After reading Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef (my review here), I thought The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry would be a somewhat similar book, but from the perspective of a Le Cordon Bleu student instead of a Culinary Institute of America student.
And that’s exactly what I got. Sort of.
This book is a quick and pleasant read; the writing is clear and amusing, and the story is easy to read. There are lots of descriptions of the food cooked in class, interesting characters, and even some romance. The author’s difficulty with French is a popular theme in the memories.
The author also scatters recipes throughout the book, although interestingly most aren’t for items that she actually makes in class but are instead personal or friends’ recipes that she mentions throughout the memoir. For instance, while making a mirepoix for class she compares the school’s soup with the her mother’s favourite soup recipe. And suddenly at the end of the chapter, voilà , there is a recipe for her mother’s soup. While I found the recipes interesting I also found it somewhat contrived as it seemed like these mentions of food from outside of the class were inserted purely so that a recipe could be included. It actually started becoming a game for me because I could guess what kind of recipe would show up next. I was also disappointed that she does not include recipes for all the food she talks about in the book. I understand that she may not have copyright over things she learned in class, but she could have published some recipes for items like the turkey dishes she does near the end of the book.
I was also disappointed that there wasn’t more detail about Paris itself. Yes there are bits here and there but the little that you get doesn’t really submerse you into what it’s like living in Paris.
Overall, I found this book to be a good one but it doesn’t have the detail that Ruhlman’s book did and never did draw me in quite like that other book. I would even label this book as Ruhlman-lite, the cooking memoir equivalent of a beach read.