After graduating from Duke University and stints in journalism and odd jobs, Michael — 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. This was followd by Bouchon in 2005, 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's book with Brian Polcyn on charcuterie for the home cook was published in 2005 and The Reach of a Chef was published in 2006.
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