From one of our most interesting literary figures – former editor of Granta, former fiction editor at The New Yorker, acclaimed author of Among the Thugs – a sharp, funny, exuberant, close-up account of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook.
Expanding on his James Beard Award-winning New Yorker article, Bill Buford gives us a richly evocative chronicle of his experience as “slave” to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo.
In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from “kitchen bitch” to line cook . . . his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters . . . and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy,
of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria.
Heat is a marvelous hybrid: a memoir of Buford’s kitchen adventure, the story of Batali’s amazing rise to culinary (and extra-culinary) fame, a dazzling behind-the-scenes look at a famous restaurant, and an illuminating exploration of why food matters. It is a book to delight in, and to savour.
From the Hardcover edition.
Bill Buford's funny and engaging book Heat
offers readers a rare glimpse behind the scenes in Mario Batali's kitchen. Who better to review the book for Amazon.com, than Anthony Bourdain, the man who first introduced readers to the wide array of lusty and colorful characters in the restaurant business? We asked Anthony Bourdain to read Heat
and give us his take. We loved it. So did he. Check out his review below. --Daphne Durham
Guest Reviewer: Anthony Bourdain Anthony Bourdain is host of the Discovery Channel's No Reservations, executive chef at Les Halles in Manhattan, and author of the bestselling and groundbreaking Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, A Cook's Tour, Bone in the Throat, and many others. His latest book, The Nasty Bits will be released on May 16, 2006. Heat
is a remarkable work on a number of fronts--and for a number of reasons. First, watching the author, an untrained, inexperienced and middle-aged desk jockey slowly transform into not just a useful line cook--but an extraordinarily knowledgable one is pure pleasure. That he chooses to do so primarily in the notoriously difficult, cramped kitchens of New York's three star Babbo
provides further sado-masochistic fun. Buford not only accurately and hilariously describes the painfully acquired techniques of the professional cook (and his own humiations), but chronicles as well the mental changes--the "kitchen awareness" and peculiar world view necessary to the kitchen dweller. By end of book, he's even talking like a line cook.
Secondly, the book is a long overdue portrait of the real Mario Batali and of the real Marco Pierre White--two complicated and brilliant chefs whose coverage in the press--while appropriately fawning--has never described them in their fully debauched, delightful glory. Buford has--for the first time--managed to explain White's peculiar--almost freakish brilliance--while humanizing a man known for terrorizing cooks, customers (and Batali). As for Mario--he is finally revealed for the Falstaffian, larger than life, mercurial, frighteningly intelligent chef/enterpreneur he really is. No small accomplishment. Other cooks, chefs, butchers, artisans and restaurant lifers are described with similar insight.
Thirdly, Heat reveals a dead-on understanding--rare among non-chef writers--of the pleasures of "making" food; the real human cost, the real requirements and the real adrenelin-rush-inducing pleasures of cranking out hundreds of high quality meals. One is left with a truly unique appreciation of not only what is truly good about food--but as importantly, who cooks--and why. I can't think of another book which takes such an unsparing, uncompromising and ultimately thrilling look at the quest for culinary excellence. Heat brims with fascinating observations on cooking, incredible characters, useful discourse and argument-ending arcania. I read my copy and immediately started reading it again. It's going right in between Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London and Zola's The Belly of Paris on my bookshelf. --Anthony Bourdain