I get asked all the time for the best books to read on being a chef. I recommend reading the following books for a better idea of what cooking is, both at its worst and its best.
Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell
Before he went all creepy, Orwell wrote about his time in Paris and London as a kitchen assistant. He wrote about being hot, sweaty and working his butt off in a restaurant that he could not afford to dine at.
The Perfectionist, Rudolph Chelminski
The seminal French chef killed himself because he thought he was going to lose a star in the Michelin Guide. The name of the book hints at it, but this guy was over the top.
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
The sell-out at his finest. Bourdain is the best TV star I know who still wishes he was a chef. KC was written before Bourdain got famous and you get the idea that this dude worked his hands to the bone to get where he is. That, and all the stories about kitchen personalities, substance abuse and humor make this book a great ride. Plus, he wasn’t a Travel Channel host yet when he wrote the book he does not censor himself. If nothing else, read the chapter titled “A Day in The Life” for a sense of what it is like to be a chef.
The French Laundry Cook Book, Thomas Keller
I don’t even deserve to lick Keller's shoes, let alone write about him ... but here goes. Keller is self-taught. That’s right, no culinary school for this guy; it was hard knocks the whole way. Read the section entitled “The Importance of Rabbits." It altered my outlook on cooking forever.
The Soul of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman
Read about the Certified Master Chef Exam, read about Iron Chef Michael Symon before he was famous, read about Thomas Keller and just how good he is. This book has it all.
Randy King is a chef and likes to read about other chefs for some reason. Click to follow Randy on Facebook.