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Dec 22, 2009 12:22 PM

I don't think Michael Ruhlman is being rational

What is up with Michael Kuhlman's idea that cooking comes to parts? Is there no love, no heart no this is my scone, that is yours, and all from the same recipe? I am a professional. I cook in NYC, in Italy and in France for a living and I'm all about 1 part this and 2 parts that, but the other part, the part that is only me or only you, is critical. How do you feel about this?

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    1. re: linguafood

      here is the article above. Tell me what you have to think.

      1. re: linguafood

        Michael Ruhlman... an established author of all things food. Collaborated with Eric Ripert and Thomas Keller among others.

        It's not "parts".. it's ratios. And it's very interesting. Learning the basic chemistry behind cooking will free you to better experiment and bring the "you" into things.

          1. re: Jennalynn

            I am going out on a limb here, but having been in the cooking ranks for a long, long time, (with no name to speak of except that it's my job) I don't think it matters if you are Thomas Keller or any other fabulous chef--it doesn't mean that you are going to know how to get people to cook. I would take on the challenge, peon that I am, any day.

            1. re: fayehess

              He doesn't claim to get people to cook. It's just a tool to get you to look at cooking in another way.

              "We have been trained in America to believe that we can’t cook unless we have a recipe in hand. I am not saying recipes are bad or wrong—I use them all the time; there are plenty of recipes in the new book—but when we rely completely on recipes, we cooks do ourselves a grave disservice. We remain chained to the ground, we remain dependent on our chains. When you are dependent on recipes, you are a factory worker on the assembly line; when you possess ratios and basic technique, you own the company."

          2. I don't think it implies heartless cooking per se, and I think it makes a lot of things easier for beginning cooks. Emphasis on beginning.

            1. I like his effort to demystify cooking and baking. I have friends who still *only* cook from recipes, and they have been cooking for several years.

              Me? After baking poorly for a few years, I finally have accepted that you have to follow a reliable recipe (or at least understand the reliable ratio inherent therein) before improvising. It helps to have the time and energy to read, practice, and teach yourself the basics.

              Bottom line: I don't see how this approach hurts anyone.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChristinaMason

                Most baking requires a recipe or at least a good knowledge of the ratios Michael is talking about. If you are unruly in baking you may get something yummy and interesting, but most of the time you will get a cake that won't rise , unflaky pie crust, or a hard cookies when you wanted chewy ones.

              2. What a thoughtful and though-provoking post. Haven’t seen the book, only read the reviews. Decided it didn’t interest me, but I hadn’t thought through just why that was true.

                Playing devil’s advocate, I guess that for those of us who have far less experience than you, keeping those proportions in mind might make it easier to shop. Although I consider myself a fairly experienced home cook, I go to the farmer’s market, buy whatever looks great, and then go home and try to figure out what to do with it. And that, more often than not, entails another trip to the market to pick up whatever—shallots, fresh sage, locally out-of-season carrots. Intellectually I can see how the proportion concept might at least help you shop more efficiently.

                As I say, I haven’t seen the book. But does he not encourage the reader to bring some love, some heart to those proportions? Does he not say somewhere that these are just guidelines and encourage the reader to use them as a base and develop from there?

                Just yakking here. But you’ve given me the impetus to head to a bookstore and take a good look.

                7 Replies
                1. re: JoanN

                  Michael Ruhlman is my favorite food writer. He's all about loving food and what makes food culture really interesting. NOT celebrity-driven -- tho he does pay homage to those personalities whose love and mastery of food have made them famous and created the culture of American food that produced (unfortunately) the concept of food celebrity. His book "The Soul of a Chef" begins with what awoke people like Thomas Keller to what the *possibilities* of food were when they grew up in the supermarket-frozen-food-aisle world of American cooking in the 60s and 70s.

                  His book "Ratios" is about mastering the basics of food prep that liberate the cook from recipes and enables us to express our own personality and flair within the framework of reliable relationships. His work is all about passion for excellence and creativity. It is NOT about being precious with food. Or slavish. Or only understanding food in "parts".

                  I think the original poster truly misunderstands Ruhlman. Ruhlman is a breath of fresh air and a complete resource for what's happening with food in America -- from great every day dining to the molecular gastromony of Greg Aschatz and everything in between. He and Thomas Keller are my food heroes. Not because I ever expect to master what they have but because they make the possibilities real for real cooks.

                  1. re: rainey

                    i also love ruhlman and the photographs his wife posts on their blog are breathtaking.he is wonderfully passionate about food. would keller co-author with an automaton?

                    the op hasn't read the book and clearly hasn't encountered any of his work, because the misunderstanding is obvious. by presenting ratios he helps people understand that a pudding is a custard is a quiche -- just tweak it a different way for a different end result. this method offers a solid foundation as a springboard, not a cage.

                    too many home cooks are afraid. learning this way should be liberating for them.

                    i major heart ruhlman.

                    finally to the op: may i politely suggest reading something before you criticize it? starting off by not even getting his name right doesn't exactly bolster your argument.

                    1. re: rainey

                      "Greg Aschatz" ???


                      grant achatz, maybe you mean?

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Yes, thank you. I got him confused with Greg Aschatz whose a good friend of MIchael Kuhlman.

                        1. re: rainey

                          Ha Ha, good save.

                          Hope Santa brings you everything you want!

                    2. re: JoanN

                      When you cook as a professional you almost always cook in terms of ratios (I say parts because cooks typically use for example, 1 part this to 3 parts that for a recipe rather than the standard measurements. When I speak of parts, I speak of ratios. I do have to take a better look as well at the book. But I have to say this: my whole theory on inspiring people to cook is to speak to their heart. I truly believe that his book will speak to people who already cook. If you hand someone a list of ingredients and a whole lot of information about how they relate, they may read the list with interest, be impressed that there are big names attached, put down the list, get in the car and go for take out.

                    3. And Ratio is now an iPhone app. $4.99 and you have all of the ratios in your pocket.

                      And I admire Michael Ruhlman. His enthusiasm for well-prepared food, appreciated for the intent of the food, is refreshing.