“The best things in life happen when you get carried away,” says writer Michael Ruhlman. Ruhlman went into a cooking school to write about what it means to be a chef, and instead he became a cook, got a job line cooking, lucked into one of the great restaurants of the world to work with the chef on his book, and he kept on writing about food. “I got carried away, and it’s made all the difference.”
Ruhlman was born in 1963 in Cleveland, graduated from Duke in 1985 with a BA in Literature, worked at The New York Times as a copyboy where he managed to slip some stories into most sections of the paper, departed after fewer than two years to pursue a desultory life of writing, travel and odd jobs, returning to Cleveland with his wife, Donna, a newspaper and magazine photographer, in 1991. He found work at a local magazine covering the arts and cultural scene, and here began writing about chefs and cooking.
His first book, Boys Themselves, was published in 1996, but the book that put Ruhlman on the culinary map was The Making of a Chef, published in 1997. He followed that with The Soul of a Chef (2000) and co-wrote The French Laundry Cookbook (1999) with Thomas Keller. Among several other non-culinary books, Ruhlman wrote A Return to Cooking with Eric Ripert, The Reach of a Chef, Bouchon and Under Pressure with Keller and his team, and he contributed to Grant Achatz’s tour de force on the new new cuisine, Alinea.
Ruhlman wrote Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing–what he calls a thinly veiled love song to the pig, to animal fat and salt, sausages, confits, pâtés, terrines–with friend Chef Brian Polcyn. In 2007 he published The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Craft for Every Kitchen with essays on the fundamentals of cooking. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking hit the shelves in 2009, as did two other books he had a hand in— Thomas Keller: At Home with Ad Hoc, and Michael Symon’s Live to Cook, with fellow Clevelander and Chef Michael Symon.