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Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio

Think Like a Chef

by Tom Colicchio

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Speaking for myself, a decent baker and fledgling (read bungling) cook, I found this book to be both entertaining and educational. Even as the tough critiquing Head Judge of the reality cooking show Top Chef, restaurateur Tom Colicchio is known for his sage-like comments and straight shooting advice, which is found here in abundance.

The book begins with an introduction, explaining why he includes basic definitions and techniques, and doesn't apologize for the lack of a thousand and one recipes.

The next section was my personal favorite, having terms broken down into simple everyday cooking instructions that were easy to follow. Almost as helpful as learning to ask where the restroom is in a foreign tongue. In order to immerse oneself into a new language, cooking, one first has to learn beginning phrases of chef-speak. At least there was no conjugating of verbs or trying to remember past/present or any other wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey, mumbo jumbo. And, for those already familiar with the language, think of it as a quick brush up review.

Then Chef Tom gets to the substance of the book. Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients, and what to do with them. He preaches quality, freshness, seasons, and thinking outside the box. Offering past insights into his own life he leads the reader through the kitchen and basically says, don't be afraid to experiment and play. Start simple, learn the basic techniques which builds a foundation, then go forth and have fun with a few components and only your imagination limiting you. There is no right or wrong, only different ways to satisfy a palette and the pleasure of creating exciting new meals.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who spends any time near a stove, or is simply curious about cooking. The information may seem rather basic at first glance, but I believe that everyone who reads the material and follows the guidelines will find themselves, thinking like a chef. ( )
  souleswanderer | Apr 27, 2013 |
This is a book for the intermediate cook. The principles are both basic, and essential. The book is really what the title says it is, a book about thinking.

Colicchio wrote this well before Top Chef. It's a book about building meals, balancing flavors. Colicchio runs restaurants, and production thinking is quite different from doing a meal at home, but some of it does apply. How, and when to salt, what flavors blend together, and which stand hard apart from each other.

Coliccho says, "I learned to cook to get away from recipes", and that is the purpose he's working toward. The reader, he hopes, will learn the ways of seeing that make it possible to work in the kitchen without a net.

There are other technique books out there; and they are useful, but learning how to break a chicken down into parts, or how to make pate a choux, won't make one a "chef", because those are how, this is about what, and why.

If you are already comfortable without recipes this may not be the book for you. I enjoyed it. The prose is clean, the style engaging. I can't say as I learned a great deal from it, because many of the lessons, I'd already learned.

And that may be the books greatest weakness, it's neither basic, nor terribly advanced. It's a great stepping-off point, but the people who will gain the most from it are probably not the people likely to buy it (though with since Top Chef this may not be quite the case: anyone who is interested in how he judges food will find this illuminating). ( )
  Pecunium | Jul 6, 2011 |
This is more of a book for a serious cook to read for a higher level of cooking-planning instruction than it is a "cookbook". The recipes are tasty, but few. It has somewhat of a restaurant bent to it, more than a home chef, but I enjoyed the perspective. ( )
  technodiabla | Oct 27, 2009 |
In Think Like a Chef, Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio promises to teach us not simply how to make his favorite recipes but how to combine components and flavors to create recipes of our own. I felt the book fell short of this premise. Rather than suggesting cooking exercises or explaining how different flavors might go together, Colicchio simply offers his favorite recipes and suggests we combine them. More frustrating, many of the recipes focus on ingredients that are difficult for home cooks to obtain. For example, an entire chapter focuses on duck, an unaffordable specialty item at my local butcher shop. I give the book 3 stars because the prose sections are engaging and the technique tips are decent (if basic), but I felt the book fell short of its promise. ( )
  cestovatela | Dec 16, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0609604856, Hardcover)

Cookbooks by chefs can be daunting. They're apt to include tricky restaurant recipes, or, alternately, watered-down "translations." Tom Colicchio, chef at Manhattan's top-rated Gramercy Tavern, has a better way. Think like a chef, he advises, and you tap into food preparation creativity--the ability to forgo recipes, when you wish, for spontaneous kitchen invention. In a series of innovative chapters that explore cooking fundamentals, culinary themes and variations, and "plug-in" component preparations, Colicchio provides a cooking "anatomy" for gaining kitchen mastery. The book's 100-plus recipes are offered not as ends in themselves (though they stand as delicious examples of Colicchio's simple yet sophisticated style), but as illustrative keys to the culinary processes.

How does it work? Beginning with a chapter that reviews basic cooking techniques, and includes exemplary stock- and sauce-making formulas, the book then presents a series of "studies," building-block recipes like Roasted Tomatoes, followed by simple-to-sophisticated variations, such as Roasted-Tomato Risotto. A chapter called "Trilogies" explores clusters of three-ingredient recipes--duck, root vegetables, and apples is one ingredient grouping--that show how various techniques, applied to the same ingredients, yield various exciting dishes. "Component Cooking," which focuses on vegetables (Colicchio's major source of inspiration), provides recipes like Corn and Potato Pancakes to be used for assembling a "plate." Concluding the book is "Favorites," a selection of Colicchio's specialties that range from My Favorite Chicken Soup to Poached Foie Gras, a taste bonus that also stimulates the cooking imagination. Illustrated with more than 100 color photos, and including a wide range of tips, Think Like a Chef succeeds at helping readers see through a chef's eyes--and in so doing to visualize cooking with fresh insight. --Arthur Boehm

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:42 -0400)

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