A former odd-jobber and Martha Stewart Living staff writer records the highs and lows of studying at the Culinary Institute of America.

Just before turning 38, Dixon decided to veer from his aimless career path and pursue cooking, the passion of his youth, as a vocation. So he and his girlfriend boxed their urban life and moved to scenic Rhinebeck, N.Y., where he embarked on the two-year Associate of Occupational Studies program at the nearby Culinary Institute of America (CIA)—a place “like Disneyland for cooks.” Knowing at the outset that he never wanted to own his own restaurant, Dixon’s fears that his latest desire to become a chef was yet another form of vocational “escapism” and “indulgence” were only heightened upon meeting his classmates, many barely out of high school—as one notes, “my parents wanted me to come here instead of juvie”—others possessed of the same focus and drive as famous CIA alumni Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz. “The Muslims may have ninety-nine names for God,” writes Dixon, “but at the CIA, there was pretty much just one: Keller.” Filled with engaging journalistic details as his studies move from theory to practice, Dixon’s acerbic account makes the CIA program sound like two years of protracted fraternity hazing, with 16-hour days and boot camp–like ego annihilation for weeks on end, coupled with an emphasis on collective success or failure in the kitchen. Throughout, the author waffles between self-doubt and confidence, gaining as much culinary knowledge—“For every end result, there are a dozen different ways to get there”—as personal introspection: “I knew I was too pigheaded to flourish in a situation where ceding control to others was required to truly learn and succeed.” Cheeky and informative, but may leave readers wondering whether this writer will ever know what he wants to be when he grows up.


Pub Date: May 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-58903-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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