The Knopf editor talks about why she wrote a memoir, the current state of cookbooks, what makes for good recipe writing, and what she thinks of food blogs. (Below, Child and Jones at work on what appears to be Mastering part II, in Boston.)

Invariably described as the “legendary” Knopf editor (as a young assistant, she pulled the Anne Frank diary out of a slush pile and recognized its importance, she would publish Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but she also edits such literary lights as Ann Tyler and John Updike), Judith Jones has written a memoir, with food and cookbooks as its anchor and reason for being. It’s every bit as engaging as the writers she has worked with.  Told with economy and elegance, The Tenth Muse is an unalloyed pleasure, and so was a conversation Monday morning with Ms. Jones who spoke by telephone from New York.

You say that finding a cache of letters you wrote as the young woman who’d headed off to Paris for a three week vacation and stayed three years sparked the book.

Judith Jones: I didn’t know this young girl, how dare she be so brash and manipulative! I kind of wanted to get to know her. I saw that my passion for food really erupted there.  The other thing I really wanted to say, I felt sort of like an evangelist, crying in the wilderness: Please!  Cook at home.  Or you’re missing one of the great pleasures of life.

You’ve been a part of the cookbook evolution since the 1961 publication of Mastering the Art.  Where are we today? Give me the pros and cons?

Judith Jones: I’m afraid I’ll give you mostly cons.  I think [publishers] are afraid to touch a book unless the author is someone you can promote.  You have to be a celebrity.  And I’ve seen many really lovely cookbooks die aborning. So the people who have the television programs are known quantities—I mean this is true of everything in our culture.  But it makes it much harder work to put across a lovely book like Katy Sparks’s Sparks in the Kitchen. She’s a chef who really brought home the ideas that she learned in a professional kitchen and how she did them at home.  And to me that’s an important contribution because there’s such a huge gulf between what goes on in a chef’s kitchen and what goes on at home.

This is dangerous—think what we stand to lose.  What can we do about it?

Judith Jones: Television has to change.  I get so sick of the Food Network thing.  “We’re more than just about food.”  Who wants it to be about more than just food?  Food is a wonderful subject, endless.  And you get so few really serious people like Lydia Bastianich who make a real contribution.  It’s all testerone in the kitchen … I just can’t watch these programs.  Until we can get both public television and the Food Network to do shows that make a more genuine contribution, it’s going to be hard to turn it around. …  It just may be we can find somebody with a beautiful decolleté who is also a serious cook and can really teach us.

Not long ago, I asked readers of this blog to suggest cookbooks that they would like to see and it sparked a great dialogue and many interesting suggestions.  What would you like to see?

Judith Jones: I think there should be a cookbook on, and I may do it myself, the whole rhythm of home cooking and what makes it such fun, so creative, and how to buy, how to think through the week, how to, particularly if you’re alone, buy a little tenderloin of pork and how to use it three totally different ways.

And to write a good recipe, and I feel this very strongly, you have to express exactly what you do.  You have to be able to explain well.  Good writing, I like good visceral writing.  One of the things I keep quoting is, “In a bowl, combine the first mixture with the second mixture."  What does that tell you? … Julia would say, “PLOP it in the pan, SMASH it against the…”–visceral words.

I know people here will be curious about what you think about the proliferation of food blogs.

Judith Jones: I must say, I think there’s something very good about them, in that, you’re awfully alone in the kitchen and I think that’s one thing people resist about cooking, but if you share with others, you know, what went wrong with your soufflé, and people can cheer you on and tell of their disaster or success, sharing little secrets, it’s stimulating.

The thing i do have against some of them is that they’re so carelessly done and the language is so terrible.  Four letter words—we won’t name names—they don’t go very well with food!

With thanks to Judith Jones, I am trying to read her book, The Tenth Muse, as slowly as possible because it’s such a pleasure.  About a quarter of the book is devoted to recipes—aspiring cookbook writers, take note on how it’s done!—the rest is Paris, and Julia and Jim and stories of Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden and Hiroko Shimbo, and Jones’s late husband Evan.  My favorite part is Paris after the war but every bit of it so far is excellent.


