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06 June 2005

The Soul of a Chef

I've just finished reading Michael Ruhlman's The Soul of a Chef and I was struck by the mindset that seems to be required of Thomas Keller, Brian Polcyn and Michael Symon, the chefs in the book.  It goes without saying they're all perfectionists in their own way and each of them regards the smallest element of the cooking process, let alone the ingredients, are crucial to the final plated dish, with Keller taking this to its extremes. 

However, I wonder to what extent the home cook can learn from this: is there a Soul of a Cook?  I don't mean the type of person who nukes a ready meal for two minutes and calls that cooking.  I mean the type of person who loves cooking, loves ingredients and loves seeing others getting great pleasure from their food, but who confine themselves to home - do these people need to know what it feels like to kill a rabbit, in order to get the most out of it?  I'm not sure that a home cook could ever quite reach these sorts of levels because if they did, I assume they'd quickly move out of the home and into the restaurant.  However, I was thinking recently that people are far too squeamish about what they eat and with the demise of butchers and other suppliers rarely see any more of a dead animal or fish than what is wrapped in a polystyrene tray.  It seems a bit unfair on the animals we eat that we don't understand more about them and the process by which they're slaughtered.  The only problem is that too learn more we'd need to go and have a look at the abattoirs and I wonder how many would be happy to have Joe Shmo, or Silverbrow, wandering around asking questions?

Ruhlman M, 2001, The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection, Penguin (ISBN: 0141001895)

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