I could have saved $40,000 and 6 months, endless cuts and burns, bad hair days, bruised egos, fashion disasters, gas that could peel the paint off the side of a barn, and having cats follow me home because I smelled like a mackerel!
As y'all know, I attended the full time 6-month culinary program at the FCI a few years ago (and yes I experienced all of the above... in abundance!) so when I saw this book come out, I had to buy it. Like James Peterson's Sauces, this book too could ballast a boat - all 500 pages! - but it is also a veritable treasure chest, a culinary Fort Knox if you will, of all things cooking. If Techniques is the only cookbook you ever purchase, you'd be set.
Techniques is almost verbatim our first quarter (6 week) curriculum. Really! Word for word, gram for gram, ingredient for ingredient. I even pulled out my notebook and compared the Sauces section. Exactly the same. Our first quarter was spent learning these 250 techniques. (Before I went to cooking school I burned water! I still do, just less often...) We then spent the next 3 quarters refining and practicing and expanding on all these techniques. So if you don't want to sacrifice 6 months and $40,000 and the above mentioned humiliations to attend cooking school, then buy this book and cook every recipe over and over and you will become an excellent cook. If you master all the skills and techniques in the book, you can walk into any kitchen (even in France!) and hold your own as this is the foundation of classic cooking and the language of the kitchen.
Hints and tips from the Deans and Chef Instructors pepper the book in every technique with tidbits such as "...cook beans at a constant low temperature and cool them in their cooking liquid. ~ Dean Alain Sailhac" or "Do not cover a chicken after roasting or it will steam and make the meat taste reheated." ~Dean Jacques Pepin". It's like getting a personal cooking lesson from some of the world's the greatest chefs. A few that I'm not sure made it into the book that will I will never for include, "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean ~Chef Henri Viain" and "What you put in the pot, you get out of the pot. ~Chef Pascal Beric" and God love them both for their dedication to their students.
Techniques teaches the 250 classic foundation techniques including stocks, sauces, soups, salads, eggs, potatoes, poultry, beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish, shellfish, marinades, stuffings, organ meats (my least favorite day in cooking school!), pastry dough, creams & custards, crepes, brioche, frozen desserts, meringues, mousses, and soufflés (my favorite day in cooking school! :) As I browsed through the book, 6 months of my life flashed before my eyes, intermittently cringing while remembering slicing off the tip of my thumb on the mandoline or burning my wrist on the convection oven and laughing out loud picturing the over-whipped genoise, splattered pommes anna, and over salted poulet roti grandmere dubbed "inedible" by the chefs.
Many if not all of the recipes in my humble little blog, such as the ones here and here, are based on the foundation I learned in cooking school. Techniques also explains in great detail terms in a kitchen, names of equipment and pots and pans (and the difference between stainless steel and aluminum, cast iron, non-stick and the benefits and pit falls of each), food safety, knifes and knife skills, and professional kitchen management.
If you want to become an great home chef or are considering or about to attend cooking school, I implore you to devour (pun intended) this book. If you learn all the techniques, or at least become familiar with them, then you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the game. Bon courage et bon appetit!