q & a with michael ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman, the man responsible for bringing Anthony Bourdain to Cleveland (thank you), is currently serving as a judge on the Next Iron Chef (go Symon). He’s a very well respected author several times over, chef and true devotee of Cleveland.

1. Top 5 spices every home chef should have? Cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon and black pepper

2. Favorite and least favorite thing to make? Pork belly confit / lunch for my kids

3. Favorite and least favorite thing about Cleveland? The weather / Mayfield Road

4. Favorite restaurant? Lola

5. What restaurant do you miss? Shakey’s pizza with the player piano.

6. What hidden café/restaurant have Clevelanders yet to discover? Like I’m going to tell you that.

7. Why did you decide to move back to Cleveland and raise your family here? It’s my home, it’s where I know who I am (explaining this to my wife is an ongoing effort).

8. What has the experience been like on the Next Iron Chef? Except for all the waiting around and wasted time, it’s been a ball. Though that Knowlton character is a real terror. Cursing incessantly, drunk everyday on the set, a real embarrassment.

9. Why did you decide not to work as a professional chef? It’s too damn hard for too little money. Basically my advice to aspiring chefs is don’t do it. Same as it is to aspiring writers – don’t do it. I do not encourage you, find something easier. Then, if they still do it, maybe they’re doing it for the right reasons.

10. What are you working on right now? Right now I’m working on promoting the new book, The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Chef’s Craft for Every Kitchen. It’s Strunk and White [Elements of Style] for the kitchen, everything you need to know as a cook.

11. What is the biggest misconception about Cleveland? That the weather is lousy. Either that or that it’s somewhere near Idaho (you get this from New Yorkers mainly).

12. Where do you grocery shop? Zagara’s on Lee Road.

13. What chef(s) do you admire? All of them. They amaze me.

14. What is the one thing you learned from your time working as a line cook and spending time in professional kitchens overall? That I’m not meant to be a line cook.

15. Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book? My favorite author is Nabokov, my favorite book is Here at the New Yorker by Brendan Gill.


  1. rockandroller
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Good interview! When I lived in LA I was amazed to find they still have Shakey’s pizza there.

    re: Cleveland weather – Michael is either the eternal optimist or is on a year-long dose of valium. :) I don’t know anyone that truly enjoys the weather year throughtout the entire year. Patches or stretches of it, sure, but all year?

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I am wondering if Mr. Ruhlman has ever had the opportunity to dine at the restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos CA, and if so, could he offer some thoughts on the experience? I’m considering Manresa as a possible choice for a future trip.

  3. ruhlman
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    manresa is outstanding (based on one meal there), some of the most interesting food in the country, deserves to be better known.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted October 30, 2007 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for taking the time to respond – greatly appreciated. HRobb

  5. Anonymous
    Posted December 2, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to see an interview with Karen Small of the Flying Fig.

  6. michelle v
    Posted December 2, 2007 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Me too! She was actually one of the first chefs I reached out to and tried several times, but never heard anything. I will try again though. Flying Fig is my favorite restaurant in town.