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Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  25,941 Ratings  ·  3,320 Reviews
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Random House (first published 2001)
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Mar 06, 2011 Nina rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 29, 2011 Diane rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, audiobooks, food
On my copy of this book, there was a gushing quote from Anthony Bourdain: "Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever."

I respectfully disagree. I thought Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir was uneven and a bit messy. Some parts were well-written and engaging, and other parts were so tedious that I couldn't wait to be done with the book. Sometimes Gabrielle explains herself well, other times she is maddeningly vague and obtuse. She comes across as both empathetic and also arrogant. Some st
Jul 04, 2011 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the accolades from arrogant *sswipe Anthony Bourdain, I read this anyway. Rather, I gobbled it up in two days. The author is aware that her frigid French ballerina mother is fully responsible for her (prepare yourselves 'cause I'm gunna say it) Freudian obssession with fresh and authentic cooking and she illustrates this without making us wallow with her in endless therapy sessions. I loved revisiting NY's East Village circa 1988--rat carcasses and all-- with her as a tour guide almost a ...more
Dec 04, 2011 Cassy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Foodies
Recommended to Cassy by: Limited library selection
Whenever I read an autobiography, I find myself asking these two basic questions:

1. Can they write?

2. Is their life interesting enough to warrant a book? Because, I'll be honest, mine is not.

To the first question, Hamilton can write. She earned an MFA (for whatever you think that’s worth). I enjoyed both the crispiness of the details, as well their selection and amount. She was also good at analyzing herself, her life’s trajectory, and the food industry.

Regarding the second question, I had mixed
V. Briceland
Apr 06, 2011 V. Briceland rated it did not like it
Toward the end of Hamilton's interminable chef memoir, she admits to having a certain sense of Gallic superiority to the rest of the world. Hoo boy, is that an understatement. While Hamilton's recollections of her unconventional childhood and rise to celebrity as the owner of Prune offer up a credible pastiche of MFA-style literary writing, the author's personality is so off-putting that I found the book nearly unreadable.

When Hamilton is talking about cooking, or about the restaurant industry a
Petra Eggs
May 05, 2015 Petra Eggs rated it really liked it
This is the second book today I've found that I have read and rated and has disappeared from my shelves. This is freaky. There is a thread on it, I've written to support and got nothing back. Obviously I am not deleting all these books. This is so fucking weird and upsetting. I just don't know what to do.

The other book is Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin
Sep 27, 2011 Lauren rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Loved it. At first I thought this was going to be another memoir about "how I fell in love with cooking during my already privileged life". But this one is different. Gabrielle is real. She has had an extraordinarily non-traditional and rough upbringing and is unflinchingly honest about it. So her story is interesting but what I loved most wasn't her unique story but that she is a really, really good writer. Beautiful, I would say. So once I got on board and realized that, I s ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Rocinante rated it did not like it
I often rate books but seldom actually comment on them. I also rarely give a book one star so I feel I must justify it a little.

So the subtitle is the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. That's a little misleading. I didn't really notice any reluctance. Every job she ever had was in food service. And, in her only non-food experiment, the MFA, she ended up deciding she'd rather be in food service. With the exception of a few early stories about her mother, she really didn't explain any of
Apr 13, 2011 Richard rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
Once a sauce breaks it's almost impossible to bring it back together again. Chefs have their tricks, but even with tricks there's no guarantee, and no guarantee the sauce will hold. Most likely it won't. The unfortunate separation in Blood, Bones & Butter occurs at the half-way mark. Of course, I write this at the risk of being way too clever, and maybe it is, but I'm saddened that Chef Gabrielle Hamilton wasn't able to hold her memoir together.

She had me, totally had me for the first 158 p
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Jan 18, 2012 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Buddy Read with Judy
This is not a chef's tale in the fashion we've come to expect from foodie books in recent years. It's more of an autobiography that happens to include a lot of cooking and eating. Put even more precisely, it's an exercise in self-analysis through writing, in which the reader is allowed to tag along.

The book's subtitle is a perfect seven-word description of Gabrielle "Prune" Hamilton's road to chefdom. Her training in the food service industry was as inadvertent as any career path could possibly
Feb 27, 2013 Brittany rated it it was ok
The alternate title for this book:
I Have an Italian Husband (But I Totally Didn't Mean To) and Other Reasons Why I'm Totally a Legitimate Chef.

