Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
My favorite grownup is my paternal grandmother. Born and raised in Waxahachie, Texas, she had deep roots stretching back to Colonial Virginia, red-dirt South Carolina and all the states in between. She coild hardly boil an egg. Kevin Gillespie's grandmother could make anything edible. For both of us, tho, grandmothers are a touchstone for food as family, food as hospitality, food as history and identity. I read Kevin's cookbook from cover-to-cover in one sitting. He's that good a writer. As for the recipes, this is a unique cookbook, I've never seen anything like it and I've about 200 cookbooks in my collection, and 30 years of Gourmet. Rather than a division into starters, mains, sides and desserts, he's given us a startling insight into thinking about American cooking, and American eating. Three categories of recipes make this clear and memorable. He revisits some old school classics and makes them new again, by showing us how to bring their flavor out, and cause us to forget unfortunate versions from our past. Next is a set of recipes for food some or many people profess to hate, like liver, sweetbreads, and okra I suspect even my husband who actually loves all of those, will want to try Kevin's version. And of greatest interest to me, living in California, but with a Southern grandmother and now a daughter whose adopted the South as her home, Kevin's fashioning of the foods he grew up with, from both red-dirt and low-country. Top Stuff!
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2012
"Bacon Is My Jam"! This has become my cooking mantra since I first heard Kevin utter that phrase on Top Chef (Man, I wanted you to win that contest). This mantra was certainly reinforced seeing the look on Daniel Boulud's face when he tasted that bacon jam - a look of revelation. This book is Kevin and it too is a revelation of him and his cooking. I can just hear his voice with every turn of the page (one frequently used word I wish you'd left out). Good, fresh, local, seasonal ingredients are his instruction to you. There are plenty of recipes and photos so you can cook Kevin's food. Nothing wrong with that! However, you can't shake the encouragements that Kevin wants you to stretch out and begin to cook your food. I loved watching Kevin cook on Top Chef. The stories in this book gave me insight into the how and why he cooks as he does. This book is clever, sharp, and informative. I cannot recommend it more highly. The table of contents is very creative and just sets the tone for a delightful experience. Well done Kevin! Recipe for Bacon Jam is on page 309. I am a happy man!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2014
I want to love this cookbook, but so far, I'd give it somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars. Of the recipes I've made, they seem to fall into either the "very good, definitely make again" category or the "very underwhelming, don't bother" category. In the former, the Tomato-Braised Greens are simple and delicious. There are no obscure or difficult-to-find ingredients and the results are just plain good Southern eating. We also loved the Chorizo Hash Stuffed Potatoes. The lime creme fraiche was a delicious discovery. The Ricotta-Stuffed Poblanos are wonderful as well. In the later category, I would have to say the Southern Revival Potato Salad was a very much just ok and certainly not in my top five potato salads of all time. I was very excited to make the Tomate Frito as tomatoes in any form are one of my favorite things on the planet, but this was actually inedible. Too salty (and I do use Diamond Crystal kosher salt as many books, including this one, use it as the standard) and too bitter (I think from the orange peel). I actually ended up throwing it out and that is not something I do, um, EVER. I couldn't redeem it. The Grilled Flank Steak was so-so. I didn't love that the marinade left the meat tasting too much of red wine and raw onion for my taste, but the Chimichurri was very good.
As far as how Kevin writes, this cookbook is a fun read and very witty. I'm southern myself, and I can relate to many of his stories and enjoyed feeling that you get some insight into his background and why he cooks how and what he does. I wish I could give it five stars, but my experience so far with the recipes has been too inconsistent to warrant that much praise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2013
This book is all about creativity and innovation, or maybe the best way to describe it is whimsical. It comes from chef Kevin Gillespie (with "A Man, A Can..." series author David Joachim) and the book is "Fire in My Belly" ($40, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 344 pp.).
The whimsy of this book comes from Gillespie's desire to produce something that appealed to cooks who want to use their fresh, locally sourced. seasonal ingredients but at the same time folds in his humor and sometimes irreverent approach to food. By his own words, this isn't a cookbook of complex recipes that one might find in top-end restaurants. Instead, Gillespie intended this to appeal with home cooks with a sense of adventure. And it all starts right up front, when you read the names of the chapters on the table of contents page: Food You Thought You Hated, My Version of Southern Food, When I Want To Eat Healthy, Some Like It Hot, Food + Fire = Delicious, Junk Food and Nuts and Bolts. You can tell right away this book is going to be a departure from the norm.
Its probably no surprise to you that I really enjoyed the Food + Fire = Delicious chapter, especially the recipe for Barbecue Chicken with Alabama White Sauce. Gillespie pays appropriate homage to Big Bob Gibson's for making this dish so widely known and Cornell University for its development of the famed Cornell chicken. He weaves all this into a telling of a story around the dish and finishes with a concisely presented recipe. As a matter of fact, that's how this whole book is constructed - Gillespie's stories, whether personal experiences or his knowledge of the food, accompanied by the recipe and a sensible graphical layout with plenty of full-color pics. It makes for probably as interesting of a read as you're going to get in a cookbook.
Gillespie is probably best known for his run on Bravo's "Top Chef" television series in 2009 where he was voted fan favorite and reached the final three in the competition. He's truly a character and a savant simultaneously. An Atlanta native, he turned down an engineering scholarship to MIT to go to culinary school instead, then worked in many of the city's noteworthy establishments before landing at the outstanding Woodfire Grill. It was there that his culinary chops were fully put on display - especially after an 18-month departure to Portland and return - and Gillespie began generating buzz all over town. He just left Woodfire Grill this past December to work on his newest project: his own new restaurant, Gunshow, which is slated to open this month. If the restaurant is anywhere near as great as his book, we'll be hearing plenty more about Kevin Gillespie in the near future.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2012
I have an eclectic collection of cookbooks: from CIA textbooks to Thomas Keller, to Modernist Cruisine or Alton Brown. I collect and read cookbooks (for the knowledge), but for the fun of it as well. And Kevin Gillespie's Fire in my Belly is a worthy edition to my bookshelf.