52 Wonderful responses to “Judith Jones: The Tenth Muse”

  • Kansas City rube

    Excellent takes on what’s going on right now with food TV. It’s sad to think the Food Network drivel is affecting the cookbook market, but I’d sure love to read the cookbook she describes.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Michael and Judith.

  • carri

    Bless ruhlman for moving us along! AND for bringing one of my heroes to your blog…Thank you to Judith for your huge contributions to the world of cooking…over the summer I read Julia’s “My time in France” and it almost made me afraid to try to write the cookbook my customers have been asking for…I’m not worthy! There is so much out there to be shared,though. I’m newly inspired! and to keep the fire alive, I’ve already ordered the book!

  • Heather

    I loved hearing her thoughts on food blogging. Her views on it are refreshingly rational and not just an over-reaction to a few bad players. Glad to hear that someone of her stature recognizes the value of the food blogging community.

  • rmw

    Yeah! to all!! my last blog to the NICA was to put FUN back into cooking..this did it for me Mr. Ruhlman…You and Tony do a great job to your profession. i love to COOK..that’s all, just cook. loose myself to the taste and share with my wonderful family..tonight made a wonderful home southern cooked vegatable soup. We live in North GA mountains, cold tonight..that’s what food is, family, taste, and days gone by…take care Mr. Ruhlman

  • Tom H

    Thank you for posting your conversation with Judith Jones. She is amazingly forthright, refreshing, and her outlook is very enticing and I want to hear more. I intend to run out and buy this book.

    And yes, I already have yours, Ruhlman!


    BuzzDraft/Tom H

  • veron

    I’m glad I’m not crazy for not watching the Food Network. I was finishing one of my electives for a culinary arts certificate and a classmate asked me who was my favorite food network personality.I said ” Uh…I don’t watch the food network.” I tried a long time ago but it just was not giving me what I needed. Thanks for the preview on Judith Jones book, I always wanted to know more about her after reading J.C. “My Life in France”.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Ruhlman you know that if I did not respect you as much as I do I would never, I mean never, watch the Food Network. And honestly, I’ve got to force myself to get through one of those NIC episodes. But you get a pass from me (and I assume Ms. Jones) because you continue to do such an outstanding job of bringing valuable professional cooking knowledge to the public through your books and other serious efforts.

    But from where I sit the Food Network may as well be called the Food Sports and Minstrel Chef Network. Half of it’s programming is modeled on athletic competitions with hyper-masculine pro-chefs, geeky mascots (Sorry Alton, I do respect your intellect and superb elocution.), hot-to-trot cheerleaders and somber know-it-all but perennially in-awe-of-how amazing-the-game-is commentators. The other half seems to be populated by knuckle-dragging male and female goon cooks who sound like they are playing for a tasty treat and a pat on the head from master.

    Food is a prop in all of these shows, and is always secondary to the act and the game. That’s why the shows are successful and also why you can’t learn much about cooking from them.

    Now for the good news.

    The best true cooking shows, have always been and continue to be on PBS and no one really has to learn cooking from TV anyway.

    Anybody who wants to cook well, can buy or borrow a few good books and cook and cook and cook and cook until they come to understand that they are cooking well.

  • Frances

    I’ve probably read more of Anne Tyler’s books than those of any other one author. I’ve always thought of Knopf as the publisher of the highest standards of quality, conscious of every detail, even down to their choice of a typeface.

    Thank you so much for the insight provided by Judith. I look to cookbooks for inspiration as well as instruction. I hope that despite the unfortunate trend toward publishing only celebrity cook books, that Knopf will continue to be a champion for the well-written, insightful, and inspirational cookbook.

    Revolutions in the food world on the scale that Julia precipitated could arguably be said to come about maybe once in a generation. But significant ones can happen any day in any kitchen. All it takes is for someone to be inspired.

