Although nothing can truly beat the pleasure of sitting down to an expertly prepared meal, reading about such a meal can be a close second. Here at MenuPages Boston, we’re very much into food writing. A good piece of food writing, like any great book, can transport you to a place you’ve never been, teach you about a subject previously unknown, or inspire you to try something new. Because we are truly evangelical about great food writing, we’re offering up a series of recommendations for great food books. Today, we’re focusing on one of our favorite food writers, Michael Ruhlman.
As we frequently mention, we’re a little obsessed with/easily influenced by food luminary Anthony Bourdain. When he mentions something or someone that we aren’t familiar with in one of his books, we investigate ASAP. So when we read Bourdain’s essay about traveling to Las Vegas with author Michael Ruhlman, naturally, we looked him up. We found out that not only is Ruhlman the author of our favorite persnickety cookbook, but he’s also written several books about chefs. It was summer and we didn’t have much to do, so we moseyed on down to the bookstore and picked up The Making of a Chef, figuring it would liven up our commute. Reader, we finished it in under three hours. For the book, Ruhlman entered the Culinary Institute of America (inarguably our country’s top cooking school) and spent two years there as a student. The resulting book is well-written enough that long descriptions of making consomme are fascinating and inspiring enough that it will make you log on to the CIA’s website and look at admissions requirements, even if you’ve never thought about being a chef before. Guaranteed.
Three years later, Ruhlman released a sequel of sorts, The Soul of a Chef. The book’s first half follows ten professional chefs taking the exam to become Certified Master Chefs. The second half profiles three chefs at different stages of their careers: Brian Polcyn of Five Lakes Grill, Michael Symon of Lola Bistro & Wine Bar, and Thomas Keller owner of the French Laundry and arguably America’s top chef. Once again, the book reads faster than a mystery novel and inspires you to think seriously about entering the restaurant business…or at least make something really exciting at home. Ruhlman’s third book in his chef trilogy, last year’s The Reach of a Chef takes on the ever-growing roles of American chefs and the concept of the celebrity chef (most helpful for those of us who can’t figure out what, exactly, makes Cat Cora an Iron Chef).
Ruhlman hasn’t formally announced what his next book-length project will be, but, fortunately, he has a blog to satisfy anxious readers in the meantime. So go! Run out to the bookstore on your lunch break! Start reading The Making of a Chef. We promise it will lead to a better dinner tonight!