Case Western Reserve University's 2006-2007 incoming class already has its first assignment of the academic year: they're planning to read The Soul of Chef by Cleveland-based, New York Times bestselling author Michael Ruhlman.
The Soul of a Chef was selected from over 75 recommendations, and it will be distributed to approximately 1,200 undergraduate students during the summer. The book will serve as a basis for programs and discussions beginning at orientation and continuing through the fall semester.
Case launched the common reading program for all incoming students in 2002, and the university purchases and mails a copy of the book to all incoming, first year students. Faculty are encouraged to consider the reading, when appropriate, in designing curriculums. The Common Reading Selection Committee looks for works that appeal to young adults; address issues relevant to new college students; prompt inquiry, refection, and discourse; and differ from usual high school reading assignments.
According to Ruhlman's Web site, he's been an amateur cook since elementary school, and suggested to the Culinary Institute of America that he be allowed into its kitchen classrooms in order to write a narrative focusing on how the school trains professional chefs. The end result was The Making of a Chef in 1997. "I became so fascinated by the work of the professional cook and the culture of the restaurant kitchen that I continued to pursue the work, punching a clock briefly as a line cook, then writing a book about chefs and cooking, The Soul of a Chef," in 2000.
The Soul of a Chef highlights three American chefs in three very different cooking environments. According to the New York Times Book Review, it's "a hold-your-breath-while-you-turn-the-page thriller that's also an anthropological study of the culture of cooking."
"This year's selection allows us to spotlight a 'hometown' writer as well as some local characters and settings. In his investigation and ruminations on the art of cooking, Ruhlman prompts the reader to think more broadly about one's own drive for success, the role of anxiety and pressure in excelling, and the value of examination and competition," according to a statement from the selection committee.
Ruhlman is already familiar with the Case community: he visited chemistry professor John Protasiewicz's SAGES First Seminar Class last November to discuss his writing. He will return to the university to deliver the keynote address during the Fall Convocation on August 31 at Severance Hall. Updated information will soon be posted at http://www.case.edu/convocation/.
In addition to the common reading, students will be invited to submit entries that respond to themes of the selected work as part of an essay contest. More information will soon be posted on the orientation Web site, http://www.case.edu/orientation/.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.