Friday, June 15, 2007

Heat by Bill Buford

Such fun. Buford, long the fiction editor at the New Yorker, had always cooked for friends and thought he was pretty good at it. After striking up a friendship with Chef Mario Batali, he decided to see if he could hold his own working in the kitchen at Batali’s restaurant, Babbo. Thus began his tenure as “kitchen bitch”, then line cook and the chronicle of what it’s like to work in an esteemed kitchen, high on pressure, long on ego and professional jealousies and short on tempers and patience. From there, Buford mimics Batali’s path to super-chefdom by going to Italy to learn to cook food where the food is from. He apprentices with a pasta chef in a tiny Italian hamlet and with an eccentric butcher in Tuscany. Here especially, he has a wonderful way with words and brings the character of these real characters to life. A remarkably insightful and entertaining story that follows both Batali’s rise from pizza cook to superstar and Buford’s own transformation from an accomplished home cook to a seasoned, high-profile restaurant-trained cook. Buford also goes into great detail and history about how dishes came to be that borders on the obsessive while remaining readable to those of us who have trouble boiling water.

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