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5.0 out of 5 stars An inside look like no other, Oct. 20 2006
By 
L. Watson (Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany (Hardcover)
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.

The book is very well written and divulges interesting tid bits about restaurants including the fact that restaurant reviewers, when recognized, will get a better meal than the average diner and ordering dinner shortly before the restaurant closes may mean that the meal is not cooked by the chef who may be finished for the night. But more than anything, this book is highly entertaining as Buford describes scenes such as his multiple maiming of his fingers and the conservation between two Tuscan men replete with insults about each other's genitalia. The book ends with Buford speculating about the origins of French cooking. I can only hope this means another book about his adventures in France.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Intern, Oct. 31 2006
By 
MICHAEL ACUNA (Southern California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ce commentaire est de: Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany (Hardcover)
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? Or when Caterina de Medici left Italy for France did she indeed take all of the Italian Court recipes and Cooks and began the French Cooking tradition? Good questions, easy to answer? Not really and Buford's investigation is fascinating.

Bill Buford has written a terrific book covering all manner of real-life experiences as well as relating his investigations of and on the philosophy and history of all manner of food, social and moral topics. But at the center of "Heat" stands the man Buford himself: committed, dedicated, funny, resourceful and witty as hell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars HYSTERICAL, DRAMATIC, AND FULL OF INFORMATION, June 19 2006
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Lively and sentimental, March 28 2008
By 
Alexander H. Tsang (Calgary, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In Heat, Bill Buford, a writer for The New Yorker, leaves his job to become a cook at Babbo, a top Italian restaurant in Manhanttan. Buford has written a clear and interesting account of his struggles to learn his way in a fast-paced and demanding kitchen as a professional cook, and really brings to life the environment and the personalities of the people that he works with. Eventually, as he becomes more confident in his abilities and his passion for cooking grows, he is drawn to Italy by the desire to learn authentic Italian cooking techniques, including the butchering of meat. As he studies under some of Italy's masters, we are also treated to a sentimental overview of the history and traditions of Italian cuisine. Bill Buford's memoir is a well-written, fascinating book and I really enjoyed it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heat and no heat..., April 16 2010
By 
Barbara Liptak "Ms read-a-lot" (Qualicum Beach, B.C. Canada) - See all my reviews
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Ce commentaire est de: Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany (Hardcover)
A great read until the last few chapters, where it seemed to be filler to complete the book and quite boring.. It was a real eye opener to behind the scenes restaurant life. I do have a different opinion of Mario Batali( not favourable) After I read the book, I 'gifted' it to my daughter who cooks in a restaurant and haven't heard back on her views.
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