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Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 30, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 458 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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



From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Buford's book starts smartly—he first met dynamic celebrity chef Mario Batali at a dinner party at his own home, where Batali sparkled until 3 a.m.—and continues at a fast clip as he conceives the notion of becoming Batali's "kitchen slave." Buford wanted to profile Batali for the New Yorker but also wanted to learn about cooking; he would be a "journalist-tourist" in the boot camp of a "kitchen genius." His subject became an obsession, and over the next three years, he investigated a rich menu of subjects: what makes a three-star restaurant work; what it takes to be a TV food star; the techniques and history of Italian cooking, not just from library research but also from repeated trips to Italy to visit Batali's relatives. Terrific culinary writing tracks Buford's successive passions for short ribs, polenta, tortellini and then the butcher's art, Italian-style, of pig and cow. Along the way, to his own surprise, Buford found that he had become a kitchen insider. This is a wonderfully detailed and highly amusing book from the writer who once took an insider's look at English soccer hooligans in Among the Thugs. 100,000 first printing. (June 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.51 pounds
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1400041206
  • Hardcover : 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1400041201
  • Product Dimensions : 6.59 x 1.28 x 9.5 inches
  • Publisher : Knopf; 3rd Printing Edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 458 ratings
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