  • French Laundry at Home

    >>> Judith Jones: I think there should be a cookbook on, and I may do it myself, the whole rhythm of home cooking and what makes it such fun, so creative, and how to buy, how to think through the week, how to, particularly if you’re alone, buy a little tenderloin of pork and how to use it three totally different ways.

    And to write a good recipe, and I feel this very strongly, you have to express exactly what you do. You have to be able to explain well. Good writing, I like good visceral writing. One of the things I keep quoting is, “In a bowl, combine the first mixture with the second mixture.” What does that tell you? … Julia would say, “PLOP it in the pan, SMASH it against the…”–visceral words.>>Judith Jones: I must say, I think there’s something very good about them, in that, you’re awfully alone in the kitchen and I think that’s one thing people resist about cooking, but if you share with others, you know, what went wrong with your soufflé, and people can cheer you on and tell of their disaster or success, sharing little secrets, it’s stimulating.<<< I'm so glad she articulated the point about addressing the fear people have of being alone in a kitchen. For me, the solitude and the chance to spend time with food on my own is a wonderful thing. And, the chance to write about it and have people share their own experiences has opened me up in ways I never thought possible. For me, cooking is the most selfish thing I do for others. Does that make sense? There's nothing more wonderful than spending hours in the kitchen, by myself, putting together a meal and then sharing that with the people I love. It makes me happy, it makes them happy, and I can't imagine it any other way.

  • StewartFip

    FN panders to the lowest common denominator…they almost seem scared to teach someone something. AB is an exception, I’d have to say. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired, but his show originally piqued my interest in cooking.

    I agree with Bob…if you have a hunger for cooking knowledge, just get a cookbook and cook. Screw it up. Learn from it. Repeat. It’s an organic process, a great feeling. It always takes me at least three tries to perfect a dish…I do it right the first time, totaly screw it up the second, and get it right the third.

    But I have to say, a 24×7 channel dedicated to a pan over flame with food in it would be awesome.

  • szg


    Thanks for the interview. Her insights are both informative and important. But, it’s also a little frustrating. When faced with the question, “What can we do about it, ” the answer is “Television has to change.” That almost begs the question, is television providing what the masses want (hence ratings = $$ for FN) or are the masses simply content to be fed what FN gives them?

    I may be wrong, but I believe FN gives their viewers exactly what they want. The problem for us, as a community of people that care about food and the processes that bring us our food, is that we are nothing more than a niche community. Even worse for us, we can probably even be broken down into smaller sub groups, making it harder for a large mass media outlet to cater to our needs.

    But, the proliferation of cheap media should help our needs. If we can answer what we DO want as a community, then the only obstacle left is to figure out how to get it. Want a primer on basic cooking techniques? Here’s a video blog of Michael Ruhlman in the kitchen cooking. Now, I am not talking TV quality videos with lighting, etc… But maybe it’s one person with a camera and Michael walking us step by step through something. Maybe it’s somebody walking with Alice Waters as she shops for food.

    The trick is to figure out what we want, and then figure out how to get it, and stop complaining that TV needs to change. We have to create the demand, and change will follow.

  • rockandroller

    I think it would be great if there was a “foodie” network, for people who are beyond FN and for whom that just isn’t the right fit. MTV has like 3 channels, maybe this could be a spinoff?

  • Jeannie

    After reading this, I just went to Amazon and bought Judith’s book and really look forward to reading it. The other author/cook I learned about from your blog was Heidi Swanson.
    I agree w/everyone on the FN being drivel. Enough said there.
    I think Judith’s idea about the cookbook on the rhythm of home cooking particularly for very small meals, solo meals is a fantastic idea. I scale down the recipes but I like her description of the rhythm of cooking and when u r buying small portions it is hard to get into it. I have been trying to go w/the seasonality of the Green Market too. So I hope she or someone follows up w/the idea because the concept of one meal flowing into another is great but for me it doesn’t quite work that way.
    Thanks for another great book idea!!

