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

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  16,046 ratings  ·  1,592 reviews
From one of our most interesting literary figures – former editor of Granta, former fiction editor at The New Yorker, acclaimed author of Among the Thugs – a sharp, funny, exuberant, close-up account of his headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook.

Expanding on his James Beard Award-winning New Yorker article, Bill Buford gives us a richly evocative chronicle of...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Doubleday Canada (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jul 02, 2007 Kim rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: culinary adventurers
Shelves: finished
I had mixed feelings on this one. It started out swimmingly--I was howling with laughter as the author detailed the highs (including the extracurricular highs) and the lows of the Babbo employment experience. I was shocked (in a highly amused way) by the author's description of Batali. Surely, the soft-spoken, well-mannered guy I cheer for on Iron Chef America could not be telling his servers to "pistol-whip" unruly customers with their unmentionables behind Babbo's closed doors! (If true, as a...more
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 a...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I have to admit I picked this up because Anthony Bourdain was reading it on his show "No Reservations" (and he wrote Kitchen Confidential). This is the story of an editor for the New Yorker who ends up in the kitchens of Mario Batali - it is an encounter of his experiences in the kitchen, plus a biography of Mario, plus a history of food - all at the same time. I really enjoyed this. It took me back to my restaurant days, expressing the outrageous kitchen culture that you would not believe if yo...more
Most food writing is shit. It wallows in superlatives as brazenly as real estate hustings. But really good writing about food makes the heart soar.

This is in the second category. Partially because Buford is so craven, so desperate to GET what it is like being young, dumb and full of come in a kitchen more stuffed with wise-asses and borderline personality disorders than the average martini olive.

Lots of guys take up lycra and the bike for their mid-life thingo. Or get expensive mistresses. Or fo...more
Amanda Wilkins
A must-read for foodies and Slow Foodies.

In one passage of the book, Bill Buford becomes preoccupied with researching when, in the long history of food on the Italian peninsula, cooks started putting eggs into their pasta dough. He decides to go on a quest to Italy and meets with the cook at La Volta, a small restaurant in the town of Porretta Terme. Mario Batali lived and worked here during an internship before going to New York and opening Babbo. He considers the cook, Betta, and all the othe...more
i got this to read on the airplane, and it did an admirable job for that precise purpose. but there's one thing that's a real problem for this book. About halfway through, he ends a chapter saying he has to leave New York to deal with "personal demons." Fine. But he never mentions what they are/ were. And the book is all under the guise of a kind of memoir. If he's not going to tell the reader what those demons are, don't use it as a cliffhanger/ enticement to keep reading. Not only is it suprem...more
I loved this book a whole lot - and warn that should you tackle it, please do so with a large amount of red wine and italian food readily available. Much like it's torture to watch Chocolat without chocolate, it would be rude not to eat pasta and drink red wine while this book's in your life.

The book's an amalgamation of many things I love - cooking, peeking behind the scenes at famous restaurants, drinking wine, contemplating where food does and should come from. Buford spent just over a year s...more
A terrific reading of a hugely entertaining book. The very long title pretty much summarizes the gist: Mr. Buford, a writer and editor, finagles a job working in Chef Mario Batali's NYC restaurant, Babbo, starting as lowly, brow-beaten kitchen prep, and proceeds, without any real ambition, to work his way up, somewhat, in the kitchen hierarchy. This stretch of the book will be familiar to anyone who has read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential," both in terms of restaurant and cooking detai...more
Wow, I enjoyed this way more than I expected! On more than one occasion I ate lunch in my car so I could keep listening. Hilarious, insightful, and mouth-watering. Buford's taste in food is just a bit different from mine - I can't count the pounds of "lardo" that he consumes over the telling - but his journey feels very kindred. Amateur cook learns skills, travels to Italy, appreciates homemade traditional food. Except he happens to be completely obsessive and surrounded by larger than life char...more
Aug 24, 2011 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy food memoirs
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...more
Moira Burke
"Bill Buford likes to surround himself with histrionic people, whose antics frequently cross the line into violence. First, it was the soccer hooligans. Now it's three-star NY chef Mario Batali and Italian butcher Dario Cecchini. You can imagine Buford and Batali, into their fifth bottle of wine in a dim New York hot spot at three in the morning, Buford regaling the imbecilic escapades of the Man United fans in the eighties, and Batali savoring (and interrupting) every detail. Not content with h...more
Let me preface this review with a disclaimer, I am not a foodie; I am an eater. My only interest in food typically is how it tastes, not its journey from field to slaughterhouse to restaurant to the particulars of preparation to my plate to my stomach, but Buford might have changed my perspective. His literary-historical perspective on Tuscan food, his wild, uproarious tales from the life of Mario Batali and the Babbo kitchen, and his engaging portraits of food culture in Italia, were thoroughly...more
Tom Carrico
Book Review

