This book was reviewed as part of the Amazon Vine program. It is intended for an adult audience, but would be interesting to any school-aged young adult interested in a career in culinary arts. Be advised, it does contain some inappropriate language.
Jonathan Dixon, a writer-turned-cook turned writer again, recounts the entire experience of attending The Culinary Institute of America in Beaten, Seared and Sauced and does so in great detail. This memoir deals with every aspect of the two-year program, from orientation through graduation, with all of the class work, exams, and other work in between, and does so in a conversational and easy to read way. For this alone it deserves the high rating. But it is about more than just cooking, or The Culinary Institute, or even Dixon’s experience, and it is this that give the book such a mass appeal.
I must admit–I chose this book due to a recent obsession with the show Top Chef, and I have to say that it didn’t disappoint. I learned a lot about what it takes to succeed (or not, in some cases) at the nation’s top cooking school, and as embarrassing as this is to admit, this did enhance my viewing enjoyment of the cooking shows I so love.
However, you don’t need to be a Top Chef or Food Network enthusiast to enjoy ‘Beaten, Seared and Sauced’. While Dixon’s story is, at its heart, about cooking, it is also about taking chances and following one’s dreams, no matter how unorthodox they may seem. Signing up to attend school at his age—38—placed him in the classroom with kids just out of high school, and Dixon doesn’t fail to point out his feelings about some of his age-related encounters. Anyone considering making a similar change would be well-advised to read Dixon’s memoir.
Additionally, this book is a great read for all teachers and students, as it really does point out the qualities that make up a good teacher, along with what it takes to be a good student. According to Dixon, a good teacher is one who encourages the best from his students but, surprisingly, there are many ways to go about this. Also according to Dixon, to be a good student, one must treat every little thing learned and practices with the utmost care and importance.
If what you are looking for is a day by day description of the working of CIA, you’ll find this here, too. I continued to be shocked at how much was taught, and how quickly—one week to learn all about every wine in the world? That’s a pretty intense curriculum. Three days to learn about all of Asian cooking? Crazy! But students at CIA are doing just that, and thanks to Dixon, you can now glimpse into their world.
At the end of this book, I wanted to know more about where Dixon’s life led. If that’s not the measure of a successful memoir, I don’t know what is.