Hello. New here and seeking advice.

Joined Jan 3, 2002
Hello everyone. I've just located your forum, and am pleased with the discovery. I'll do much browsing of past threads, but in the meantime, allow me to present my situation and ask for your advice.

I love cooking. During the summers between my years in high school I worked as a short order cook at the local Denny's. Two other men worked the breakfast shift with me. The speed and efficiency of being in the kitchen was pretty amazing. It wasn't until later in life that I appreciated how wonderful it can be to be in synch with other people in a kitchen. I'm sure you know how it can be when someone seems to always be under your feet in the kitchen. It was never that way during those summers. We seemed to anticipate each other's actions. It's difficult to put into words.

As I matured and learned to appreciate the subtleties of well-prepared meals, I wanted to learn more. Strangely, I never pursued cooking as a career. I followed my original passion (reading) to a degree in literature and an eventual job as a technical writer in Mountain View, California. To make a long and familiar story short, I am married to a wonderful woman, and have two happy children. I also have a mortgage that prevents me from leaving my current job to pursue formal education in the culinary arts.

Being in the kitchen is something that brings me a good deal of satisfaction, but it is highly doubtful I will find a way to be a professional chef. Still, I would like to become an educated chef. To this end I am pursuing various means, and I have hope that you can lend advice.

My understanding wife has enrolled me in some Home Chef cooking classes. (Home Chef is a cooking supply store that offers weekly classes.) Do you have an opinion of the quality of these classes?

I would like a formal text, so that I might educate myself at home. I have seen one published by the CIA, and another by Le Cordon Bleu. Both look promising. Would you suggest one of these or another text?

All other advice is warmly appreciated, as I try to satisfy a calling I have realized late in life. Thank you much.

Joined Jul 31, 2000
First let me welcome you Joseph to cheftalk, Indeed you have come to the right place. May I recommend you browse the Book review forum. There has been some activity lately regarding your question on Text, The two you mentioned are fine examples, ofcourse Laruosse is a "must Have".

I will try to come back later with some ideas, Oh BTW...your understanding wife is nice to offer these classes to you. Definatly give them a try
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Joseph welcome. Don't feel though that you have to be a professional chef to enjoy cooking and pursue it to a chosen level. I'm sure that there are many courses available at local colleges that will go beyond the home coook stage. As Cape Chef said the Larousse Gastronomique should be one of your first. You might also want to e-mail any given culinary school and just ask them what the 1st year student book list is. That should give you a good idea on basics knowledge.

HomeChef has some nice looking courses. It's a good idea if you have the time to become an assistant. That will give you even more experience and knowledge. One day in the near future you may well even be able to be a teacher there. That I imagine would make you pretty happy. Good luck, stay in touch and informed.
And if Brad would stop being the first in class to answer the questions in my little tests you might be able to test your own knowledge ( he's always right, not 100%:confused: all the time but....)
Joined Dec 30, 1999
Yes, there are an handful of must haves. Are there any types of cooking you especially are interested in? (baking, asian, thai, middle eastern, breads, seafood, vegetables, pastries, fusion, etc?)

In the meantime you'll benefit by browsing the Cheftalk Cafe Book Shelf Forum

and the

Cheftalk Cafe Book Shelf with reviews.

It will be most informative to see the replies here.

Aside from those on French cooking which are sure to follow, I highly recommend the following for any culinary library:

CookWise by Shirley Corriher

The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker


Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Hi, Joseph,

And welcome! I started my second career as an assistant at cooking classes like you are describing; worked the classes for two years, then decided to go 'balls to the wall', and got an interview and a hire at a local restaurant/pub. Since then, i've worked catering kitchens, banquets, private catering, etc., and am starting a new job as a kitchen manager at a new restaurant opening this month. You can do whatever you want to do!

The cooking classes are a great start, though, and attending the classes as well as assisting at them will teach you wonders; when I worked as an assistant, the guest instructor usually came in about an hour before the class started to help with prep and it was a fantastic time for learning, while the instructor wasn't pressured.

Good luck!


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Welcome to Chef Talk Josephreese!

While in Chef Talk Cafe Book Shelf Forum, don't miss the
Reference Works thread. You'll find a number of suggestions there.
Joined Aug 9, 2000
The Le Cordon Bleu complete cooking techniques book is very good and easy to follow much easier for a home cook than the CIA books or the Gisslen textbook I think...
Joined Jan 3, 2002
Thank you kindly for the warm welcome and advice. Time for a trip to the book store. I think I'll begin with Gisslen, Le Cordon Bleu, and the latest English-version of Laruosse.

My first Home Chef class (regarding knife technique) begins 1/27. I've been signed up as a clean-up assistant, as the prep-assistant position was taken. I'll have to be the early-bird next time.

Joined Nov 29, 2001
Enjoy your cooking classes. There is nothing like being in the presence of those who want to share knowledge. I've attended cooking school (Peter Kump's in NY) and cooked professionally and it still jazzes me up when I learn something new.

Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher is a great book for learning the chemical reactions that take place during cooking. I don't think I'd rush to use her technique of making an apple pie because it's so "out there" but Cookwise contains a huge cache of technical info. I subscribe to Fine Cooking, Cook's Illustrated, and Saveur. I dumped Gourmet and Bon Appetit because they remind me of one long running commercial. FC and CI for the technical info and Saveur for the authentic regional and ethnic recipes and food-traditions.

Don't take printed recipes as gospel. I'm finding more and more authors (some of whom are billionaires) don't test their recipes before they disburse them to the general public.

To truly know if a cooking class is worth your time, you must feel like you come away with a great deal of practical knowledge - techniques you'd use daily or frequently. If you don't feel rewarded after a class, look for another.

Avid cooking at home for meals and parties, is a whole different animal than life in a professional kitchen. They both require skill, planning, patience and technique - but the stress and pressure levels differ a great deal. Enjoy your learning and practicing of new techniques!

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