In the forward, Chef Gillespie speaks about getting people to just enjoy food, family and friends, is the fire in his belly. I have always felt that, and honestly, it resonates with his restaurant in Atlanta, Woodfire Grill.

The book has a unique setup; no longer does it describe "firsts" or desserts. The book is designed to help you make what you are feeling, from Healthy Eating to Junk Food (with my favorite, the Closed on Sunday Chicken Sandwich).

Reading the book feels like having a friend discuss food, or what you are going to have for dinner. And that is what this is. An extremely easy read cookbook, without the complicated Modernist techniques (though awesome), designed for the home cook to make a great family meal.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2014
Fire in my Belly is a terrific cookbook. But more than that, it is a glimpse into the life of Chef Kevin. I recommend reading it like a novel before you try any of the recipes. Kevin/David really did a great job of bringing Kevin's history to life in the book. I find the stories as much or more inspiring as the recipes. I've tried many of the recipes in the book. Some favorites are the Coca-Cola pot roast, the imitation chick-fil-a sandwich, the fennel/orange salad and the salmon croquettes. I've eaten at both Woodfire Grill (when Kevin was there) and Gunshow. I love how Kevin's recipes help you make restaurant quality meals at home. This book is a fantastic, real-life translation of how to cook restaurant quality dishes at home. Kevin - write another one!!! You can't go wrong buying this book, whether you love to cook or just enjoy Kevin's personality. A must-have for home cooks and people who believe making great food for the family equals love. Kevin, bring us volume 2!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2014
Beautifully written, but more importantly the recipes are so good I eat foods that I normally hate. The root veggie soup has not a single veggie I like on its own; I crave this soup all winter.
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on March 3, 2015
If you liked Kevin on Top Chef as much as I did, you should 1--% get this book, non prime it was only $14 shipped and worth way more. He has tons of personal stories that are very entertaining. I haven't made any recipes but his brilliance shows through in very different ways than other cookbooks. I hate making roux for mac and cheese, but it was the best way I knew how. He had the same problem and figured out that adding velveeta instead of roux could do exactly what you wanted - nothing short of brilliant. Same for his fix of baked wings - usually they are soggy and gross, so he pan fries the skin, then puts them in the oven. I think he deserves a nobel or something for these very simple yet brilliant insights, not even kidding. I can't wait to try these things out. There are lots of non-junk-food recipes in case you're worried. If you're not the biggest Kevin fan, I'd give it 4 stars for being fun and having some nice stuff, but this is much better if you already know who he is and what he's about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2013
I really love this cookbook! Besides being delicious recipes, there are many ideas and very interesting stories about the author!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2013
Love the stories and the salmon croquette is one of my favorite... would recommend this book to everyone that loves cooking.
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