Synopses & Reviews
A sharp, funny, informative and deliciously captivating book about writer Bill Buford's year-in-training as a cook at Mario Batali's famous New York restaurant, Babbo, his apprenticeship to a Tuscan butcher, and his quest to make the perfect pasta.
Highly acclaimed writer and editor, Bill Buford, left his job at The New Yorker for a most unlikely destination: the kitchen at Babbo, the revolutionary Italian restaurant created and ruled by superstar chef Mario Batali. Finally realizing a long-held desire to learn first-hand the experience of restaurant cooking, Buford soon finds himself drowning in improperly cubed carrots and scalding pasta water on his quest to learn the tricks of the trade, becoming--in his words--Batali's “kitchen bitch.”
Bill started out of curiosity, of wanting to know how professional chefs cooked and in what ways that differed from what home cooks do. But he quickly became obsessed, and ended up spending a year “locked inside a hot, windowless room,” living “a weirdo life” while going through “kitchen boot camp” -- “a long, arduous, confidence-bashing, profoundly humiliating experience.”
His love of Italian food then propelled him on journeys further afield: to Italy, to discover the secrets of pasta-making and, finally, how to properly slaughter a pig. Throughout, Buford stunningly details the complex aspects of Italian cooking and its long history, creating an engrossing narrative stuffed with insight and humor.
"At an age when other men’s thoughts might be turning to the golf range, [Buford] signed on to the kitchen range... Those familiar with the cuddly public persona of ‘Molto Mario,’ the modern-day Falstaff of the Food Network... will find a more complex figure in Heat. In Mr. Buford’s portrait, Mr. Batali is a combustible mix of high-testosterone swagger and outrageous appetites, generous, maniacal, bullying, foulmouthed–part genius and part madman... Buford is a graceful, vivid writer, and his descriptions of the characters he meets–and the food he prepares and eats–are a joy to read." Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal
"Bill Buford has arrived to chew the fat in delightful fashion, skewering conventional cooking wisdom while enjoying (enduring?) several nerve-racking apprenticeships... His coach, mentor, and, yes, warden is Mario Batali, a garrulous, demanding man who proves to be a dazzling character. Batali is lively, lewd, and shrewd... [Buford] benefits from Batali's bombast as well as his own wry mixture of zeal and self-flagellation... As for Heat, its meaty morsels will leave most readers pining for a second helping." Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor
“[Buford] carries on the Hemingway tradition in American letters. Men come to know themselves and achieve transcendence through physical suffering... Buford develops a superbly detailed picture of life in a top restaurant kitchen and the way professional chefs and their minions operate. It is every bit as revealing as Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, with less of the bombast and posturing ... Buford struck pure gold in the hard-living, frantic, endlessly quotable Batali, [who] is exuberant, conniving, creatively profane and ingenious when it comes to devising new dishes and selling them to the public... [Buford] picks up on the intricate sociology of the kitchen and expertly conveys the interplay of ambition, jealousy, dedication and hard-earned craft... Heat is a sumptuous meal.” Wiliam Grimes, New York Times
About the Author
bill buford is a Staff Writer and European Correspondent for The New Yorker. He was the Fiction Editor of the magazine for eight years, from April 1995 to December 2002. Before that he edited Granta magazine for sixteen years and, in 1989, became the publisher of Granta Books. He has edited three anthologies: The Best of Granta Travel, The Best of Granta Reportage, and The Granta Book of the Family. Bill is also the author of Among the Thugs (Norton, 1992), a highly personal nonfiction account of crowd violence and British soccer hooliganism. For The New Yorker, he has written about sweatshops, the singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, and chef Mario Batali. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1954, Bill Buford grew up in California and was educated at the University of California at Berkeley and at Kings College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a Marshall Scholarship for his work on Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. He lives in New York City with his wife, Jessica Green.