Every so often, I think back to my younger days at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Back in the fall of 1972, the newly relocated Hyde Park campus of the C.I.A. (as it is more often called), was still in the process of taking the wraps off the campus’ gleaming, state of the art kitchens and bakeries while the school’s first crop of fledgling chefs arrived.
It wouldn’t be long before the smell of newly paved asphalt drives, and freshly laid carpet and quarry tile floors would replaced by the heady perfume of roasted meats, savory soups and fresh baked breads prepared by legions of white hatted students armed with knives and steels.
In those first few days, even before the kitchen’s first stove was lit and sauce was made, there was business to attend to. And with almost military like precision, in a very orderly way, students lined up in long hallways, by groups and name, to receive their school supplies.
Text books, knife kits, 3 sets of uniforms and other essentials were systematically added to the growing tower of supplies as each student progressed down one hall and then another trying to balance their loads.
For those of us with 3rd floor dorm rooms, the task of returning to your room with all these supplies in tack was particularly daunting as the floors of what was once a Jesuit Monastery were creosote polished wood. And what wasn’t wood was well worn, well clefted slate.
But I did make it, and without an accident.
I remembered one book was particularly heavy. Actually, it was so big and so heavy it made a great platform to stack everything else on during the forced march.
It was called, and still is called, The Professional Chef.
The bible, (quite appropriate for the location) of the Culinary Institute of America.
I sat down on my tiny dorm room bed and opened it with all the anticipation of a present. And as I turned page after page of long recipes, colored pictures, charts and endless directions I distinctly remember my room mate saying…”yeah, we’ve got to memorize this thing”…
I thought he was joking…
Today the Professional Chef…or “Pro Chef” as it is more commonly referred to as, is in its 9th Edition…I think my original text in 1972 is a 3rd Edition? What it contains is nearly everything. Or at least that’s what it seemed like when I was a student. From soups and sauces to well???…I could go on, and on, and on…
I toted that poor book around for years and it still has notes in the margin and dog eared pages. And as big as that book seemed then, it is less than half as thick as the 9th Edition is today.
And it’s better. A LOT better.
And it still is the Bible for Professional Chefs. I have one in my office and I’d guess that 75% of all Chefs in America have one too. And that number isn’t probably much less in Europe where some of the world’s most famous Chefs have been bred. For even French Chef Paul Bocuse, named the Chef of the Century sent his son to the Culinary Institute of America for his education.
I often recommend this book to aspiring amateur cooks. The recipes are larger than you’d likely use at home but a simple calculator can take care of that. The techniques are the same and the book gives you a true foundation of knowledge.
It’s not full of stories, antidotes or personal diatribe. It’s a clear, concise, no-nonsense professional resource that is available to anyone who truly enjoys cooking. And, good news! You can pick it up at any large book retailer or on line at: www.ciaprochef.com
If you do pick one up, let me know what you think? And I wish you great culinary adventures…