Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scars of a Chef

I was browsing NetGalley in June to see if there were any newly released or upcoming cookbooks. To my delight, I found Rick Tramonto's Scars of a Chef listed.

Before I tell you about his book, I would recommend that you sign up for NetGalley if you like reviewing books too - especially if you have an e-reader. It's very handy and saves so much shelf space that ARCs or galleys take up. Publishers post certain titles on NetGalley for you to review. They will either invite you or you can request it. If they approve your request (they usually do), you get an e-galley to download and read. PS: this was not a plug for NetGalley, I just wanted to share the program since I've had good experiences with it.

One more thing, this will be forever marked as my first e-book! Sure I've read PDFs of manuscripts and pages at work, but those don't count. I had never read on a mobile device before! I downloaded this on my iPod touch and squinted during my commute to finish this e-book. Aside from having to squint, it was quite an enjoyable experience. At least I wasn't carrying a heavy hardcover on the subway (my arms do get sore)! But, I don't know if I'll move up to an e-reader yet, I miss the feeling of knowing how far along in the book I am. Having the page number there doesn't tell me if I should read faster (I'm no where near the ending) or slower (savour the last couple of chapters because the book will end soon).

Scars of a Chef: The Searing Story of a Top Chef Marked Forever by the Grit and Grace of Life in the Kitchen
Written by Rick Tramonto and
Lisa Jackson

ISBN-10: 1414331622
ISBN-13: 9781414331621
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
e-book: 288 pages

I will admit, I do not know my celebrity chefs as well as I should (being a baking blog and all), so I started reading this without knowing who Rick Tramonto is (please don't give me that look). I honestly did not know which famous restaurants he worked at or any honours he had been awarded. I went in thinking it would be a memoir about a chef rising to the top - which it was, but far more interesting when the restaurant names started to sound familiar.

Tramonto actually begins working at Wendy's (yes, the burger joint) and moves up to Scotch 'N Sirloin and Strathallan. I really liked how the book was divided into parts that reflected an education system that he never graduated from. Instead, he made his own route for Culinary High School, College and Grad School. No matter where he worked, Tramonto went in early, stayed late, and worked hard. His drive to learn how to prep, cook, and run a restaurant is evident:
It took me about two years of working double shifts at the Scotch 'N Sirloin to fully understand all of the different stations, prep recipes, and kitchen procedures. As I listened to my coworkers discuss the merits of acid level and tannins, I realized that I had learned more in that time than I had in ten years of school. This was my culinary high school. My classes included Food 101, Butchering 101, and Wine 101.
It's not really a rags to riches kind of story, nor a religion made me a better person story, but more of a if you have talent, ambition, and work hard, you will succeed. The focus was on Tramonto's dedication to food and learning more about cooking. However, I did find him to be restless for something new or something more. Always on the go. What amazed me most was how easy he made it sound to get a stagiaire or a new job. I don't know whether it was the right timing, pure luck, or his amazing talent, but he was able to find great mentors and was given unheard of opportunities to expand.

I was even more intrigued when I read about his relationship with Gale Gand, pastry chef extraordinaire (yes, I know who she is thank you very much)! They were a great culinary couple that probably most chefs dream of being in. They got to travel, eat, learn, and work towards building their dream restaurant together. When it got tough to separate work and family life, they eventually decided to keep their divorce a secret in order to remain strong for their restaurant. Now that is some serious dedication towards their colleagues.

Reading about their restaurant "dream" and "wish" file is the kind of insight I like to learn about chefs. Tramonto and Gand would record their favourite things into this file in hopes of being able to use it for their own restaurants. It's also an insider's look at what some chefs strive for. They wanted to create a brand by being on television, going to festivals, and publishing cookbooks. Most importantly, earning the stars and rave reviews for their food.

Tramonto's writing style (with the help of Lisa Jackson) is very simple and straightforward, but to the point. Occasionally, you would understand his strong emotions - whether it was anger, sadness, or worry. Each chapter ends with one of Tramonto's recipes, while I would have preferred them to all tie in with the chapter, sometimes there is no recipe suitable for what he is going through. I've read that the hardcover includes an insert of photographs, but I'm afraid that my e-book version did not.

After reading his story, I did end up picking up one of his cookbooks, Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites That Delight Before the Meal Begins, at a book sale after. Would I have if I had not read this back story? Probably not.


  1. This is a nice book to add to my collection. I would like to read about his experience, outlook and techniques.