A deliciously entertaining memoir about one woman's adventures in the student kitchens of the legendary French Culinary Institute -- flavored with celebrity chefs, eccentric characters, and mouthwatering recipes
To anyone who has ever dreamed of life in a French kitchen, imagining days filled with puff pastry and sips of vintage wine, Katherine Darling serves up a savory dose of reality in this funny, fascinating, and altogether delightful account of her time spent slaving over a hot stove, wrestling with veal calves, and cleaning fish heads at the French Culinary Institute in downtown New York City.
As she goes from clueless amateur to certified chef, Katherine and her quirky fellow students learn the secrets behind the art of French cooking and frequently find themselves the objects of scorn and ridicule as their teachers wage psychological warfare over steaming pots of bisque. The kitchen, they soon discover, is no place for soft-hearted romantics. It's a cutthroat world, and no one ever made a soufflé without breaking a few eggs -- or cracking a few heads together. From the basics to the final exam, Darling reveals everything that goes into the making of a chef.
Filled with delicious food lore and trivia, and including dozens of classic and original French recipes, Under the Table takes readers deep into the trenches of one of the world's most prestigious cooking schools -- and shows what really goes on behind the doors of every great restaurant kitchen.
Readers dreaming of culinary school can indulge vicariously through this engaging memoir by food writer Darling. In her 20s, armed with a passion for cooking, the author left her job at a Manhattan literary agency to enroll at the French Culinary Institute. She takes what appears to be a day-by-day analysis of her entire six-month experience and extracts more narrative than might be thought possible, conveying the challenging process in episodes from omelet minutiae to the larger victories of culinary education. Darling makes the most of various incidents with her classmates who become competitors, comrades and co-conspirators sometimes all three. As they progress together through the school's four levels to graduation, the author expands on their lessons with end-of-chapter recipes. Though the book doesn't stake out original territory, it thoroughly captures the built-in drama of a professional cook's education.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Under The Table, by Katherine Darling
Reading this book makes you appreciate fine dining in a way that attending a superb concert makes you appreciate music: the steep climb to virtuosity, the appeal of enjoying something beautiful.
Any New Yorker would recognize the world Ms. Darling describes so vividly. That someone could so deftly wield both the pen and the knife is remarkable.
Highly recommended; delicious!
A Good Effort?
I can't recommend this book. The writing is awkward, the stories are poorly told (or possibly poorly imagined), and there are few new insights into life at a cooking school. Any of Ruhlman's several books (The Making of a Chef, in particular) about learning to be a chef are far, far better than this book.