It's that time of the year again, when, in between all the festivity and merriment, a certain amount of self-reflection occurs, segueing into anxiety and excitement as the new year brings its clean slate. And it makes for the perfect occasion to dig into Jonathan Dixon's Beaten, Seared and Sauced.
His story is familiar: after years of jobs but no career, the author seeks a new start at the Culinary Institute of America. It's a pursuit of the nagging feeling of a potential unfulfilled, but also a pursuit of a professional life that is far more satisfying, a theme familiar to anyone that has ever stared out the window in search of a new, or any, career.
Dixon oscillates between newfound excitement and constant self-doubt. He writes about his classes and experiences with the awe and astonishment of an explorer venturing into mythical territory, areas and spheres that he had superficial knowledge of before, but now encountering in depth for the first time. It's a re-discovery of passion, but Dixon's greater strength is in describing the anxiety and fear that accompanies, particularly when the story veers outside of school into Dixon's first job in a restaurant kitchen.
It's almost coincidental that Beaten, Seared and Sauced focuses on the CIA. Dixon could just have easily been enamoured by woodcraft; it's his retelling of the curiosity and trepidation that compels. This is a real contrast to Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America, where one senses Ruhlman had little doubt that he could, in fact, succeed, despite the occasional hiccup here or there (Ruhlman subsequently partnered with Thomas Keller on his cookbooks, as well as writing his own). Where Ruhlman's book is fascinating as an observatory piece -- particularly one of the culinary school before the advent of Food Network, Top Chef and the cult of celebrity -- Beaten, Seared and Sauced is perhaps more engaging as a story anyone can relate to.
But don't take my word for it: I'm giving away my copy of both Dixon's Beaten, Seared and Sauced and Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what career you've always dreamed about (you can question yourself as to why you haven't pursued it.) Remember to leave some way we can contact you in case you win.
Contest closes on December 31, 11:59PM (Vancouver time). That's right: enter before the New Year.