Heat by Bill Buford
Reviewed by Tom Carrico

Bill 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 mem...more
Jan 14, 2008 Carol rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
When I first started this book, I asked my friend Jen what she thought of it. Not much, apparently; she didn't find the author "compelling". It was just boring, even for an amateur cook like me. He describes things (like when egg was first introduced as an ingredient in pasta) that he says most people would not be interested in, and then goes on and on ad nauseum about them. If you know they are not interesting to people, then why go into detail about them? It is odd that he was an editor for Th...more

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...more
Siobhan Fallon
Some of this book is amazing, but I found it uneven as a whole. I picked it up because I was curious about Mario Batali, but the Batali of this book is the least interesting character of all. The final chapters, when Bill Buford goes to Italy to apprentice with a butcher, are absolutely gorgeous.
Bill Buford was an editor at the New Yorker and his breath of knowledge shows. He is best when discussing Italy, everything from the making of tortellini (and the rumor that they are modeled after the p...more
Food as:

- a business
- an artform
- an intellectual interest
- a link to the soil
- a tenuous and evocative link to the past


- recipes (of a sort, since recipes are for home cooks, we learn) for linguine with clams, the tuscan version of beef bourginion, and more
- mario batali is a foul-mouthed drunk who loves the ladies
- restaurant kitchens are no place for the myth and mystery of food (e.g., the $29 bowl of "peasant" soup made from scraps); dried pasta served at high-end italian restaurants

Well, I love the premise of this book, and I began it with gusto (insert lame gastronomy joke here), but it became a little too detailed and meandering in parts for me and I lost interest.

I was really excited by Buford's accounts of working in the kitchen at Babbo, a restaurant I used to walk by, gaze longingly towards, but never ate at. It sort of read like a long New Yorker article, which makes sense, and is a good thing, but began to wear thin when Buford travels to Italy (See Valerie's revie...more
I enjoyed the descriptions of food and of Italy, but I frequently found myself comparing Buford's self-assigned temporary experience as a journalist-turned-culinary-kind-of-person to Bordain's authentic experience as an actual chef in Kitchen Confidential . Overall, I preferred Bordain's account of the fast-and-furious culinary lifestyle.
This is one of the best food-related narratives I've read. The topic, Buford's quest to learn to cook by working in Babbo's kitchen in New York, would probably have been interesting enough to garner four stars. It's a five star book because Buford combines beautiful prose with the type of detailed descriptions and intense self-reflexivity that is at the heart of all great memoirs. Mario Batali is a character whose antics, alone, could fill the pages of several books. But Buford does not allow hi...more
Greg Stinson
This book starts out starting as a bibliography of Mario Batali, which probably would have been interesting enough and sufficient for me, but then it goes in so many interesting directions, particularly towards the question that I wonder about all the time: How was Italian food developed? He focuses this search on one specific question: When was egg added to pasta dough? and goes through several apprenticeships around Italy that fill in many answers.

I found the book beautifully written.

