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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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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
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Top Customer Reviews
My lunch partner was reading this weirdly yellow hardback and slowly choking on his burrito as he chuckled through Page 230 where the author had become a walking grease fire. Now, I can understand the humor behind being lit up like a Christmas tree in my kitchen (I'd done that after turning on the burners without removing my Hungryman TV dinner carton on top of it.) But a whole book of such mishaps?
Ah, my friend urged this book on me and predicted I'd be converted! He would be able to persuade me to go to an eatery that didn't have paper boats of onion rings or plastic packets of mayo. I would want to eat ramps (huh?) and autumn squash! I would want to eat fennel pollen!!
And he was right! I was plastered to this book for the next week and a half. Buford started his quest to understand what goes on behind the professional kitchen, in Mario Batali's restaurant, Babbo. He offers himself as an unpaid servant. He promptly cuts himself while deboning ducks and hunting for their "oysters."
And his whole world is never the same again. After months of culinary bondage, he flies to Italy to roll pasta with Betta (why you make pasta like an old woman, eh?) and butcher tall cows with warbling Dario and carve thighs with the Maestro (of the Monster Hands) in Tuscany.
I suffered with him as Molto Mario roots in trash cans, retrieving celery leaves and lamb kidneys that shouldn't have been tossed in the garbage. I puzzled over the importance of broccoli floret heads to customers.Read more ›
His humility is the subject, really. It makes the story possible, makes the humor irresistable, puts him in situations that most of us are too proud to ever experience, and gives his prose the most winning lightness and warmth. By the end of the book, which I lamented like I was losing a pal, it became clear that Buford is a sort of modern-day Don Quixote, venturing forth into the unkown driven by a vague but powerful sense of childlike curiosity... actually, maybe he is the Elephant Child, repeatedly spanked by the grownups for his "Satiable Curtiosity"... or maybe he's a new breed of Late-Empire reporter, dutifully recording the vicissitudes of our wealth-enabled excesses from the foxholes of gluttony. Fact remains that he has shown us something keenly observed, something that is right under our noses but almost invisible, and he has done it so well because he is so omnivorous in his hunger for experience and so teachable. Here's another stab at describing Mr. Buford: he is the anti-Bond, in no way jaded, un-blinkered by savoir-faire, open to the world, and fantastically observant as a result.
This is great reportage, great story-telling, great humor... I strongly recommend it, especially if you loved Kitchen Confidential and The Reach of a Chef. Outstanding.
The book is entertaining for the most part; hearing about the difficulties of being a line cook in a three-star New York restaurant is certainly interesting. Buford started at the bottom by prepping, including spending hours dicing carrots only to have them thrown out because they were done incorrectly. The book certainly conveys the message that great food requires precision and working in these kinds of restaurants is brutal. Of course, we've seen this same idea before in numerous other "insider" books.
What sets "Heat" slightly apart is the path that Buford takes. When he first starts cooking, he's the "kitchen b*tch" in Batali's Babbo Italian restaurant, and you really don't think he'll make it for more than a few months. However, he becomes enthralled with food, in particular homemade authentic Italian food. He becomes convinced that he has to follow Batali's lead and spend time as an intern in Italy, first learning pasta and then working for a famous Tuscan butcher.
Buford meets some interesting characters along the way and tells some fun stories. However, I could never shake the feeling that Buford was just playing a role. Indeed, he tries to downplay the fact that he entered this world as a writer - we don't get the full explanation of why he started in Batali's kitchen (i.e., to write a story) until page 141.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the 3rd time I am trying to finish this book. I love Italy and I love cooking so I am trying to get through it but It is so slow and I do not find it well written. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Amazon Reader
I wish Bill Buford would write more books. This one was excellent and I didn't want it to end!Published 1 month ago by Erica Y.
Easy and enjoyable read. Most of book takes place in a Batali restaurant. Some of it ok Italy. Feels a bit disjointed. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Maziar Sharafi
Very interesting read. It always amazes me how some people can just pull up stakes and travel the world, doing whatever they want, without a thought to family, job, financial... Read morePublished 1 month ago by S. L. Schrader
I love food, and when I'm not eating or cooking or shopping for food, I read books about food and traveling to eat food. Bill Buford's book is simply delightful. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Fuzzbunbun
This book is outstanding, a more intellectual version of "Kitchen Confidential"Published 5 months ago by Steve
If all you read is the section about Dario the butcher, you'll get your money's worth on this book. It's a wildly entertaining romp through the world of high-end kitchens.Published 6 months ago by Diane C. Carman