Book Review: The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

It is true, and one of the first things ingrained into the minds of culinary students is that your most important asset is your sharpened knives. They will alleviate any struggle of slicing up julienned carrots or paper-thin slices of smoked salmon, as well as offer a cleaner, speedier recovery to any accidental contact with one's hands. And in this case, author Kathleen Flinn refers to the title as one of many lessons learned during her whirlwind year fulfilling a lifelong dream: earning a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France.

An executive at a well-known, Washington-based, high-technology company, Flinn's job was eliminated while she was working out of London. Her life in the rat race, as she knew it, was over; just like that. What to do? Immediately jump on the next high-pressure, 80-hour a week position that came along? No. Instead, Flinn took advice from her then boyfriend to happily take her severance, pack up, head to Paris and fulfill her life long dream of graduating from what many consider to be the world's most famous cooking school.
Nestled within the perfectly designed, 304-page hardcover, Flinn takes readers on a quick tour of her year tackling traditional French cuisine at the helm of demanding chefs who speak-and in most cases, scream-only French. The book reads quickly with each chapter equaling five-to-six pages in length with a recipe at the end of each one. Throughout her journey of making a supreme bechamel sauce to learning the art of slicing onions as gracefully as her French chefs, Flinn also shares her adventures in her personal life including the myriad guests who travel to France's adored city to spend time with Flinn and her boyfriend Mike in their nonstop, adventurous life in France that includes apartment hopping in a city they hardly know, as well as planning a wedding in two months time. The book is filled with heartache of Flinn's determination to please the impossible instructors at the school, but also love within the subject that seems to hold a more prominent spot in the book; her amazing relationship with Mike.
I will admit, being a culinary student in a Le Cordon Bleu school within the US, I really wanted more of the day in and day out of Flinn's experience at the school; the grueling curriculum, the increasingly challenging assignments as her experience grew, and maybe a little more of some of the relationships she developed with her perfection-obsessed instructors. At times I felt the chapters were too quick and that she could have gone in to a bit more detail.
Nevertheless, the book would prove to be a joy to read for anyone who enjoys those stories of people who ask, "What else can I do with my life?" Food, France, and a story of life and love; this book will touch the hearts of all who decide to join in her adventure.


Sheila Saltmarsh said...

The author's story sounds similar to yours. Maybe you should write a book!

Jennifer said...


Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ali McCart said...

Great review! I've heard from other readers, too, that there was not enough of the school life included. I'm glad you found it to be a worthwhile read, though.

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