If you’re one of those home cooks who’s tired of being a slave to recipes but you can’t afford the money or time to go to culinary school, pick up a copy of “Kitchen on Fire! Mastering the Art of Cooking in 12 Weeks (Or Less)” by Oliver Said and Chef MikeC. (DaCapo, $35).

“Kitchen on Fire!” is the name of a popular cooking school in Berkeley, Calif., that is like a culinary boot camp for home cooks. Students are taught technique and learn the underlying chemistry behind a dish – why it works, not just how to put it together.

The book is set up similar to the school curriculum, beginning with knife skills and mise en place. The authors work their way through sauteeing, braising, grilling, sauces, yeast breads, pastas, eggs and so on. Hundreds of step-by-step photos and illustrations are there to guide the reader, and if that’s not enough, there are how-to videos posted on the school’s website, kitchenonfire.com/basicsbook.

The authors include tricks of the pros, and at the end of each chapter, there are exercises and practice recipes to go through before you start creating new dishes on your own.


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