Learn How to Chop an Onion and More at Le Cordon Bleu

Do you cry when you chop an onion? Kathleen Flinn no longer does. In her book The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, Flinn develops her tough skin at the world’s most famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, well known as the cooking school attended by Julia Child. Interspersed with recipes that highlight the author’s self-discovery, the book illuminates her experience of learning four-star cooking skills at a rigorous culinary boot camp and does not fail to include a bit of romance.

Flinn begins her book with the realization of her worst nightmare, and most everyone’s, of losing her job. Weighing the options, she fears that by not immediately finding a new job she would stall her career indefinitely. From her days of writing newspaper obituaries, Flinn has always dreamed of attending cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu. And by being fired from her corporate job in London, Flinn now has the excuse to follow that dream. With the encouragement of her boyfriend and armed with her high school French, she decides to take the plunge and move to Paris.

Flinn enters Le Cordon Bleu prepared in every which way except emotionally. At her worst she lets herself be put to tears from a strict if not sadistic chef she has nicknamed “the gray chef.” After battling her immediate reaction to pack her bags and go home, she vows to impress the gray chef. Through many trials and tribulations, Flinn gains strength from her friends and fellow students, and becomes resolute in her determination to make it to graduation to receive her diplôme de cuisine. While at the school Flinn takes particular inspiration from a photo of Julia Child she passes by almost every day. We soon discover that many years earlier Flinn had the opportunity to meet Julia Child, to whom she divulged her dream of attending Le Cordon Bleu. By the end of her time at the school, Flinn has impressed her teachers, garnered the respect of the gray chef, and is even offered an internship at the three-star Michelin restaurant Le Doyen, which she promptly turns down. The result of her experiences is not to be a chef, but to simply accomplish her dream.

I picked up this book on a whim while looking for another food writing book that I could not find. At first I wasn’t all too sure that I would like it, because the front cover flourishes a blurb from Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m averse to Oprah book cult selections and steer clear of them, but I wasn’t going to let Gilbert’s blurb hold me back from exploring the book. I was quickly attracted to the author's mission because I too have secretly dreamed of attending Le Cordon Bleu. At first I thought and hoped that this book would turn me off from the idea. And after reading the first few chapters it even did, but by the middle of the book I became immersed in Flinn’s world. I had become a convert. I devoured Flinn’s book within a few days with my secret dream renewed. Indeed, this book lives up to the clichéd dream of living in Paris. But is that so bad? For anyone who has ever dreamed of accomplishing a goal that seems impossible, this book is for you.