dating back to the middle ages.
Boulud also effectively describes the difference between haute cuisine and bourgoise cuisine, a distinction in French which I have seen in no other cuisine, although I suspect there are some Japanese culinary disciplines which embody the same distinctions with their intensive discipline in knife skills and pasta making. One hallmark of haute cuisine is that it is very common to have two or more ingredients or preparations cooked separately so each is heated to just the right degree of doneness for that material. When I started cooking, this aspect always annoyed me and made me wonder why recipes weren't written more simply. This attitude shows an ignorance of or lack of respect for different ingredients.
The only objection I have to this book is it's price. A list price of $22.50 for 124 small pages is a bit much, even for the high quality of the material within. I subtracted the 35 pages of recipes in the back, as I believe many of them have appeared in some of Boulud's other books.
Otherwise, this is a must read for anyone interested in the culinary arts, especially if you have not already read widely in the literature on the subject.
38 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too old for success at age 30? 30 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Chef Boulud indeed has many interesting and important points to teach the new generation of chefs. However, I am sorely disappointed by this passage..."One more requirement--you need youth. Notice these are Letters to a Young Chef, not a new chef. In other words, if you were thirty years old I would not be writing this to you, because the demands of the job and the competition out there require that you start young, as you have, as I did." (p.85) He goes on to state that there is a chef that he knew who started his career in this fifties, "But he is the exception."
How disappointing to hear that from a top chef in the US. As a career changer, I may not have started at age 14. But I do have the focus AND the dedication that is required for success in this field. Stamina and strength also comes with training and time. So to say that your chances for success in the culinary field is limited because one is thirty!--that is a pretty demoralizing and narrow-minded viewpoint.
Thirty is NOT over-the-hill to start your culinary career. Neither is forty, nor fifty. If you had the will and the heart to do it, you can find success.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Letter to another age discriminator 26 April 2006
By Stefan Bowers - Published on Amazon.com
This book had me believing. I must say, it still does. The advice is visceral. It's an invaluable guide to sharpening your focus. Daniel is a motivator and it is a true gift to be able to read through these letters. These are the conversations and the answers to the questions you want to spend an entire day asking a great chef, but whom would never have the time of day to speak to you. There is but one issue I have. The title of this book should not be Letters to Young Chef, but rather, Letters to an Adolescent/Teenager/Early 20 somethings Chef. You see, when I picked up this book I interpreted the title as being directed to someone who is either preparing to cook professionally or has been (even for some time) cooking but still feels young in regards to the knowledge they have. Then while reading Pg.85 para 1, Daniel straight up says that this is not a book for a cook who is 30. For him/her it is too late, expect in the rarest of circumstances. This is where Daniel and I disagree, and where I have now become disenchanted with having to finish the rest of the book, although of course, I will. I'm a professional cook who has been working for 4 years starting at 27 now 31. I have always pushed myself to keep up with my younger peers and in the process have realized one thing. They cannot keep up with me! And what I notice most of all, is that my age brings to the table a degree of maturity and obedience to the chef that youth just can't seem to bare. I don't work in the ultra-competitive New York scene but age has absolutely nothing to do with intention and drive. Cooking is not about age. It is about the fire of passion, will and desire to learn and grow, and Daniel completely squelches that fire out of existence with his remarks. Keep being a great Chef Daniel but don't forget that knowledge, (In this case YOURS) should never be sacrificed to age. This goes against the entire philosophy of cooking where one never stops learning and yet will never learn everything before one is dead. Though the true cook/chef at heart tries their best, naturally in vain. Somewhat like Daniels comment. Other than that, so far great book, buy it people.

Stefan Bowers
San Antonio, Tx
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not only a must read for all future chefs... 6 Oct 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
this easy to read book is fascinating for all interested in fine cuisine, not only for aspiring chefs.
it gives a description of all the different skills needed to become a successful cook (and maybe restaurant owner), and the author makes clear that being very successful in his profession is not a miracle, but only hard work for many, many years and 100% dedication will lead to it.
this book should be mandatory reading for all future chefs so that they can fully understand what to expect, and not choose a career they later regret.
for patrons of fine restaurants it offers a fascinating insight into the intricacies of such an organization and its staff.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this before going into the culinary field! 23 Dec 2010
By Simon Dethrasavong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I being a foodie myself have always had dreams of going to culinary school and opening up my own place. It's supposed to be easy right? Of course it isn't, but I didn't get that clear picture in my head until I read this book. Daniel Boulud really describes his experiences and advice about this industry and it really can open up your eyes. I would suggest anyone to read this book if they even have some slight interest in professional cooking or even home cooking. It's a pretty fun read and I went through the book in one afternoon.
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