I need to...more
It is not often that a book brings out the worst in me. Reading, after all, is often an opportunity to tap into the better aspects of one's character that otherwise go unexercised in the daily life of an office worker--but this book put me in an ill-temper every time I attempted to finish it. (And I note that it seems as though many, many Goodreads folks also had difficulty finishing it, though for different reasons.) I finally realized that I'm too jealous over Buford's opportunities to enjoy t...more
Therese Bowes
Yes, that's right, I finished the book.

Let me start out by saying that I think it’s a safe assumption that I think about food more than the average person. I am the opposite of the saying “Don’t live to eat, eat to live.” Most days, I live to eat. So it goes without saying that I was thrilled to pick up a book completely about Italian food and one man’s (seriously awesome) journey learning as much about it as possible by working in a NYC kitchen with one of the most renowned chefs and from the...more
I don't think I would ever have picked this book out for myself, but it was the March selection for my book club, so I thought I would give it a shot. It has the trappings of a man's version of the first third of Eat, Pray, Love, but involves a lot more slicing and dicing.

To be honest, it was a bit of a slog to get through, but I persisted and gleaned a few small nuggets of wisdom. I also learned about a semi-famous fifteenth century chef who just might have some connection to my hubby's family...more
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 func...more
Jan 28, 2008 Meghan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all foodies
Recommended to Meghan by: Charlie E.
Shelves: own, food, nonfiction, cooking
As food critic said about Babbo, I say about this book, I would have given it four stars but...

I felt that the story lagged when he worked with the Butcher in Tuscany. But some of the most hilarious adventures happened there two.

"I had concerns....The other was that my apron, which was floor-length, would catch on fire. I rehearsed in my mind the possible scenario. The apron is secured around the waist with a string belt....So that was the first thing--untie it. If I didn't, it could be ugly. I...more
It's official: I'm jealous as hell of Bill Buford. Not only did he get to pursue a passion of his (cooking) with the unbridled enthusiasm of a five-year-old, but he makes a damn good story of this pursuit. I found this book in the discount section of my local bookstore and had to buy it after these opening sentences:

"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 dinn...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! This book is what Eat Pray Love SO wishes it was, and so clearly fails to be.

Buford's tale was a workhorse - at once a biography (of Mario Batali and various other influences in Buford's Life), an autobiography, a travelogue, and an exposé on the restaurant business in Manhattan and in Italy. Buford floats from one eclectic journey and challenge to the next, yet the book's narrative makes perfect sense.

This book made me so hungry - but hungry in a very soulful wa...more
The real problem I have with this book is that Bill Bufford is Mario Batali's bitch. Whenever he is in the presence of Batali, he seems unable to objectively represent Batali as anything other than a kitchen-jock superstar chef. That gets rather tiresome. Sure he goes on to Italy and cooks and learns, but it is never far away from where Batali told him to go or what Batali told him to do. Why didn't Mario Batali just write the damned book himself? Because that would have been such an exercise in...more
Apr 24, 2012 Steve rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: "foodies"
I was so looking forward to reading this book, but in the end it took me forever to finish reading it. I did not realize that his only other book is the excellent "Among the Thugs" (he is the editor of Granta.

I mean, Buford, Batali, and (at the very end for a bit) Bruni. I guess the problem is that everyone else in the book is doing this for a living - to pay the bills. Buford is, in the end, a 'tourist" to the F&B world, and he does not seem to realize that.

Good stories within the book ab...more
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Bill Buford is an American author and journalist.
Buford is the author of the books:
Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
More about Bill Buford...
Among the Thugs The Best American Travel Writing 2010 Granta 43: Best of Young British Novelists 2 Waiting for a Goal: From Among the Thugs Waiting for a Goal

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“In normal life, "simplicity" is synonymous with "easy to do," but when a chef uses the word, it means "takes a lifetime to learn.” 6 likes
“You can't do traditional work at a modern pace. Traditional work has traditional rhythms. You need calm. You can be busy, but you must remain calm.” 3 likes
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