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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
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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.
Top customer reviews
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The book is easy to read and thoroughly entertaining. The second half in Italy can get just slightly tedious, (which prevents a perfect score), but the last chapter is a great payoff and ending to the book. A must read for fans of food and those contemplating a life as a chef.
In the end, Buford is a somewhat polished gem. I loved the detail he included in Heat about the move he made to grillman and the proximity in which he worked to a hot oven. This is probably the best book ever written about the horizon of knowledge it takes to be a top chef in the finest restaurants around the world. Here's how much I liked Heat. When I am out on a book scouting mission, if I find a used copy for a reasonable price, I buy it for friends that love to cook - and have restaurant cooking as an avocation.
A well-written, entertaining read.
Note: This is the first book I read on my Kindle - some observations:
- I liked being able to download the sample (roughly the first chapter) to decide if I wanted to pay for the whole book
- Once I finished the sample it was just a press of a button to get the full book - but I had to find my place again - there was no synchronisation of the last read page of the sample to the full-lenght book
- The Kindle is easy to hold, but the page turn button should be positioned higher up the side of the device to allow holding and paging to be done with a single hand more easily
- I had difficulty going back to find a previously read passage the way I would with a paper book - with a paper book you remember more or less where the text was on the page, and what preceded it. With the Kindle, the page layout is dynamic, and there is no right versus left. So some adjustment in reading habits is required!
- The airline I was on didnt let me read the Kindle during take off and landing - and as this was my only reading material - I had to sit doing nothing for the start and end of the flight
Most recent customer reviews
A few points on this book:
Follows Bill for the majority of Heat, while occasionally...Read more