How I Learned to Cook, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan (2006)
How I Learned to Cook is a collection of 40 essays by well-known chefs and food writers, describing early pivotal incidents in their culinary careers. The title might be a bit misleading; the stories aren’t generally about learning how to cook, but rather “the biggest screw-up I ever had in the kitchen” and “how I learned to love food” and “how I realized — perhaps against my will — that cooking would become my profession.”
Of course, with so many contributors, the writing is uneven and there are some duds among the selections. But for the most part, the essays showcase the larger-than-life personalities of chefs and the weird culture of the world of professional cooking. Particular favorites included Rick Bayless’ story about spending his family’s weekly food budget on one rack of lamb as a teenager — and his father didn’t even like lamb; Anthony Bourdain decimating television cooking; and David Chang’s story of an apprenticeship to a perfectionist soba noodle maker in Japan.