- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
When recent college graduate Jenna Weber decided to go further into student loan debt hell by attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Florida, her parents were bemused but eventually were supportive — as long as they didn’t have to pay for more education for a young woman who didn’t want a routine entry-level job.
Weber chronicles her post-college odyssey in “White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story” (Sterling Epicure, 216 pages, $19.95). It’s a fun to read book that will appeal to the millennial generation of twenty-somethings, as well as their parents. I’d recommend the book for younger readers, too. The book may even help explain why many members of the oft-criticized millennial generation — those who came of age around 2000 and a few years later — insist on doing it their way when it comes to careers and relationships.
Weber, 27, always had two loves: Writing and cooking. She inherited much of love of cooking from her flight attendant mom, who grew up in Milwaukee. As a resident of that city for a decade when I was a reporter and editor at The Milwaukee Sentinel, I can attest to the love of food that is part of the heritage of Brew City. Her father, on the other hand, came from a small town in Texas and had little interest in cooking. He became a flight attendant in the hopes of meeting the perfect woman who was also a good cook. He lucked out when he met the high-flying girl from Milwaukee.
“White Jacket Required” is replete with recipes that Jenna Weber obtained from her grandmother, her mother and elsewhere. You could call it a cookbook with a memoir attached — or vice versa.
The people at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando were just as bemused as her parents when Weber disclosed that she wanted to learn classic French cooking to become a better food writer. Midway through the 15-month course she shifted from the meat-oriented courses to the baking and pastry curriculum. Forget what you think you know about a rigorous cooking academy: It’s no cakewalk (pardon the pun!); it’s more like Army basic training or Marine Corps boot camp. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” could be the motto of the cooking school. Wimps need not apply. Among the students were recent high school graduates, college graduates and older men and women seeking a career that can’t be outsourced to China or India.
Weber describes her ups and-downs as she confronts the rigors of training, gets her first job, deals with a family crisis, and enters into a love affair. I wouldn’t be surprised if a savvy movie producer optioned “White Jacket Required” for a TV or feature film.
About the author
Jenna Weber, a graduate of the College of Charleston, in Charleston, SC, attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, FL, with the goal of landing a job at one of the top food magazines. Instead, she ended up becoming a hugely popular blogger and writing this, her first book. Visit her blog ateatliverun.com to get an up-to-the-minute look at Jenna’s world of food. She lives in Santa Rosa, CA.
Publisher’s website: www.sterlingpublishing.com