  • jsmeeker

    AS far as food on TV goes, I think PBS still does the best job of delivering the shows that serious food people crave. FoodTV, being a for profit commerical enterprise must target a broad audience to stay profitable and on the air. A FoodTV 2 network? Like MTV2, where it went “back to basics” and showed music videos? Sure. It would be nice. But won’t last. Have you watched MTV2 recently? It’s like regular MTV now. Remember, FoodTV used to be different. But they wanted to grow their viewer base (that’s what media outlets tend to do. Get more viewers/listeners/readers. It’s in their nature)

    PBS is where it’s at. The only bad things about this is that it can vary widely by market. Some stations have a ton of great shows, others air only a few.

    Cookbooks? I still see lots of books out there by people who aren’t FoodTV or PBS celebs. But I’ll be honest. Those are the books I tend to buy. Why? Because I like them on TV and trust them, so I want their book. I think I’d rather have a book from Tony Bourdain or Jacques Pepin or Rick Bayless or whomever than some “random” author I don’t know.

  • Burnt Lumpia

    Thanks for this, Michael. It’s wonderful to get the views of an insider and a veteran of the cookbook business. I will for sure take a look at Judith’s new book.

  • Claudia

    Rocknroller, on satellite, FN DOES have two channels (looks like one might be high def), which I discovered when DirecTV added all the HD channels to our package. Unfortunately, the lineup is pretty much the same shows, but in different sequence – i.e., you will get TNIC on the HD channel at 9 on Sunday, while the original channel is running Diners, Drive-In’s, etc. or something like that. But having two DISTINCT lineups would be great. That way, the Rachael Ray contingent can watch all 4 of her shows on one, and the rest of us need never accidentally click on to a Sandra Lee or ray-ray episode. Now THAT would be democratic and still pull in advertising revenue across the board. If only. If only.

  • WalktheLine

    Now, in the past two months or so, I have checked out/bought many cookbooks. I checked out The Foodnetworks latest compilation. I looked at some Tyler Florence, Ina Garten and Jaques Pepin with Julia. In my earlier years as a cook, I used to believe that I was a walking cookbook, never giving cookbooks a chance.

    When I read Ruhlmans Soul of a Chef a few years ago, he opened my eyes to Thomas Kellar. I have since then read ALL Ruhlman books, pertaining to food and the kitchen. I have also read ALL Bourdains books. I own the …of a Chef series, all /bourdains books (including the Cooks Tour, right after it came out, which I read on a plane to Scotland) and Tony is my hero…I was impressed again by Kellar.
    I just fell into some dough so I came down off my ego-tistical I-know-everything-cooking high horse, grew up a little and I beefed up my personal cookbook library. Right now, my husband and I are doing a night by night menu of Bouchon, a FABULOUS cookbook. In it, Susie Hellar and TK have modified the recipes from the restaurant to be sort of easily made by those who Emmensely Enjoy to cook at home.

    I have pre-ordered your latest book Ruhlman, and I should be recieveing Tonys any day now. I LOVE to read and write and have very much thought about making a non “Rachel Gay” style homecook cookbook, by a Denver local who is NOT on the Foodntwork. I do hope many others, including the wonderful Judith, beat me to it…

    So cheers to you all who take your work home with you and prepare marvelous meals for your frinds and family. Keeping that fire burning~
    Although, me and my husband (both professional cooks) go to blows in the kitchen over who is right or wrong. the end product is always right!

    For great reading on Denver food scene, check out my favorite New York transplant, local foodwriter Jason Sheehan at He really gets it!

  • WalktheLine

    JS Meeker,
    You are spot on about PBS. I do thoroughly enjoy Jaques Pepin, he is a great teacher and Ming Tsai must have said to hell with FN, but I tune in to him every time he is on PBS, which is not often enough in Denver. Like you, I wish we had a PBS that was ONLY cooking shows.

    And Claudia!
    I almost cried when I read your Blog! LOL. I could not have said it better myself!

    And, I think I will look deeper into cookbooks at those “non FN/Publicly known” people like many of us!

  • the pauper

    Food Network is always a great subject here in the comments section. It’s like that saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Except Judith Jones likes herself a redwood forest and FN execs like themselves a maple forest.

    It is great that someone wants to promote better cooking and better cookbooks.

