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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)

by Bill Buford

Other authors: Mario Batali (Subject), Marco Pierre White (Subject)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,751865,288 (3.78)82
Writer Buford's memoir of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook. Expanding on his award-winning New Yorker article, Buford gives us a chronicle of his experience as "slave" to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali's three-star New York restaurant, Babbo. He describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from "kitchen bitch" to line cook, his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters, and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria.--From publisher description.… (more)
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English (83)  German (2)  All languages (85)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
I read Buford's second book first (Dirt), and I think I liked it better. However, there was still some interesting stuff in here. Certainly Mario Batali's gross behavior is on full display, and I think maybe I am just a little disappointed that Buford seemed to be just fine with it. In fact, at one point he even said he "loved" the rowdy and abusive nature of the kitchen. I suppose, given the time and the general atmosphere of commercial kitchens at the time (and still, really), it didn't occur to anyone to object or maybe they worried their jobs may be on the line if they did. It was still a little uncomfortable though.

I also didn't enjoy how Buford seemed to have such a hard time understanding or accepting the poetry of the work and passions of the people in Italy. He boils the chianina down to economic ideas and dismisses the awe and beauty that the owner tells him about, for example. That's really disheartening coming from someone who is A) so obsessed with the origins and techniques of food that he works in kitchens for no pay to learn and write about it, and B) an editor of fiction, claiming to be a very literary kind of guy. There is value in the economic and historical considerations, yes, and I am glad they were included, but there is also value in the art and sentimental aspects as well and the way he blew them off made me a little sad.

So why still four stars? Well, because I still love learning vicariously through his crazy ideas to go get dirty an gain such an intimate knowledge of one thing. I also enjoy the crazy characters he meets in these places. Besides, I think he finally understood the poetry of it all when he went to France in Dirt, so I can appreciate Heat for all its good qualities having read Dirt first. ( )
  BonBonVivant | Jan 18, 2023 |

ARGH.
Warning: this book will make you hungry for food, and travel.

What a ride!
I thought I knew enough about Italian food and all things Italian till I read this. New words, places, and dishes I knew nothing about. Very interesting, and I assume it would be highly enjoyable for foodies and people who appreciate reading about food in great detail. And a MUST-READ for people who are sure they'd love this, and those who plan on someday going on a culinary adventure.

I'd like to note that I was not particularly a fan of Batali: I didn't follow his cooking much, and I still enjoyed this book. The memoir is written by Bill Buford and his experience and transformation from an average guy who cooks at home and fails often to a skilled cook; however, Batali is mentioned so often that you forget you're reading a memoir and not a biography of Batali.

I didn't appreciate the parts where he went on and on describing Tuscany and the Butcher's place. It was slightly boring. Maybe I'd re-read it or appreciate it more when I am interested about meat parts or slaughtering animals.

At the end of the memoir, when Batali asked Buford if he'd like to own his own restaurant now that he's a pro - and I was shocked by his answer: "No."
He wanted to remain a cook - just a cook, and not become a chef. He did it for LIVING, not as a job. It made me rethink a few things.

Overall, a good read! A quote from the book:

"I once asked Mario what I could expect to learn in his kitchen.
"The difference between the home cook and the professional," he said. "You'll learn the reality of the restaurant kitchen. As a home cook, you can prepare anything any way anytime. It doesn't matter if your lamb is rare for your friends on Saturday and not so rare when they come back next year. Here people want exactly what they had last time. Consistency under pressure. And that's the reality: a lot of pressure.""

( )
  womanwoanswers | Dec 23, 2022 |
החלק הראשון של Dirt
הרפתקאותי של ביל במסעדה איטלקית מפורסמת במנהאטן ומסעותיו לאיטליה ללמוד להכין פסטה ולהיות קצב. נחמד ומבדר אך פחות ממוקד ופחות משכנע מאשר החלק השני ( )
  amoskovacs | Oct 31, 2022 |
This book took me a long time to get through, but not because I wasn’t enjoying it immensely. It was more like the process of butchering and eating an entire pig, as he describes in the book: careful, slow, delicious work. I would think about it when I wasn’t reading it and look forward to getting back to it. I think my favorite aspect that sets this apart from other great restaurant books is that he’s an outsider coming in to the worlds he enters: upscale eateries, folk Italian food preparation. That made it relatable in a way, even though I’ve never worked in a kitchen in New York or cut out a bistecca in Tuscany. The part of course that left me dissatisfied was the bookend role that Mario Batali plays in it. Of course this was before the allegations came to the surface, but there are also allegations themselves that are related by the author. That left a bad taste in my mouth, even worse than the idea of 20 dirty pans falling into the $105-pasta-water at the height of service and not changing it out. ( )
  graceandbenji | Sep 1, 2022 |
What is the source of Italian cooking? The author, Bill Buford, sets out to find it by working in the Babbo kitchen. And then, he travels and works in kitchens all over Italy chasing this elusive question. Did it come from France? Maybe, as it turns out. What a story he tells of his experiences along the way. ( )
  Katyefk | May 26, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buford, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Batali, MarioSubjectsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
White, Marco PierreSubjectsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kramer, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jessica ... che move il sole e l'altre stelle.
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The first glimpse I had of what Mario Batali's friends had described to me as the "myth of Mario" was on a cold Saturday night in January 2002, when I invited him to a birthday dinner.
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Writer Buford's memoir of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook. Expanding on his award-winning New Yorker article, Buford gives us a chronicle of his experience as "slave" to Mario Batali in the kitchen of Batali's three-star New York restaurant, Babbo. He describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from "kitchen bitch" to line cook, his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters, and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria.--From publisher description.

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