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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 [Paperback]

Bill Buford
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 26 2007
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.

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From Publishers Weekly

Buford's voice echoes the rhythms of his own writing style. Writing about his break from working as a New Yorker editor and learning firsthand about the world of food, Buford guns his reading into hyperspeed when he is jazzed about a particularly tangy anecdote, and plays with his vocal tone and pitch when mimicking others' voices. At its base, Buford's voice is tinged with a jovial lilt, as if he is amused by his life as a "kitchen slave" and by the outsize personalities of the people he meets along the way. Less authoritative than blissfully confused, Buford speaks the way he writes, as a well-informed but never entirely knowledgeable outsider to the world of food love. Listening to his imitation of star chef Mario Batali's kinetic squeal, Buford ably conveys his abiding love for the teachers and companions of his brief, eventful life as a cook.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Could loving to cook translate into being a professional under the tutelage of the famous chef of a three-star New York restaurant? Buford jumped at the chance to find out. This energetic account of his intense culinary education brings readers into the scalding kitchens where fine food is prepared by obsessive chefs for whom timing is critical and cooking is art. The author entwines the history of pasta with his preparation of it, and he visits the theory that it was the Italians who brought fine cooking to France rather than the other way around. Buford follows the example of his mentors as he travels to Italian villages to serve as kitchen slave to a master of pasta-making and as an apprentice to a butcher to learn to perfect that culinary craft. A journalist for the New Yorker, the author writes with the same gusto with which he cooks. Readers learn how physically demanding professional cooking is, how hard it is on the ego, and how satisfying it can be. This is the ultimate career book for would-be chefs, and a book that noncooks will savor until the last word.–Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inside look like no other Oct. 20 2006
This is not like an autobiography of a chef or restaurant reviewer or an insider in the gourmet food industry. The author, Bill Buford, was an editor for the New Yorker magazine. He met Mario Batali when he invited him to a mutual friend's birthday dinner and then conceived the idea that he should learn what it was like to work in Batali's highly rated New York restaurant, Babbo.

Buford describes what is involved to be a kitchen slave, and later, as he works his way up the kitchen chain, a line cook. His observations and theorizing about the life of those working in a restaurant kitchen are as revealing as those of Anthony Bourdain. Interspersed in these chapters is a bit about Batali's background -- his mother, a French Canadian, is the source of the red hair -- and how Batali started cooking in California before taking himself off to England and Italy to learn from the best. Buford then gets the idea that he should follow Batali's learning path and tries to learn about cooking from Batali's former mentors. This eventually leads Buford to Italy where he apprentices himself to a Tuscan butcher, who quotes Dante and chases away customers he thinks are too stupid to appreciate the quality of the products in his shop. As you read, you also begin to realize that Buford is very obsessive about matters which interest him. He also has a wife who is incredibly tolerant of his long absences and experiments like bringing home an entire pig to butcher and then cooking pork for seven meals in a row.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Intern Oct. 31 2006
Somewhere around the middle of his life, Bill Buford decided that he wanted to escape the confines of a writing job at the "New Yorker" and offer himself up to Mario Batali at the super-chic restaurant Babbo as an intern: as in hard work, long hours and no pay. This is dedication on the one hand and a fulfillment of his lifelong interest/fascination with Food: its history, its preparation, its art as well as its business and technical side on the other.

In "Heat" Buford offers up a Memoir/Diary of his time at Babbo (he aptly calls this his "Kitchen Slave" days) as well as his trek to Tuscany to learn the art of Pasta and to Panzano to apprentice himself to the most famous butcher in Italy, Dario Cecchini.

As someone who has spent most of my life in and around the food business, I recognize so much of what Buford relates: "When I made the decision to become a Chef, I accepted I would never claim a sick day for the rest of my life. It's one of the sacrifices of my calling."

And while working the Grill station at Babbo, Buford waxes poetically: "The Grill Station is Hell. You stand at it for five minutes and you think this is what Dante had in mind. It is in a dark hot corner--hotter than any spot in the kitchen, hotter than anywhere else in your life" Or when Frankie at Babbo explains to Buford the simple pleasure of preparing food: "You make the food, (Frankie) said." "The simple good feeling he was describing might be akin to what you'd experience making a toy or a piece of furniture, or maybe even a work of art...this is an elementary thing that is seldom articulated."

Along with the Memoir musings, Buford also goes into the history of food. For one: When did the Italians begin to use Eggs to bind the flour for Pasta?
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By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
We've all heard the expression `If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," well, Bill Buford not only stood the heat, he stayed in several kitchens, and lived to tell about it in his memoir, which is by turns hysterical, dramatic, and always chock full of information.

The founding editor of Granta and staff writer for The New Yorker, Buford was what we might call a weekend cook, but he had higher aspirations. How could he improve his culinary skills, where could he learn the secrets of 5-star chefs? The answer, he decided, was in a professional kitchen. So, when a rare opportunity came his way - the chance to apprentice in the kitchen of Mario Batali's restaurant, Babbo, Buford grabbed his apron and went for it.

Now, Batali wasn't just any chef to Buford - he was his hero, his idol, a culinary colossus who is a celebrity chef so famous that he's recognized wherever he goes. For this man and the opportunity to learn from him Buford would have done anything (and he almost did), beginning with signing on for the lowliest jobs in the kitchen. Little did he know it was also a firing line where he's spattered with hot oil by an irate sous-chef and berated by the great man himself when Buford unknowingly cooked two pieces of meat the wrong way.

Interspersed with Buford's adventure is the story of Batali and how he rose from humble beginnings at a pizzeria called Stuff Yer Face to become a star on the Food Network.

Listeners will learn there are more confrontations in New York's small kitchens than are found on The Sopranos, discover how these kitchens are run, and be in awe of Buford, a man who followed his dream.

Couldn't be better narrated than by the author himself. Don't miss this one!

- Gail Cooke
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