    It is also great that some people out there want to have jobs at a TV network. You know, pay the bills, buy food, maybe even cook at home(!)

    There is some rationale amongst this niche group that perhaps we must have better cooking everywhere! And better eating habits! And down with FN! This has more to do with semantics and perspectives. What does it mean to be inherently good? Or inherently bad? In a world where we can read Hamlet and Harry Potter, and see the usefulness of both… in this particular community of food lovers, there cease to be any voice that says, “why can’t we have both?”

    Suppose FN turned into their lineup into PBS’s food shows, then where do current FN viewers go? What, their cable network doesn’t carry PBS? (which is free?)

    I love that there is this assumption that the “better” or “good” food programming will satiate and convert the current viewers. That’s not a bit condescending? Is it out of the realm of possibilities that viewers of FN actually LIKE it? And is it possible that they have seen PBS shows and still choose to watch FN?

  • Linecook

    Michael, I have to say I’m shocked that you didn’t come rushing to TFN’s defense in this interview. It seemed the perfect place to continue the RayRay leg humping you began in “Reach” (when I saw that, I returned my copy). You could also defend that poor and transparent ripoff of what was a lame reality show to begin with, complete with a second rate Jeffrey Steingarten as host, and a third rate Drew Nieporent and Ruth Reichel as judges.

  • Tammy

    Real food in real people’s lives with real context. That’s what I’d like to see in more cookbooks. And since you rarely get that through mainstream publishing anymore, I turn to blogs. Give me a choice between an overexposed celebrity and an unknown cook who strings four-letter words together passionately, and I just might choose the latter.

  • sailorgrrl07

    How to fix Food Network (which could be, and has at times, done the noble job of helping the masses to understand that cooking is at a minimum a manageable and worthy thing to do vs. a run to Appleby’s or Taco Bell)

    1. Make it, in fact, all about cooking (the actual catchphrase I believe, is “way more than cooking” and not “more than just food”)

    2. Get rid of the stupid competition stuff (won’t happen, but one can dream)…Robert Irvine…. lord help us…who thought that one up?

    3. For the love of God, get rid of “Unwrapped” and “Secret Life” …i.e. video press release mashups

    4. Comedy Central has Adult Swim. Why can’t FN switch to more respectable and non-fluffy (think PBS) quality cooking shows after 9pm?

    As for the “just buy a cookbook and practice” thing, that may work for some. For me, it’s like learning anything else. I do the cookbook, but I also learn faster and better by having a variety of stimuli including watching video. It’s repetition, and evangelization, all at once. It makes me feel good and makes me want to get better.

    We have to be careful to avoid haughtiness—I’ve caught myself doing this. What some call “lowest common denominator” could very well be the 40 something truck driver or 20 something hairdresser who suddenly has that wonderful epiphany during Emeril or Rachael or Bobby’s show and realize that cooking for yourself and for others is a wonderful and valuable thing to do. Who’s to say where the muse should come from.

    I’m going to be reading Mr. Ruhlman’s books after reading the glowing comments here. Will give Ms. Jones’s book a look as well.

    Thanks for your time one and all…I really value this blog more and more.


  • szg


    Fix FN for whom??

    I don’t understand how it is broken. It might work for you, but I bet it is making $$ for the people that run it. They don’t think its broken.

    Want instructional cooking shows?? DVR every Jacques Pepin show you can find. I’ve learned a lot from watching him. Also, check out Simply Ming, another show that shows you how to cook — but more importantly shows you how to use a base in a variety of ways. He also mixes in some good information.

    Oh and the masses? The working Moms that can’t afford to take their families out to a dinner and want to cook, but don’t have time??? Can you say 30 minute meals with Rachel Ray? How about Robin Miller?? I don’t like them, and they don’t do much for me, but somebody out there likes them.

