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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 (2006)

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany (2006)

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3.87 of 5 Votes: 5
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1400041201 (ISBN13: 9781400041206)

About book Heat: An Amateur's Adventures As Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, And Apprentice To A Dante-Quoting Butcher In Tuscany (2006)

Ugh, amazing. Buford is a great writer. Just the language is seamless and subtle and doesn't betray a lot of the mechanics and transitions. He does make the occasional mistake (sometimes repeating himself, mangled chronological sleight of hand, and the transition into "Apprentice" illustrates the importance of word choice, "personal demons" to mean his obsession with butchery and not family issues) a little more noticeable, but who cares. The structure astutely uses the mantra: form follows function. Heat's function or purpose is Buford. The point is to follow Buford's quixotic journey into food. The structure follows Buford's research and journey. We start with Batali and Batali's history, using clearly delineated history as we chart both Batali's and Buford's kitchen trials. The two are not directly paralleled and Buford mainly uses the comparison to poke fun at himself. As Buford establishes himself in the kitchen, Buford quiets the history on Batali and eventually Batali all but disappears and Buford steps to the fore.The point is not Batali. He's the hook, but not the point. Heat is a great example of creative nonfiction in its use of characters. The characters feel made-up, they have a depth and a roundness that makes you think he thought them up, but instead Buford has selected details to make us see them as round characters. I particularly loved Andy, Caesar, and the Maestro, characters that say more through absence and silence.Heat has great tension between his status as not an outsider and not an insider. This tension follows through in the tone, which is a delicate mix between detachment and intimacy. Buford succeeds at this precarious mix mainly through his wry sense of humor, most of it directed at his own ineptitude. Here, Buford's technique is more noticeable than elsewhere, but it is an effective usage. He uses a lot of nonrestrictive clauses in his syntax. He has his own loosely codified system of rules for these nonrestrictive clauses--quotes go in parentheses, comedic asides in dashes, and loose "voice" asides in commas. Oftentimes a lot of nonrestrictive clauses can lead to some difficulty reading because the sentences become so long, but the wry humor helps Buford combat this tendency.In many ways I think Heat is about the cult of foodie culture. Buford is very aware of the inconsistencies and impracticalities inherent in it even as he talks up the Pollan myth (organic, slow food, locavore, etc.). He starts with the cult of the chef to draw in the reader. Batali is great for this because he is such a personality, but the reader sees the production side of things and gets to see "behind the curtain." I was particularly fascinated by the anecdote of Batali preparing easy fan-interactions he could pull out when someone recognized him after his first fan was disappointed in his normalcy. This section ends with the equally fascinated discussion of the Food Network and its move away from Mario, away from personality and into presentation and food porn. Then, Buford moves on to the cult of authenticity, or the idea that the best of anything is only available at the source. So Buford travels to Italy to study pasta-making with Miriam. Lastly, Buford ends with the cult of ingredient. In his case, meat. He makes a sizable error in calling his obsession with meat a "personal demon." This section bookends an interesting discussion of the "inter-office" squabbles of a top tier New York kitchen so to cut it right off at what might seem like the most dramatic point was an interesting decision (a mistake I would say). Also, calling it a "personal demon" brings up the specter of alcoholism and drug abuse, not meat addiction, but I can't help, but love this section for its characters.As Buford goes deeper and deeper into his quixotic quest to become an "artisan" butcher, we reach the ne plus ultra of this insider/outsider tension. Buford is now physically 100% in the Maestro's world, but mentally he begins to inch out, and we as the reader begin to ask, "What is the point of this? Does Buford want to be a butcher? Open a restaurant?" This moment is important because the answer is of course something along the lines of he wants to do all these things AND write a book about it. Buford toes the line and doesn't make me question his intellectual curiosity and honesty. He underlines this point with the story of Batali's night out, where Batali point blank asks him if he wants to open a restaurant. Buford's answer validates the position of the "amateur" in foodie culture.

