Monday, 3 October 2011

What Kind of Chef Are You?

I spent the majority of my childhood dreaming of becoming a veterinarian so I could work with animals.  Then as a teenager my parents took me to a ranch in Wyoming where I observed a session of cattle branding and castrations.  At the first squeals out of the calves, I ran around to the back of the truck and cried.  It was at this point I realized I was not destined to be a veterinarian.   

This memory came flooding back to me as I was leafing through the pages of the new MasterChef Kitchen Bible where you are shown how to gut a fish through the stomach.  Although I didn't cry, I instinctively knew why I am not a professional chef. 

 published by Dorling Kindersley, 2011, £26

If you are a disciple of the MasterChef series, you will want to know about this latest book from the MasterChef stable of books.  Maybe you harbor dreams of becoming a MasterChef contestant.  If so, this is a great book to help you on your way.  You are given 100 modern classic recipes before being given highly usable cooking tips and techniques.  It is positively loaded with photos, so there will be no mistaking cumin for coriander.  Although I had to quickly turn the page when it came to disemboweling the fish, I paid rapt attention to the section on making carrot batonettes and how to tell if an egg is fresh (it sinks to the bottom of a glass of cold water).  There is much practical information that any home chef will use, even if, like me, you skip over the gory but necessary bits.


For those of you who aspire to wearing the whites, then The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America is for you.


published by John Wiley and Sons, 2011, £50

This is the book the pros turn to when they need to know how to prevent a lumpy roux, how to fix a broken mayonnaise or how to exact the measurements of Paysanne-cut vegetables.  This is epic chef material.  I find it a fascinating read even if I don't have the backbone to stick a knife into a lobster.  

Being the 9th edition, it's a strong indication the book has been around awhile and will continue to evolve with subsequent editions.  Food is evolutionary by nature, and the book has done a great job of identifying and explaining current trends like sous vide or cooking en papillote.

At 1,212 pages, this massive book of recipes and techniques will add ballast to any bookshelf in need of stabilization.  I foresee many a night this winter when I shall be enjoying a nice glass of wine while dipping in and out of chapters on shallow poaching, bisques, or legumes.

Whatever type of chef you are - home or professional - both books are designed to develop your chef skills.  Once you are able to master your cheffing techniques, hopefully the only tears you cry will be tears of joy.

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