  • Christine

    Great post. Please let Judith know that if she ever writes that book for the home cooks I will be the first in line to buy it. As far as the pro/con food network comments – write to the Food Network. They are not going to change their programming unless THEY hear from you. With all due respect to Mr. Ruhlman – there is nothing he will be able to do to change their programming. One thing to remember, the Food Network has done a lot for the “food industry”. They made the idea of cooking fun and approachable. While it is true they have drifted far from that original idea, the many cookbook authors, food bloggers, restaurants, TV programming (IC, Top Chef, etc.) have benefited from what the Food Network started. It is unfortunate that they have now fallen into the trap of programming for the lowest common denominator. We the viewers are going to have to get them to change by telling them what we want. Otherwise they will just go after the money.

  • franco32

    Sorry to change the subject, but I’m new here. I’ve really been enjoying this blog and thought maybe you all could give me some insight. I’m going to Charlie Trotter’s for the first time in about a month. Maybe someone who has eaten there can let me know what I’m in for. I can’t wait.

    Also, I read that Ruhlman is doing a piece on Trotter for Gourmet Magazine. Does anybody know (or maybe Ruhlman can tell me), when that will be in the magazine?


  • Frances

    I agree with most everything you’ve said, Christine. But I really think people like Julia and The Galloping Gourmet and Jaques Pepin were the pioneers who made cooking fun and approachable.

    To no one in particular: Julia urged women to ask their grocer to stock certain items if they didn’t have them. It may never have occurred to them otherwise. Best of all Julia showed women (face it – we were the majority of home cooks back then) that is’t okay to mess up on occasion. It’s one of the few meaningful times in women’s experience where we weren’t being held up to some impossible standard.

    My mom made some doozies in the kitchen (The Rosie’s Mistake Cake comes to mind – must be where I get it from), but she persisted, mostly because she was inspired by people like Julia and Graham. If Emeril inspires a 12-yr-old boy to go to culinary school, I say more power to him.

    There are loads of people in all walks of life and all professions who are glad to tell you what to do, but can they inspire you?

  • Mer

    Sailorgrrl07 – I’m with you on every point.

    And to szg – you ask why we’d need to fix TFN? Remember during TNFNS when they told Amy to dumb down the French cooking so that it wouldn’t be over the audiences’ head? That’s what we’re talking about- pandering to the lowest common denominator. Give us some intelligence, some class, and teach us something we don’t already know.

    Oh for the days of “Two Fat Ladies”.

  • Mark

    Wonderful post, Michael.

    I’ll skip over some of the more tempting subjects touched upon in your post and other responses and simply thank you for bringing this to my attention. Her book has been added to my to-buy list.

  • WalktheLine

    SZG, your a copycat! lol And, when I lived in the UK, they had the coolest cooking shows. Nigela and Jamie are like thier Emeril and Rachel however, the show I would love to see on TFN is Great Chefs of America/the World

  • sailorgrrl07

    szg: My list was my own personal point of view and like any list you’ll get a different one from everyone you ask. I respect everyone’s view on this.

    FN has run off the tracks in search of ratings and fallen prey to the reality TV crack-addiction just like the other networks. I really don’t see any more merit in “Dinner Impossible” than I do in “Rock of Love.” “Unwrapped” is one of the biggest abominations in terms of wasted time and electrons since “I Love New York.” (My 82 year old aunt enjoys the Jujubes episode)

    On the other hand, good old Rachel wouldn’t be a billionaire if there aren’t people out there who want to learn to cook, who (love her or hate her) actually feel that cooking is more accessible when presented in an enthusiastic way.
    So to me it’s a shame that FN’s ADD has run so rampant.

    Somehow I left the insufferable Sandra Lee off my list. *COOL WHIP*??!? Are you freaking kidding me? “As God is my witness I’ll never cook fresh again!!” 😛


  • Natalie Sztern

    First of all Michael, Kudos for having the guts to bring this to a blog…Bob, u are soooo right…thank god i get three PBS stations cause i no longer watch (other than ruhlman who in my opinion should not cut his hair)the food network, – PBS is all i watch. This is where i get taught by ming and lidia invites me into her house and where rick teaches me about mexico and i sit and truly take notes…and then i am inspired to go out and purchase all the ingredients i need to replicate what i saw them do…the other day i saw a show on Biba and I had forgotten all about her and her cooking shows…those were the good ol’ days when cooking was about human beings and their ability to teach us, to explain the ‘whys and hows’ we should love what we create in the kitchen and never to forget that cooking is not about just creativity but that the basis has always been and should always be: family, firends and feasting..

