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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

Author: Bill Buford

Buford—author of the highly acclaimed best-selling Among the Thugs—had long thought of himself as a reasonably comfortable cook when in 2002 he finally decided to answer a question that had nagged him every time he prepared a meal: What kind of cook could he be if he worked in a professional kitchen? When the opportunity arose to train in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo, Buford grabbed it. Heat is the chronicle—sharp, funny, wonderfully exuberant—of his time spent as Batali’s “slave” and of his far-flung apprenticeships with culinary masters in Italy.

In this fast-paced narrative, Buford describes the frenetic experience of working in Babbo’s kitchen: the trials and errors (and more errors), humiliations and hopes, disappointments and triumphs as he worked his way up the ladder from slave to cook. He talks about his relationships with his kitchen colleagues and with the larger-than-life, hard-living Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters.

Buford takes us to the restaurant in a remote Appennine village where Batali first apprenticed in Italy and where Buford learns the intricacies of handmade pasta . . . the hill town in Chianti where he is tutored in the art of butchery by Italy’s most famous butcher, a man who insists that his meat is an expression of the Italian soul . . . to London, where he is instructed in the preparation of game by Marco Pierre White, one of England’s most celebrated (or perhaps notorious) chefs. And throughout, we follow the thread of Buford’s fascinating reflections on food as a bearer of culture, on the history and development of a few special dishes (Is the shape of tortellini really based on a woman’s navel? And just what is a short rib?), and on the what and why of the foods we eat today.

Heat is a marvelous hybrid: a richly evocative 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 the workings of a famous restaurant, and an illuminating exploration of why food matters.

From Publishers Weekly:
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.
© 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
$25.95 (hardcover)
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