The Professional Chef VS On Cooking

Joined Nov 21, 2009
Hi Everybody,

I'm looking for a book to learn about cooking skills. I cook at home, but I'd like to learn the way chefs learn, even though I might take a little more time... ;)

After searching, I ended up with 2 books:
The Professional Chef, from The Culinary Institute of America
On Cooking, A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals

I didn't find anything about them on the forum...

Does anybody know something about them, and could maybe compare them?..

Thanks a lot! :)
Joined Apr 14, 2005
I cook at home as well and I own 'the professional chef' 5th edition. I think it is a very thorough tomb of knowledge. In depth coverage of food safety, equipment identificaion and uses, product identification and storage, meat/poultry/fish fabrication, mise, stocks, sauces. It also breaks down cooking methods, dry heat without fat vs dry heat with fat vs moint heat vs combination methods. the recipies are food service sized but can be scaled down easily enough for the home cook for example the croissant dough recipe is for 12.5 Lbs but you can scale it down to say 2 lbs and work with it at home.
I would recommend it without hesitation but I did read some reviews of the later editions that said they were not as complete (on Amazon I belive) but I have not seen the later editions since my edition has served me well for going on 30 years.

Having said that this is a cover everything book there are better books for specific topics. For example bread has The Bread Baker's Apprentice.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
i have the Professional Chef. As a home cook, I'm not impressed with it. It's interesting one time through but it assumes a fair bit of class time to expand on the material. It lacks the explanation and depth a home cook would benefit from. Just borrow it from the library and save your money.

I've no experience with the other one.
Joined Nov 5, 2009
I don't have experience with that particular book either but I did buy Cooking At Home With The Culinary Institute of America and Baking At Home With The Culinary Institute of America.

I didn't really getr anything out of those books and returned them.

I did pick up a copy of Alton Brown's Good Eats and I'm Just Here For The Food and learned something the very first time I opened the book.
Joined Nov 21, 2009
Wow, there is just so many books out there, that it's difficult to make a decision...
What I'm really looking for, is something to develop the basics to really have good control of them, and learn more about the culinary art, like chefs do when they learn the skills.
I need less a recipe book than one giving me the tools to make my own dishes and recipes, understanding the what and the how...


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
James Petersons Essentials of Cooking is good for the technique.

Making your own recipes requires an intuitive understanding of food which you'll develop over time. That said, there are books that can help out along the way, but you'll need to re-read them every year or so for those Aha! moments that occur after sufficient experience has developed.

In that list:

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee Others would put in Cookwise and Bakewise by Shirley Corriher but I personally wasn't impressed with those. Your experience may vary.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

The Chef's Art It's been a long time since I read this one from the library, but it was really good. I think it's the one by Wayne Gisslen as that's the only real hit on the title at Amazon, but it might have been another.

And if you like to barbecue, this book produced a lot of Aha! moments for me after I had a couple of years experience with a smoker. Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces by Paul Kirk.
Joined Nov 23, 2009
The Professional Chef is the book to get. Its used as the introductory textbook for most culinary programs. I still have my original copy from way back when and still use it as reference from time to time. Granted its not the only one but between the two I would pick TPC.
Joined Nov 21, 2009
I had some more research going on, and I limited the selection to these 3 now.. :

The Professional Chef
Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques
Culinary Fundamentals

I didn't know there are so many out there!! :p

When you write about a book, could you explain as much as you can what is it different from an other, and why it makes it peculiar for you?..

Thank you very much for your help!!

Joined Oct 18, 2007
I have the 6th & 7th editions of The Professional Chef.
Good books.
I picked up my most recent version rather inexpensively.
I joined The Good Cook book club.
Similar to CD and DVD clubs, you get a few initial books for a buck apiece (The Professional Chef counted as 2).
I filled my bookcase over a few years through this club, but eventually they ran out of books to entice me.
You may or may not find it of interest.

Cookbooks - Beginners, Gourmet, Best Selling - The Good Cook Book Club
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Not to debate either On Cooking or The Professional Chef as I find they both have strong benefits to young culinary professionals. I would recommend Culinary Artistry by Dornenburg & Page. It's a book dedicated to helping one consider why & how things go together.Google it.

I enjoy all there books.
Joined Dec 1, 2009
dont forget one culinary classic:

the new york times cookbook by craig clairborne.

this book is chock full of home cook recipes which any chef will tell you are the best.

try the new england buttermilk donuts.

in general, I like books like this one because they have a myriad of dfferent recipes listed categorically, salads, soups, desserts, etc.

handy when you are drawing a blank, even handier when you want to "check out" a recipe from somewhere else. I compare recipes often in this way, and this allows me to create my own fine tuning.

as far as "big cookbooks of all time" I am more than surprised that nobody has mentioned gastronomique from larousse. The professional chef is a textbook, not a cookbook.

I love cookbooks. remember that their most important value is in the way that they inspire you.

Joined May 26, 2001
If you can find it in the archives of The Daily Gullet on eGullet, there's a review I wrote of Professional Chef as a tool for a home cook. The short version is: it's not good. In fact, as much as I love On Cooking, I don't think that any book written to be a classroom textbook is good for a home cook. Why not? Because textbooks are meant for someone to teach from, not just for a student to learn from. You need to be able to ask questions about what you read. (Yeah, well, ChefTalk is here, but still . . . :lol:).

For home cooks, I much prefer Pépin's Complete Techniques and Peterson's Essentials of Cooking. They are written with the home cook in mind and can stand alone. I especially like them for all the pictures.

And for someone just learning, or even for someone who knows basics but wants to understand things better, I love The New Cook. It's one that I give to friends and relatives who say they want to learn to cook. Very well done, and again, with lots of pictures so that you know how things should look.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
I don't have a cookbook to recommend, but would encourage the OP to look on YouTube for cooking demonstrations and techniques, lotsout there, mostly good.

Just a thought.

Joined Nov 5, 2009
I had Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the early 70's but no longer have it due to moving.

Last night we watched Julie and Julia and I got inspired to get that book again.

Would you recommend it?
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Yes. And more highly than almost any other books mentioned in this thread. It's both a fantastic set of recipes -- interesting enough for a good cook -- and an almost equally good way to learn cooking.

The only criticism I have is that a few of the recipes have become a little dated. But, in their zeal to keep French food sufficiently straightforward and simple for an American housewife to cook at home, the authors anticipated the modern trend. By and large the recipes are timeless classics.

You could do worse,
Joined Nov 5, 2009
Okay, I'll give it another try. When I had the book in the 70's, the few things I made came out great. I was a different person then. Now I am more patient and I don't mind spending time cooking. Also, I have a different husband now ( I was widowed) He cannot tolerate anything spicy or full of garlic but he does like wine, bacon and butter;)
Joined Nov 5, 2009
I received Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1 in the mail yesterday.

I made the braised carrots and herbs as an accompaniment to left over chicken cutlets

My husband started complementing the carrots as soon as he tasted them and he continued throughout dinner

This is what I mean about a wow effect. I am looking for other books that will induce the same reaction

Other things I have made, from other books, get just a, "That was delicious, sweetheart" at the end of the meal-sort of a cursory response.

My husband almost ate the entire pound of carrots:roll:
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