    As for books, I respect Grant Achatz’s ability for foresee the future of books online and the way he will be marketing Alinia’s new cookbook and i am already on the list, but at the same time, I worry that one day a book will be called a ‘hard copy’, and just like I forget how to pen a letter, I hope that the internet doesn’t make us forget what good writing is…

    This, is not a subject that only affects cookbooks, but the entire world of publishing and bonafide writers should have a concern for all of us and the affect on literacy now and the future

  • Natalie Sztern

    But then, I am not 25…and age is definitely factored into this new-fangled era…so who stops it or at least puts the breaks on a little?

  • Jennifer

    What a great interview? From someone who has been out there for so long.It was great to hear a veteran’s take on the importance of the writing clear recipes as well as blog format. Go Judith! I can’t wait to devour the book!

  • Jennifer

    What a great interview? From someone who has been out there for so long.It was great to hear a veteran’s take on the importance of the writing clear recipes as well as blog format. Go Judith! I can’t wait to devour the book!

  • Stovetop Traveler

    Thank Judith Jones, thank you for Claudia Roden. Back when I was in grad school, reading History, every once in a while I would read something and think “Now, that’s how it is supposed to be done.” Same things happens any time I read one of Claudia’s cookbooks. If I ever get around to writing the great American Cookbook, I know who my role model will be.

  • thespian


    You know what the world REALLY NEEDS? We need them to have an on demand network that would let us tap into the little tv system that Thomas Keller has running between French Laundry and per se. I would probably leave that on my teevee every minute of the day.

    (complete aside, but I know it will interest some people who read here; one of the bloggers at Cat Fud ( posted about his Bourdainey experience eating whale in Japan while there for Worldcon a month ago.)

  • Tags

    Actually, this is a great place to practice before you write to the Food Network.

    It’s also a great place to get ideas.

    It’s also a great place to learn class and grace (especially from Judith Jones), as well as see firsthand what’s possible, good and bad, when anonymity and free speech are combined, er, plopped down and smashed together.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Nostalgia for past cooking shows and chefs, vintage for clothing, designs going retro…doesn’t that tell us something?

  • Frances

    “Nostalgia for past cooking shows and chefs, vintage for clothing, designs going retro…doesn’t that tell us something?”

    That I need a more supportive bra? 😀

  • StewartFip

    It wasn’t long ago I thought to myself: “Jeezus, Ruhlman should be out there blogging…Maybe he has one…On his website?…Holey crap, there it is.” I know it’s tough to put yourself out there, MR, but there are a great many of us that – I’ll say it – NEED this kind of place. Your blog is everything I expected it to be in the 30 seconds between random thought and discover that day. Your post about Judith is a fine example of what I mean. Ignore the douchebags on some other threads that insist on derailing otherwise good discussion. I will not judge your hair…I am squarely situated in a glass house with no right to be throwing stones.

    I watched Julia Child growing up…learned from her that cool way to smash garlic with the side of your knife to get the skin off, stored it away for 20 years, and used it…taught it to my 4 yr old daughter. Anyways, learning about Judith puts some perspective behind those memories.

    And Walktheline? They USED to show Great Chefs of the… series here. I can’t remember what channel. Awesome stuff though. They could show repeats of that on the same network where thespian would have Keller’s direct feed show. And re-runs of Cooking Under Fire. And yes, I would be glued to my TV.

  • WalktheLine

    Yes StewartFip:) I would as well! That would be quality programming for REAL foodies and cooks alike! Oh the possibilities with no gobbledeegook~

  • CriminalDawnCook

    I’m the freak of my family- the only cook on either side. My family would starve to death without their microwaves and takeout. Know what got me started on loving to cook?


