The Austin Chronicle

Yummer Reading

By Barbara Chisholm, June 8, 2007, Food

Chef's Story: 27 Chefs Talk About What Got Them into the Kitchen

edited by Dorothy Hamilton and Patric Kuh

Ecco, 344 pp. $27.95

It's been a long time since PBS didn't have to think about fundraising with regard to its programming, and while this companion book to the PBS series is clearly a moneymaking endeavor, it's also interesting reading for the cuisine-inclined. It also allows viewers who have not caught all 26 episodes of the series to get a taste of chef stories they may have missed.

Twenty-seven chefs are a lot to profile, and as you might expect, the resulting book tells the chefs' stories in quick snapshots. Each subject is allotted only 10 or so pages to tell how he or she got into the cooking game. It's excellent bathroom reading, as one can just pick it up or put it down randomly. Except that perhaps the bathroom isn't the ideal place to read about crab coleslaw and crème brûlée Napoleon.

What is perhaps most interesting about this book, and the series, is that American chefs have reached the celebrity stature that allows for such a series. Maybe the average consumer doesn't know the names Rick Bayless, Bobby Flay, and Charlie Trotter, but enough of us do to warrant a television series and book. Sure, it's on PBS not HBO, but still.

Foodies and aspiring chefs will find these tales inspiring and interesting. Many of the profiled chefs took decidedly circuitous routes to the kitchen. Dean Fearing got hooked on the way to becoming a rock star. Suzanne Goin's career as a Brown University-trained historian and diplomat was derailed by the lure of the kitchen.

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