Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef is a recipe-book-slash-culinary-theory hybrid. The reader is taken through a series of basic cooking techniques applied to a plethora of ingredients, followed by a focus on several interesting ingredients used in a variety of recipes, climaxing with a series of three ingredients used to create many interesting meals.
This book is designed to not just be about recipes, but instead about taking techniques and ingredients and demonstrating unique and interesting ways to think about them. I’ve always liked to think that cooking and software engineering have a lot in common. Chefs and programmers have to juggle whole systems of information in their heads at once to solve the problem at hand. Chefs and programmers follow instructions until it no longer benefits them, at which point they make substitutions to create novel solutions. Chefs and programmers tend to dress a bit strange compared to the average businessman. Not to mention we both have to wear hair nets.
I like to cook. I like to think about how I can create different dishes, how I can utilize aging pantry or freezer items, and how I can perfect spice combinations to build restaurant-quality meals. And I like to eat. So I thought I would like this book. Personally, I found the author to be distractingly arrogant and the book design to be irritatingly repetitive. Although not designed as a simple recipe book, I would have been better served using it as such. However, were I to use this as a recipe book, I would have a lot of issues finding many of the exotic ingredients called for in the middle of Indiana, to say nothing of how expensive all his favorite ingredients are.
The pieces of this book that I really enjoyed were the prose on using one’s intuition to substitute ingredients, spices, and cooking styles as appropriate; these seemed like the more intellectual parts of the book that I could actually relate to. As a software engineer, I’m often working on a problem that seems like it can be solved by following the standard recipe, but actually requires a level of clever substitution to build it into a new idea entirely. As a home cook, I make a substitution in nearly every recipe I find; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I would have enjoyed this book much more thoroughly had the focus actually been on intuitive cooking instead of fanciful recipes.
Who Would Like This
Are you about to make a lavish dinner to impress house guests? You could probably find some pretty good (and descriptive) recipes in this book. However, I heard of this thing called the internet that has many more recipes and descriptions of cooking styles as well. If you like beautiful pictures of food, you may also eat this book up (though hopefully not literally). If you happen to be a fan of this celebrity clown, maybe you’d enjoy his cavalier writing style more than I did.