"KITCHEN ON FIRE!" by Oliver Said and Chef MikeC., Da Capo Press, $35, 464 pages (nf)
If you have ever wanted to attend culinary school and never been able to, chefs Oliver Said and MikeC. may have what you've been looking for. Taken from the culinary school of the same name, "Kitchen on Fire!" contains all of the material taught in their 12-week introductory course packaged nicely in a hardbound book with great photos throughout.
Having attended the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City, I can say with authority that this book covers the material taught in the beginning courses. Everything is technically right and well-presented.
There will always be a place for culinary schools where individual training and correction can be shown in person, but "Kitchen on Fire!" provides a great balance between cost and knowledge. Each skill, technique and kitchen tool is identified in the text with the chapter number to refresh your memory or to get more detailed information.
Beginning where all culinary courses begin, knife skills, "Kitchen on Fire!" describes in good detail and with good supporting photos the different knife cuts and when they should be used. From here, the book moves on to the most fundamental elements of classical French cuisine — stocks, soups and sauces. With this foundation laid, the book takes the reader through the different wet and dry cooking techniques and which meats work best with them. The book also contains instructions on the three different baking methods. The breadth of the content may be more than what is learned in a first culinary class.
Each chapter ends with recipes to help reinforce the skills learned. The recipes are adequate for a foundation, but don't expect them to all be gourmet dishes to be served at your next dinner party. You can, however, amaze your guests with your understanding of mise en place, consistently juliennes and dices, and perfect use of the Maillard reaction. If you don't know what these are now, you will by the time you finish "Kitchen on Fire!"
H Hatfield is a programmer for Deseret Digital Media, has attended culinary school, and sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.