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Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of Americaby Jonathan Dixon
Synopses & Reviews
Millions of people fantasize about leaving their old lives behind, enrolling in cooking school, and training to become a chef. But for those who make the decision, the difference between the dream and reality can be gigantic—especially at the top cooking school in the country. For the first time in the Culinary Institute of America’s history, a book will give readers the firsthand experience of being a full-time student facing all of the challenges of the legendary course in its entirety.
On the eve of his thirty-eighth birthday and after shuffling through a series of unsatisfying jobs, Jonathan Dixon enrolled in the CIA (on a scholarship) to pursue his passion for cooking. In Beaten, Seared, and Sauced he tells hilarious and harrowing stories of life at the CIA as he and his classmates navigate the institution’s many rules and customs under the watchful and critical eyes of their instructors. Each part of the curriculum is covered, from knife skills and stock making to the high-pressure cooking tests and the daunting wine course (the undoing of many a student). Dixon also details his externship in the kitchen of Danny Meyer’s Tabla, giving readers a look into the inner workings of a celebrated New York City restaurant.
With the benefit of his age to give perspective to his experience, Dixon delivers a gripping day-to-day chronicle of his transformation from amateur to professional. From the daily tongue-lashings in class to learning the ropes—fast—at a top NYC kitchen, Beaten, Seared, and Sauced is a fascinating and intimate first-person view of one of America’s most famous culinary institutions and one of the world’s most coveted jobs.
"At 38, after years of odd New York jobs, Dixon enrolled in the two-year Culinary Institute of America program with no motivation besides his love of cooking. He put life on hold and immersed himself in classes in math and gastronomy, and labs in food identification and fabrication. Dixon manages an honorable and straightforward narrative out of the constant evaluation, testing, and various personality conflicts, even when the details swing between slaughterhouse excitement and onion-chopping tedium. He's subtle on the competitive effects of foodieism and celebrity, and fair on his own shortcomings during an externship in New York City, where he earned real compliments but was told that he lacked the makings for a culinary career. Though stress and tension regularly took their toll, Dixon stuck with the program, and during the finals for the Bocuse d'Or he experienced an epiphany that paved the way for satisfactory completion of the program. In the end, this book serves as a nice supplement, that of a novice cook, to Mark Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
JONATHAN DIXON—a former inspector of nurses’ shoes, janitor in a coffin factory, messenger, nanny, newspaper book and music critic, staff writer at Martha Stewart Living, and creative writing instructor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York—received his culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in 2010.
About the Author
“How lucky for those of us who are fascinated by food and the people who make it that Jonathan Dixon chose to go to the CIA and to write about it. All about it. With wit and insight and a hefty dose of humor. You could probably learn just a smidgen more if you went to the CIA yourself, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as sitting in your favorite chair, sipping your favorite drink, and reading Jonathan’s story."
--Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table
“Jonathan Dixon's talents are such that I simultaneously envied and pitied him while reading his book. He brings the trials of joining the rigorous Culinary Institute of America to terrifying life. I enjoyed the journey so much that I never wanted him to graduate.”
--Joe Garden, features editor of The Onion
“If you think culinary school is just about slicing and dicing, think again. Jonathan Dixon’s compelling, deeply personal account of his trial by fire at the Culinary Institute of America lays bare the physicality, politics, and soul-searching that are part and parcel of a cook’s education. Third-degree burns, public humiliation, and a bubble-bursting externship at a beloved New York City restaurant are just a few highlights of this coming-of-age journey that the author—insanely? commendably?—embarked on when he was nearly forty. He’s a better man than I.”
--Andrew Friedman, author of Knives at Dawn
“There are certain experiences in our lives that we never forget and help define who we are and what we become. The CIA is one of those life-changing experiences. I never thought it could be put into words until I read these pages. Congratulations, Jonathan, for both surviving and your ability to share this with the world.”
--Johnny Iuzzini, James Beard Award winner and author of Dessert FourPlay
“With an original and refreshing voice, Dixon excels at capturing the mixed emotions of promises delivered and denied as he challenges convention and conquers the odds. VERDICT Rock star chefs have added to the allure of culinary education, and Dixon’s vivid and honest portrayal should provide a reality check for fans of TV cooking competitions. Shelve this next to Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef for a well-rounded collection.”
“A companion of sorts to Michael Ruhlman’s more clinical The Making of a Chef (1997), Dixon’s candid course-by-course account charts his education as he gets whipped into shape by intimidating instructors (whose default temperaments seem to be near apoplectic) alongside classmates often half his age. …[A]s a writer he has the steady-tempoed, clarified ability to make his pages-long descriptions of crafting a test menu rival the drama of anything you’ll see on a competition cooking show.”
“Beaten, Seared, and Sauced, Jonathan Dixon's account of his chef-training at the CIA, is funny, gripping and immensely enjoyable. It reads like a picaresque novel.”
--The Wall Street Journal
What Our Readers Are Saying
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