Special Sauce: Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman on Why Failure Is the Key to Success


[Photograph: Joe Vaughn. Salumi photograph: Vicky Wasik]

The arts of making French charcuterie and its Italian cousin, salumi, are two of the highest forms of the craft of cooking. So when I heard that chef and cooking teacher Brian Polcyn and journalist Michael Ruhlman, the authors of the two definitive books on those subjects, had come out with an app for lovers of charcuterie and salumi everywhere—and there are a lot of them; the book Charcuterie has sold more than 200,000 copies—I knew they had to join me on Special Sauce.

Though I've known each of them for more than 20 years, they had plenty to say that I had never heard before. How did accomplished journalist Michael Ruhlman, the author of 18 books (on food and other matters), meet Brian Polcyn? Answer: when the ultimate chef-craftsman Polcyn was in the process of failing the grueling, 10-day-long CMC (Certified Master Chef) test—for the third time. What is Polcyn's mantra on our favorite food group? Answer: "Fat is our friend. Fat is flavor. We love fat." And what's the guilty pleasure that both of these masters admit to craving? I'll tell you that it has an orange color not found in nature, but otherwise, you'll have to listen to find out. Just as you'll have to listen to find out why both Jesus and Amy Schumer would be at Michael Ruhlman's last supper.

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You Could Be on Special Sauce

Want to chat with me and Kenji? We're accepting questions for Special Sauce call-in episodes now. Are you in a perpetual fight with your significant other over the best way to make an omelette or a red sauce? The best menu for Thanksgiving dinner or weekend brunch with friends? Does your brother make the worst lasagna, and you want to figure out how to give him tips? We want to get to know you and solve all your food-related problems. Send us the whole story at [email protected].