    I grew up out in the sticks where to this day they do not have cable. Mom finally bought a satellite dish three years after I left for college.

    We had three local channels..some horrible evangelistic channel, some Spanish channel…and PBS.

    I watched PBS every weekend…Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Great Chefs of the West (and others) The Frugal Gourmet, Justin Wilson, Nathalie Dupree…all of them. It was my favorite part of the week.

    When I had cable three years ago, the only things I watched on FN were Good Eats and Paula Deen, and that was about it.

    Now I love Simply Ming and all the other cooking shows I get to watch since Tacoma has *2* PBS stations. I’m in heaven.

  • doodad

    Speaking of publishers, editors and the like. Michael, what is your book tour schedule looking like these days? Surely as the winds off the lake are building you would like to come south for a short trip and visit Atlanta with your family where your coats and boots can stay in the hotel room the whole time. PS you can bring Tony, we hid the good stuff.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Thanks for the great interview. I have a small glimmer of hope that FN can change – Gavin Kaysen for example, is currently filming his own cooking show for FN, right? I really hope that takes off.

  • farky tahesh

    While I agree with most of the comments here, particularly re: FN, it seems disingenuous at best for any food writer promoting a book to not acknowledge the HUGE growth in popularity of food writing that is directly attributable to FN and its elevation of cooking in pop culture. I include Ms. Jones, and her thinly veiled swipe at Bourdain. One woman’s MF.K. Fisher is another’s chain-smoking Ramones fan. So be it.
    Let people cut their teeth on Emeril, RR, and Giada. Even if 5% of them move on to serious food it’s a victory, right?
    Don’t bite the knife-scarred hand that feeds you.

  • Michael P

    I read your blog regularly but rarely go into the comments and since I’m doing this at the airport don’t have time to go through all of them, therefore if this is a repeat of someone else, I apologize. There’s a lot of neat stuff happening with book production and promotion using print by demand and viral marketing. I’m in the middle of project right now for my business that I would never have considered without these tools that drive the price/risk way down and allow for the targeting of very specific markets. Perhaps this some thing that you should look into as a means of promoting the non-homogenized food and cooking information field?

  • Tags

    Or, if 5% of potentially good chefs lie down and become complacent Food Product Placement Network drones, that’s a definite defeat. I fear the number is already greater than 5%.

    Before I read Michael’s and Anthony’s books, I thought I was learning to cook watching Emeril and Alton. Now I realize it was Alton and Mario all along.

    On the bright side, having Michael crash the party does allow us some optimism that, just like Julia, he can raise awareness of real food, of good, slow food.

  • Bearnaise

    I find I must agree with Ms. Jones. I am buying fewer and fewer cookbooks and we have gotten rid of cable at home since we no longer watch the Food Network. I guess I am interested in the food, not the personality cult.

  • chefwannab

    Food Network does have a second channel, sort of. It is owned by Scripps and it’s called the Fine Living Network. Since Molto Mario is no longer on FN, they must have struck a deal with him to continue airing on the sister channel, because it’s on 2-3 times a day. They also show Simply Ming/East Meets West and a few others that are not on FN. It’s not entirely food-based programming though, and some of the stuff is just as much garbage as most programs on FN (they even have their own Kitchen Nightmares knock off called Heat, which some chef I’ve never heard of and which I never watch.) I love the idea of a Food Network for foodies, but it will probably never happen.

    I disagree somewhat that TV is useless in teaching people to cook. In some cases it might inspire people to try things they normally wouldn’t, because they saw so-and-so do it on TV. Sometimes a recipe may SOUND simple, but SEEING someone do it step by step can make all the difference as to whether they’ll actually attempt it or not. I don’t think Mastering the Art would have sold anywhere close to the number of copies it did without Julia’s show. It is just a shame that now the Julias are few and far between, and all FN wants to do is churn out one talentless pretty person after another.

  • WhatisCanadianCuisine?

    Just wanted to say really quick to chefwannab- the chef you see on Heat is Mark McEwan. You probably never heard of him because he’s Canadian. He’s a pretty big deal over here. 🙂