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How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

by Kathleen Flinn

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02300-4
Publisher: Viking

A Seattle-based writer turned chef demonstrates how readers can transform their lives with the right recipe.

After a stint at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu, Flinn returned to the States to pen her 2008 debut, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. But after the critical acclaim and the endless book touring subsided, the author found herself at a loss for her next project until she stumbled across the TV program What Not to Wear. Envisioning a cooking class that would dig through pantries and cupboards in a manner befitting the show's hosts, Flinn took on a group of nine culinary novitiates and imparted technique and skill, giving them confidence in the kitchen. The author began by taking inventory of each participants' refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits. A friend’s step-daughter, Sabra, was a disaster in the kitchen, so she usually relied on frozen dinners. One of her go-to concoctions, "White Trash Garlic Bread," is enough to give any reader, no matter how unseasoned a chef, pause: “She slathered one-half of a soft hamburger bun with Gold ’n Soft margarine, added a few hearty shakes of generic garlic salt, and topped it with dried Parmesan cheese from a can.” Another woman admitted to buying in bulk, only to later feel awful about the amount of food she wasted. Flinn’s chronicle of her culinary coaching discusses how her students fared, and acknowledges how the process led her to clean out her own cupboards: “I am in a battle with myself. It seemed that I had as much to learn as the people I’d just visited.”

The author’s humble approach is inviting and shows why her students were enthusiastic.