For the next installment of our Food Blogger Spotlight, we’ve got a guest that needs no introduction (unless you’ve been living under a culinary rock for the past decade): author/food writer Michael Ruhlman. Besides blogging at Ruhlman.com, Michael has written countless books about food – and others that aren’t about food at all. In fact, the Michael Ruhlman catalog is hovering at somewhere around 16 books as of this posting. Holy prolific writing career, Batman.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking
- The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America
- The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen
- Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
Michael has also worked on other notable cookbooks:
- The French Laundry Cookbook with Thomas Keller
- A Return to Cooking with Eric Ripert
- Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen with Michael Symon
On top of his published writing, which includes articles for some of the country’s most influential food magazines, Michael regularly blogs about the art and craft of cooking at his personal website. He’s a tireless advocate of encouraging Americans to prepare real food at home, going so far as to present to the everyday home cook the keys to the kingdom of culinary freedom. Anthony Bourdain also makes the occasional guest appearance on Ruhlman.com, adding a little
sugar spice to Michael’s already witty tone.
Please welcome Michael Ruhlman as he answers four burning questions. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
All photos below were taken by Michael’s wife, Donna Ruhlman, a fabulous photographer who also shoots all of the images on Michael’s site. I wish I had an amazing in-house photographer! Lucky guy!
We all have staples that we couldn’t live without. What three ingredients do you *always* have in your kitchen and why? I’m not talking snacks like chips and hummus, but rather ingredients you use all the time in your cooking.
Onions, fish sauce, and parmigiano-reggiano.
I’m seriously handicapped when I let myself run out of onions, THE single most important grown ingredient in kitchen. I use fish sauce in most hot foods, everything from salad dressing to meat sauce to soup. As for the cheese, starches and greens tastes better with reggiano on it.
Imagine you moved to the smallest apartment possible – a shoebox, really – and you only had room for a single cookbook. Of all your cookbooks, which one would you keep? Why do you love it so?
The New Professional Chef, 5th edition. It’s the book I bought before learning to cook for real, before I went to the Culinary Institute of America, and then used at the Culinary, during the writing of the book about my time there, The Making of a Chef. Besides loving the book for its definitive treatment of the fundamentals, it’s powerful to me because when I bought the book in 1995 I was one person, and two years later, I was a whole other person, and that book both explicitly describes, and also symbolizes, the transformation. Also, if you have that book, there’s nothing you couldn’t do in the kitchen, or figure out how to do, like making a cake or skinning an eel.
(Ed. note: there’s a more recent edition of The Professional Chef.)
When you’re looking for new recipes (or creating one of your own), what is your number one priority? What makes you pick one recipe over another?
When I do a new recipe, it’s to learn something new rather than to eat something good. When I want to eat something good, I just cook it that way; you learn, but not as fast – especially if you’re late making dinner and need to do something quickly.
Blogs have the potential to be so many things, from personal journals to outrageous adventure reports. What is the most important thing you put into your blog, and what is the most important thing you get out of it?
I hope it’s my passion for cooking and sharing good, useful information, and also to call attention to bad information or stupid thinking. I think cooking technique is important to convey. The more people that understand fundamental technique, as opposed to, say, a recipe for Asian coleslaw, the better cooks they become. My goal is to encourage people to cook, and to encourage the people who read my blog and blog themselves to encourage others to cook. The more people cooking raw food, the better the world becomes.
What I get out of it is multifaceted. I love connecting with people who care about cooking; they’re who read my blog and comment. I like the sense of community. I like that it allows me to vent when I need to. I like that it allows me to promote my work and also the work of people I admire. The hardest part is managing the times spent on it – I want to spend more time on blogging than is good for my other work!