Book Review

How I Learned To Cook

Culinary Educations From the World’s Greatest Chefs

January 29, 2007

Like Witherspoon’s earlier book, Don’t Try This At Home, How I Learned To Cook is a collection of short memoirs by many of the same chefs anthologized in the first go-around. Once again, Anthony Bourdain proves he’s the Samuel L. Jackson of the food-writing world, never steering down the straight and narrow when the sticky and filthy are available; the book is worth browsing just for his essay on television cooking alone. But Bourdain, and many of the other contributors, write about instructive mishaps instead of real culinary education; perhaps Witherspoon simply had so many entries for her first book on disasters that she shuffled the extras into this one.

Better are the childhood memories, such as José Andrés’ experience helping his dad cook paella and Chris Bianco’s epiphany visiting relatives in Italy: “They wanted me to know the story of the pig before I ate the prosciutto. They needed to point out the window in the direction of the wine country just a few miles away and say that this is where this wine is from.” Everyone has a starting point, even if it’s just a single meal.

Caroline Cummins is the managing editor of Culinate.

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