Michael Ruhlman has made a career out of dissecting the relationship between chef and food. His three Chef books — Making of, Reach of, Soul of — are elegantly constructed stories about the life of a modern chef, from culinary school to semi-celebrity. His cookbooks range from the concise and unfussy Elements of Cooking to several glossy, pornographic tomes co-written with name-brand chefs.
He's also the kind of guy who hangs out with Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali, glorifies cured meat, and writes with unapologetic candor. He and Bourdain lambasted the culture of the TV chef with their own alternative awards show at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival two years ago.
In Ratio, though, Ruhlman turns back to what he started in Elements of Cooking, namely injecting something of the professional chef into the home kitchen. The core concept is that ratios are the fundamental building blocks of all cooking, by defining and understanding those ratios the home cook will begin to understand food at it's base and begin to think beyond recipes.
Ratio is not the kind of book most people will slap open on their kitchen counter to make a quick custard for dessert. It's shaped like a traditional hardcover novel and the few pictures are in black and white. But, like a good hardcover novel, Ruhlman can be gripping. His opening chapter immediately convinces that with a mere basic understanding of his list of ratios, I'll be able to innovate and experiment willy-nilly with great success.