Contemplating BECOMING A CHEF‘s Landmark 20th Anniversary This Year: 1995-2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

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“1995: BECOMING A CHEF is published, offering the first compendium of answers to some of the most common questions an aspiring chef can ask.”
The National Culinary Review, in its timeline of pivotal events in culinary history

“…BECOMING A CHEF, the first book that meaningfully addressed chefs as they moved into the realm of celebrity.”
–Michael Ruhlman, on MegNut.com

BECOMING A CHEF by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page…was actually more than a cookbook, and launched a new dimension in food writing, creating a standard for a whole new genre.”
Pam Chirls, senior culinary editor, John Wiley & Sons, as quoted in The (Hackensack, NJ) Record

On January 1st, after turning our calendar for the first time to 2015, we mused on Twitter about the first book we ever wrote, “Just occurred to us that BECOMING A CHEF (1995) will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year #timeflies.”

Uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer — who had been making headlines literally around the world over the previous 72 hours when it was announced that his company had filed on December 29th to take Shake Shack public, with plans to raise as much as $100 million — miraculously found the time to chime in shortly thereafter on January 1st with the very gracious Tweet, “Just think about how many folks became one — thanks to your tome!

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So we thought we would.  Think about it, that is.

We’ve been heartened to hear from so many of the most successful chefs and pastry chefs and other culinary professionals in America — and the rising stars on their way to joining them — that BECOMING A CHEF helped to inspire them to enter the profession and/or to rise to new heights within it.  They include:

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Graham Elliot. the Michelin two-star Chicago chef-restaurateur and “MasterChef” judge;

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Monica Glass, pastry chef of Boston’s Clio and one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new pastry chefs of 2013;

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Chris Cosentino, former executive chef of San Francisco’s Incanto and winner of Season 4 of “Top Chef: Masters”; and

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David Lebovitz, former Chez Panisse pastry chef, the wildly popular blogger at DavidLebovitz.com, and author of one of 2014’s best cookbooks My Paris Kitchen in addition to The Perfect Scoop, Ready for Dessert, and The Sweet Life in Paris

And that’s merely four of countless leading culinary professionals who have credited one of the better part of 200,000 copies of BECOMING A CHEF now in print (after a first printing of just 2500 copies!) with inspiring them.  In honor of the book’s 20th anniversary this year, we’d love to hear from those readers who count the book as having affected their lives and careers.  When did you first discover it?  How did it touch you?  Please email us at DornenburgPage [at] gmail [dot] com, so that we might share your stories.

“Quite possibly the only book of its kind…A useful, informative book about how successful chefs got their start.”
–Lois Blinkhorn, book editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1995)

“The Top 5 World Professional Cookery Books:  1) On Cooking, 2) Professional Cooking, 3) Larousse Gastronomique, 4) BECOMING A CHEF, 5) The New Professional Chef.…[BECOMING A CHEF] provides the first behind-the-scenes look into some of the most celebrated restaurant kitchens across America.”
International Cookbook Review

“As chefs become increasingly visible and the art of cooking grows in popularity, the publishing dough rises…BECOMING A CHEF has provided inspiration to serious home chefs because of the interest in what chefs are doing around the country.”
–Robert Dahlin, Publishers Weekly  (July 24, 2000)

We’ll forever owe a debt of gratitude to all the chefs who didn’t know us from Adam who nonetheless made time in their busy schedules to allow two first-time authors to interview them for their first book — and whose stories and insights not only forever shaped our view of the nobility of the culinary profession, but in fact spurred us to radically change our career paths in order to study and chronicle its evolution.  They include:  Jean Banchet (Le Francais; Wheeling, IL), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Chicago), Daniel Boulud (DANIEL, NYC), Edward Brown (The Sea Grill, NYC), Patrick Clark (Tavern on the Green, NYC), Gary Danko (The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco), Todd English (Olives and Figs; Charlestown, MA), Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill, Santa Monica), Michael Foley (Printer’s Row, Chicago), Susanna Foo (Susanna Foo, Philadelphia), Larry Forgione (An American Place, NYC), George Germon and Johanne Killeen (Al Forno, Providence), Victor Gielisse (Actuelle, Dallas), Joyce Goldstein (Square One, San Francisco), Gordon Hamersley (Hamersley’s Bistro, Boston), Raji Jallepalli (Restaurant Raji, Menphis), Jean Joho (Everest, Chicago), Rick Katz (Bentonwood Bakery; Newton, MA), Albert Kumin (Green Mountain Chocolate Company, Vermont), Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s, New Orleans), Edna Lewis (Gage & Tollner; Brooklyn, NY), Zarela Martinez (Zarela, NYC), Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu, Los Angeles and NYC), Mark Militello (Mark’s Place, Miami), Mark Miller (Red Sage and Coyote Cafe), Wayne Nish (March, NYC), Patrick O’Connell (The Inn at Little Washington; Washington, VA), Bradley Ogden (Lark Creek Inn; Larkspur, CA), Jean-Louis Palladin (Jean-Louis at the Watergate; Washington, DC), Charlie Palmer (Aureole, NYC), Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill et al), Georges Perrier (Le Bec-Fin, Philadelphia), Debra Ponzek (Montrachet, NYC), Alfred Portale (Gotham Bar & Grill, NYC), Susan Regis (Biba, Boston), Michel Richard (Citrus, Los Angeles), Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe, San Francisco), Anne Rosenzweig (Arcadia, NYC), Chris Schlesinger (East Coast Grill; Cambridge, MA), Jimmy Schmidt (Rattlesnake Club, Detroit), Dieter Schorner (Patisserie Cafe Didier; Washington, DC), Jackie Shen (Jackie’s, Chicago), Lydia Shire (Biba, Boston), Nancy Silverton (Campanile and La Brea Bakery, Los Angeles), Andre Soltner (Lutece, NYC), Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani (Terra; St. Helena, CA), Susan Spicer (Bayona, New Orleans), Allen Susser (Chef Allen’s, Miami), Elizabeth Terry (Elizabeth on 37th, Savannah), Jacques Torres (Le Cirque, NYC), Jeremiah Tower (Stars, San Francisco), Barbara Tropp (China Moon Cafe, San Francisco), Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago), Norman Van Aken (Norman’s; Coral Gables, FL), Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean Georges, NYC), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse; Berkeley, CA), Jasper White (Jasper’s, Boston), and Janos Wilder (Janos, Tucson).

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Top left: Jean Banchet; Top middle: Patrick Clark; Top right: Raji Jallepalli; Middle left: Edna Lewis; Middle right: Jean-Louis Palladin; Bottom left: Judy Rodgers, Bottom middle: Barbara Tropp; Bottom right: Charlie Trotter

While we were heartbroken to have lost far too soon far too many of those we got to know — and in many cases befriend — by interviewing them for BECOMING A CHEF, we’re comforted by the fact that the book helps to keep their memories alive and their lives an inspiration among the next generation of chefs and culinary professionals.

In their honor, we’ll continue to share tales from BECOMING A CHEF‘s storied 20-year history throughout 2015.

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