Check It Out: Hungry for a good book?

No doubt about it, cooking shows and competitions are popular. Learn more about the stars of these shows by reading a biography of a famous chef. Their success stories have some qualities in common: hard work, high standards, dedication and perseverance. Some also show the grittier side of kitchen life. Meet some large personalities and a few with egos to match.

"Chef's Story: 27 Chefs Talk About What Got Them Into the Kitchen": The 27 fascinating individuals who tell their stories in this book bring us into their world and reveal how their early years, beliefs and passion for quality have helped them become modern culinary legends.

"Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child": Julia Child was a directionless, gawky young woman who went halfway around the world to join a spy agency during World War II. She eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook and collaborated on the writing of what would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," a book that changed the food culture of America. Already 50 when the show "The French Chef" went on the air, Julia became the first educational television star.

"Yes, Chef: A Memoir": This book chronicles Marcus Samuelsson's remarkable journey from his grandmother's humble kitchen to some of the most demanding and cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France; from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally came together.

"Blood, Bones, and & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef": Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent 20 fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all, she sought family, particularly the thrill and magnificence of the one from her childhood that in her adult years eluded her. This book follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years.

"All the Presidents' Pastries: Twenty-Five Years in the White House, A Memoir": This success story — told by the hero himself — of a young French pastry chef who climbed his way to the top embodies the great American dream. After working at the Savoy in London, the George V in Paris, the Princess in Bermuda and the Homestead in Virginia, Roland Mesnier took on the job of a lifetime as pastry chef to the White House.

"Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris": A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey discovered that her real culinary education wouldn't begin until she actually worked in a restaurant. Rich descriptions of coworkers and locales accompany her main theme of struggle and growth. Recipes inspired by items on the menus of the restaurants she worked in further enhance it.

"Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America": On the eve of his 38th birthday and after shuffling through a series of unsatisfying jobs, Jonathan Dixon enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America to pursue his passion for cooking. In this book, he tells hilarious and harrowing stories of life at the C.I.A. as he and his classmates navigate the institution's many rules and customs under the watchful and critical eyes of their instructors.

"Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly": New York chef Anthony Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny and inspiring memoir/expose. "Kitchen Confidential" reveals what Bourdain calls "twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine." His tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable.

"Roasting in Hell's Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection": For the first time, Gordon Ramsay tells the full inside story of his life and how he became the world's most famous and infamous chef: his difficult childhood, his brother's heroin addiction, his failed first career as a soccer player, his fanatical pursuit of gastronomic perfection and his TV persona.

"My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals": Offers an intimate study of 50 of the world's finest chefs, who describe what their final meal would be and offer one recipe from the meal, with contributions from Jacques Pépin, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver and many other famous chefs.

Please note: The Central Library will be closed due to construction from Dec. 22 to Jan. 6. Branch locations will be closed for city holidays on Dec. 24 and 25 and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but open during the remaining days. Please check the library website for branch hours and locations. Happy cooking, and happy holidays!

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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