Cleveland chef and author Michael Ruhlman came to town recently to talk about his new book, Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook’s Manifesto. Ruhlman (who is called both “Chef” and “Mr.” elsewhere, a fact that may in part explain his Rihannaesque surname-only status) is an unusually thought-provoking author: his slim book Ratio condensed a lot of recipes down into a small set of simple principles—something that’s very hard to do—and Ruhlman’s Twenty does the same for cooking.
I had assumed, therefore, that Ruhlman’s talk at the Best of Fall Home Show would be about those principles, or some of them. But he surprised me.
Ruhlman used some of the techniques in Ruhlman’s Twenty, of course: he cured some salmon and did a basic ceviche, casually demystifying two dishes that most of his audience almost certainly had thought was well beyond its reach. But he actually focused very little on the nuts and bolts of how to do it, a fact that quietly emphasized the simplicity of cooking. Instead, he focused on his main message: “Cook for yourself. It makes life better.”
Obviously, we couldn’t agree more—from the point of view of health, conviviality, family, and pleasure. But what impressed me most was how Ruhlman had once again focused on the forest rather than the trees. It makes little sense to try to teach someone 1,000 recipes when they can learn 20 techniques instead. And by the same token, it makes little sense to talk about the specifics of those techniques when the point of learning them is to cook.
So let’s get out there and cook. It really does make life better.