After graduating from Duke University and stints in journalism and odd jobs, Michael Ruhlman — a devoted amateur cook since fourth grade — proposed to the Culinary Institute of America, the oldest and most influential professional cooking school in the country, that he be allowed into its kitchen classrooms in order to write a narrative of how the school trains professional chefs. The school agreed, and he wrote The Making of a Chef (1997). Michael became so fascinated by the work of the professional cook and the culture of the restaurant kitchen that he continued to pursue the work, punching a clock briefly as a line cook, then writing a book about chefs and cooking, The Soul of a Chef (2000). Michael co-wrote The French Laundry Cookbook (2000) with Thomas Keller at the same time, and they subsequently wrote a food column for the Los Angeles Times for two years and, last year, Bouchon, a book about perfecting French bistro cuisine. He also wrote A Return to Cooking (2002) with Eric Ripert, chef-owner of Le Bernardin, the Manhattan four-star restaurant. Michael continues to live in Cleveland and is currently working on a cookbook with Brian Polcyn on charcuterie for the home cook — a love song to the pig, to animal fat, and to salt, sausages, confits, patés, and terrines.