“The Making of a Chef” by Michael Ruhlman

Book Notes

Michael Ruhlman: The curious novice #

“I intended to learn how to cook and to write about how one learned.” — The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman

One of my favorite writing frameworks from Shaan Puri is “The curious novice”.

In his content and courses, he points out that most people already have something to write about. You’re probably employed, so you have expertise in something. At least enough to be paid to do something.

And you have your entire life’s experience. Just by mixing those two things, you probably have something to write about that someone out there might relate to.

If you’re trying to write and learn about a different industry than your own, though, then you can’t just claim to be an expert. (Fake it till you make it has limits.)

Instead, you should take on the role of a curious novice. You’re no expert. But you’ll find a path to get there and share what you’re learning along the way.

That’s what Michael Ruhlman does in “The Making of a Chef”. He attends the Culinary Institute of America and shares his experience in his book. He wrote it in 1996. Twenty-six years later, it’s much easier to share an experience like this as you’re going along.

People are doing it all the time.

I’d love to show the transformation from today’s “before” picture to some future “after” picture. I guess if you’re entering a school, you have some confidence that academic transformation will happen as long as you’re following the rails and make it to the end.

Not easy, but the path is laid out.

If I want to write about and share this experience, I need to have a good end in mind that I’m working toward. Here’s a draft:

  • 155 pounds, 15 pull-ups
  • Kettlebell certification
  • Some sort of fitness side business

That third bullet starts to get squishy. But I can definitely focus on the first two.

First, a body composition goal with a bodyweight workout goal that requires that a bunch of other stuff is in check.

Second, something I’ve wanted for a few years now but have not been disciplined enough to track, stick to it, and strive for. I’ll do that now.

I intend to learn how to lose weight and write about how one lost weight.

Alton Brown’s 90s recipe: Food and media, mix well #

“Alton Brown worked in television until about the same age, foresaw the potential for food television programming and enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in 1994. He created and sold his show Good Eats to the Food Network in 1999 and has become one of the most popular personalities on the network, hosting a variety of shows and documentaries and writing several excellent books on food and cooking.” — The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman

I’ve been reading “The Making of a Chef” while going through a bout of chickenpox (old school, I know). I’m on the better end of things where the scabs are falling off.

In the middle, though, I watched FX’s The Bear for my sick-day binge. One of the characters went to CIA (Culinary Institute of America). It’s a line or two in the show — Michael Ruhlman wrote a book or two about what it’s like to go through CIA.

In The Bear, Sydney (the character who went to CIA) has worked in top kitchens and has the foresight to see that she doesn’t want to do that for the rest of her life. She tries to open a catering business and her path eventually leads to applying to the sandwich shop in The Bear.

Alton Brown was able to see how media and food would mix in the future and took the long view of it and is still on the Food Network today as a result.

If you saw how websites and food would mix, you might be able to pay for your 3-star Michelin meal with the revenue from your recipe site with a bajillion ads before the ingredients.

If you saw how social media and food would mix, you might not need to pay for that fancy meal yourself at all. It’d be comped along with the lay-down first class flight there.

Just make sure to get that Boomerang!