Book ReviewHeat by Bill BufordReviewed by Tom CarricoBill Buford is a former editor of the “The New Yorker” magazine, founding editor of “Granta” magazine and publisher of Granta Books. His hobby was cooking. He cooked for friends and business associates and on one occasion for the renowned chef Mario Batali. That occasion prompted Mr. Buford to quit his job at “The New Yorker” and sign on as an unpaid intern at Batali’s three star Italian restaurant Babbo in New York City. This book is part memoir of that experience, part travelogue, part history of Italian cooking and part observatory character studies of the eccentric personalities the author encountered. Add to this mixture a large aliquot of humor and you have the recipe for a thoroughly enjoyable book.The memoir portion of the book details his rise from “kitchen slave” to line cook (which included a stint at the grill station) and finally to pasta maker. The author’s misadventures, including dicing the carrots too small, multiple injuries (including splatter burns and minor lacerations) and wasting food are all humorously documented. The amazing aspect of all of this to me was how much this experience (although only lasting about a year) was reminiscent of my surgical residency. The graded responsibility, the general fault-finding and learning from mistakes all seemed remarkably similar to that experience. Initially, his superiors criticize every move and use every mistake as a “teaching opportunity” (usually involving screaming). As he moves up the responsibility ladder, Mr. Buford relates his frustration when the kitchen manager (who in my mind represented the Surgical Chief Resident) demanding that certain orders be replated immediately for no apparent reason. The even more fascinating portions of the book come about when Chef Batali talks to the author (“talking” here includes earsplitting fits of anger) and informs him that the only way to truly understand the art of cooking Italian food was to go to Italy and learn it first hand. This is, in fact, the way Batali learned. The author does indeed make many trips to Italy. First he learns the fine art of pasta making from women who run a small restaurant and were taught their skills by their mother and their aunts, who in turn were taught by their mothers and aunts. The reader learns the difference between pastasciutta and pasta fresca, when the egg was first introduced into the ingredients (it turns out nobody, including the curators of the Pasta Museum in Italy, are exactly sure, although sometime in the 13th century is a good guess), and why machine made pasta is unacceptable. On a return trip to Panzano (near Tuscany), Mr. Buford learns the art of the butcher from Dario Cecchini, who comes from a long line of master butchers. Dario has the interesting habit of intermittently screaming long excerpts from The Divine Comedy alternating with singing excerpts from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” while he works. These “performances” are fueled by generous amounts of alcohol. The meticulous care of knives, the various cuts of meat from pigs and cows and the appreciation for the preparation of meats as an art form are detailed. The cast of characters which Mr. Buford meets while working at Babbo (including the maestro Batali) and traveling and living in Italy is colorful and very amusingly described by the author and is one of the strengths of Heat. This cast includes the characters already described above as well as the other restaurant workers who jealously guard their secrets of success, the Italians who courageously defend their ancient cooking arts in a modern world as well as the menagerie which makes up the restaurant world in New York City (including patrons, competing chefs and newspaper food critics). I don’t know if this was the best book to read while trying to adopt a “heart-healthy” diet and mode of living, but I know that even under those circumstances this was a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining, humorous and even informative book. Heat by Bill Buford is available in trade paperback from Vintage Books.

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THIS IS A FAVORITE!!I read this book on vacation and it completely altered my state of mind! I was transported into the world of a commercial kitchen, and then to Italy for historic preparation of handmade pasta. Bill Buford is a delightful author, funny and a little insane.Only two complaints about this book. First, I was disgusted when he went to work for a butcher and, in great detail, described his new expertise. I sped read through that chapter, but I've eaten primarily vegetarian for more than 20 years.Second, he doesn't talk about his personal life AT ALL. Come on, you have a wife who is forced to put up with your manic adventures -- forfeiting your stable 23-year career in journalism in order to work in a restaurant until 4 a.m. each night, arriving home smelling like holy hell, I am sure. I think we need to know a little bit about how she handles you!Otherwise, I adore this book and his writing style. Don't miss it! He'll leave you inspired in your own kitchen!

I started reading Heat without any prior knowledge of Mario Batali. I'd never cooked from any of his cookbooks, or seen his show. That said, the book was an interesting look at his life - an absolutely crazy one filled with gluttony, extreme restaurant hours and seemingly never-ending partying.But the focus of the book is not only Batali (although he steals the show, in my opinion). Actually written by Bill Buford about his time spent in one of Batali's restaurant kitchens (Babbo in NYC), Heat also tells the story of his progression from home chef (and former New Yorker writer) to that of a line-cook and ultimately a pasta maker at the restaurant. It also serves as a memoir of his own time spent in Italy learning to cook pasta and butcher, as well as a history of Italian food. I felt that the most interesting parts were those chronicling his time in the kitchen at Babbo and telling Batali's personal story. The parts that, in the end, were the least interesting to me were those detailing the regional gastronomy of Italy, or the history of pasta... even as a person interested in food and cooking, some of these histories just went into too much detail and were too lengthy to hold my interest (for example, a seemingly unending chapter on when and why cooks starting adding eggs to their pasta dough). I was starting to lose interest in finishing the book, but what I found to be the most engaging part of Buford's personal experience (working with one of the best butchers in Italy) drew me back in.Heat did inspire me to check out some Batali cookbooks from the library, because since I finished reading it I've been having some incredible cravings for pasta with Bolognese sauce. It's also another book in the same vein of those that emphasize knowing your food - where it comes from, its quality, and really how to cook and enjoy it - that seem to be all the rage these days. If you: A) are really into Mario Batali, or are: B) willing to hand-roll sheets of pasta until they're translucent, or are: C) considering buying a whole pig at the farmer's market and butchering it yourself in your apartment, this is likely the book for you.

Bill Buford is an editor who determines to find out what it would be like to work in a professional kitchen. Fortunately, he gets the opportunity to find out when he meets Food Network chef, Mario Batali at a baseball game. This book details the stressful world of preparing 3-star meals. It is complete with depiction of kitchen-prejudice, snobbery, recipes and more than you ever wanted to know about what goes into meal-prep. I found the audio version of this book entertaining, informational and hilarious at times. I have more respect for chefs, and particularly line-cooks after listening to this. The dedication, years of free labor, abuse most go through to obtain the status of chef is like few other occupations. Line cooks endure cramped working conditions, constant pressure, while grill cooks live on the edge of being set on fire (at least Buford did!). There must certainly be something to the labor of love moniker placed on food preparation by those who aspire to it. This industry does seem to have an abundance of strong, colorful personalities that were fun to be introduced to via audio book. As far as the Dante-quoting tuscany butcher, I'll steer clear of him. Harmless, but .... that much verve with a butcher knife ... stand back!

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