Book Review: “Beaten, Seared and Sauced” by Jonathon Dixon

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 at 6:44 am

Martha Stewart, The Cooking Channel, and Food Network have made foodies of us all.

Okay, so we haven’t all become food snobs, but the ranks of food-o-philes have certainly swelled.

For many of us, that means we salivate over cookbooks, avidly watch cooking shows, and indulge our imaginary gluttony via online recipe blogs. Some of us clip those recipes and give them a try in our own kitchens, purchasing flavored vinegars and exotic spices, trying new varieties of vegetables and grains; while others of us only dream of the luxuries of saffron and quinoa and goose.

Jonathan Dixon has been a foodie for years, enjoying cooking in the privacy of his own home while passing through a collection of dead end jobs. He dreams of being a better cook, and even takes some cooking classes; but he’s still pretty discontent with his life.

Then a family friend urges him forward. Why not enroll in chef school? Why not just do it?

And so, on the cusp of his thirty-eighth birthday, Jonathan takes the plunge and enrolls in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.

Beaten, Seared, and Sauced is Jonathan’s memoirs of his experience of becoming a CIA chef.

This book appealed to my inner foodie and made me itch to go back to school myself-except not.

I loved hearing all about how the student chefs learned to cut a perfect dice and make a perfect bechamel. I loved reading of how they learned to tell by touch whether a roast chicken was done. I loved that they learned how to determine when a piece of produce is perfectly ripe.

I want that knowledge. I want those skills.

But I definitely don’t want to go to culinary school.

Dixon’s memoir makes that perfectly obvious.

Culinary school is a mess of sleeplessness, yelling instructors, and hard-to-get-along-with class/work-mates. It’s intense.

And this girl is reaching the age where she’d fit the “non-trad” bill–and Dixon’s difficulties with his (younger) fellow students and with assimilating rapid-fire data already start to hit home. I’m too old to go back to school–at least, too old to go back to that sort of school.

So I’ll indulge my fantasies vicariously, through Dixon’s memoir–and keep dreaming of someday embarking upon a self-study program to give myself even just a fraction of the skill Dixon describes.

As a food person, an avid learner, and project memoir junkie, I greatly enjoyed this memoir. My guess is that fellow foodies and/or project memoir lovers will enjoy it as well.


Rating: 3 stars
Category:Project Memoir
Synopsis:38 year old Jonathon Dixon chronicles his experience of becoming a chef at the Culinary Institue of America
Recommendation: If you’re a food junkie and/or a project memoir lover, you’ll probably enjoy this title. If neither of those is quite up your alley, this book probably isn’t either.

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Reader Comments (3):

  1. It sounds like something outside of my regular norm that would be fun to read about. I don’t want to go back to school either but I’d like to improve my cooking skills. I’d rather read and glean than devote time/effort/money and energy into a classroom situation.

  2. Sherry says:

    Project memoir, so that’s what they’re called. I posted a list of some “project memoirs” that I have read or would like to read, but I didn’t know what to call them. The appellation seems perfectly obvious now.

    http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=13789

    No cooking school for me, however. I think I am cooking-challenged.

  3. JerryMe says:

    Just finished the book and it is, indeed, one of the best that I’ve read in a really, really long time. Thank you Mr. Dixon for an insight into being so true to yourself.

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