At first, Hamilton tries to take the Feminist-Answer-to-Anthony-Bourdain angle: I never wanted to be a chef! I was a bad girl druggie! I was in the kitchen being vulgar and sexual with all the male cooks in my kitchen but I was also educated!
Unfortunately, Bourdain actually has wit, something that Hamilton is sorely lacking--some of her stories are inte
Mar 02, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it
This was an exhausting, schizophrenic read for me and I have very contradictory and conflicting feelings about it. In some ways it was both frustrating and off-putting, and yet I really couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. On the one hand it’s probably the best food memoir I’ve read since Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential – and for some of the same reasons - but at the same time I got far more information about the author’s spectacularly dysfunctional personal life than I really wan ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Jackie rated it really liked it
I was unprepared for how this memoir spooled out. I was not familiar with Hamilton, or Prune, her restaurant in New York City, and was expecting a dainty kitchen memoir, even a tough one. But the book turned out to the be story of a marriage, and more, the story of a woman exploring her own identity and soul. This soul is deeply wrapped up in the kitchen, and that is how the kitchen enters the story: it's a background character that defines the shape of everything around it. As a passionate cook ...more
Feb 25, 2011 K rated it really liked it
Gabrielle Hamilton certainly has led an enviable life. Blood, Bones & Butter is an adventure, and, truthfully, I was disappointed when it ended. But I found that while Hamilton is skilled at invoking the senses, she is less adept at reconciling various parts of her story.The resulting gaps within the narrative make it a disjointed and frustrating read and impair what is otherwise a very good book.

Feeling “disaffected” after 20 years in the kitchen, she leaves to pursue an MFA degree. After r

Mar 21, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read an article of hers in the latest Bon Appetite magazine and immediately purchased this book. I absolutely loved it and noticed myself parceling it out so that it would last longer. Even though the final part of the booked felt like it got off kilter and started to ramble, there were just so many great things I loved, that I had to give it five stars.
Some of the winning pages included:
‘Camping’ in the back yard with her brothers and sister ”…that voluptuous blanket of summer night humidity,
Aug 24, 2011 RandomAnthony rated it liked it
Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter is as good a book I've read about the intersection between eating, cooking, and what we do with the hours in-between. Even though I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain fan but his work sometimes make me feel like I'm reading through a filter that stylizes the profession into a restaurant version of a movie like Goodfellas. I'm not a foodie. I microwave cheese on tortillas. Blood, Bones, and Butter doesn't engage in culinary industry mythmaking; the book is abo ...more
Blood, Bones, and Bitter would have been a better title. Her constant subterranean rage exhausted me. Great, she can cook and found a workaholic outlet to hide from all of her unexamined issues. She’s well into her forties and still angry with her mother for God knows what. The big complaint is that her parents divorced and abandoned her for a summer. Yet she was abandoned at her dad’s home and it’s her mom, the source of her love of food and cooking, whom she doesn’t speak with for 20 years. He ...more
Jul 24, 2011 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, cooking, ebooks
Some Obvious Things I Should Already Know that I Learned from Reading Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef:

1. I almost never enjoy food writing as much as I think I will. I certainly don't enjoy it enough to compensate for basic flaws in a book.

2. TMI memoirs are car accidents but vague, guarded memoirs are boring and confusing which is arguably worse. (I still don't get why Gabrielle was so mad at her mother, how she made the transition from untrained caterin
Jun 12, 2011 Alexis rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
Possibly two and a half or three stars. I felt compelled to read this and was interested, but I was irritated by the author. She struck me as really abrasive and strident and I just didn't really like her.

I was interested in the chapters of her early years, and how she came to be a chef and her interest in writing. Her later chapters made me want to visit Italy. But I kept on wondering if I would like her if I met her in person. She seemed incredibly self-absorbed (although most memoirs make yo
Nov 11, 2011 Melodie rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I thought this was a memoir I would really enjoy. Unfortunately, for the most part I did not. Ms Hamilton's unconventional childhood and culinary education were interesting.Opening and running a successful restaurant is no easy feat. And she was brutally honest about all that it entails. However, her overall sense of superiority quickly became off putting and tedious.
She bogged me down in the minutia of her personal life. I found nothing for her to be proud of let alone crow about as she deta
Feb 02, 2011 Susan rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
I kept reading mainly because of the gushing praise of Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain highlighting the cover of this book. Either they didn't actually read the book, or their frame of reference is sadly narrow. Or maybe the publisher sent a lot of wine.
I had to ask my culinary school graduate friend if all chefs are whiny and crude. A lot, but not all, I am told. Argh, what an annoying story. Made worse, no doubt, by the author's MFA in writing. Apparently this necessitates throwing in the oc
Sep 27, 2011 Judy rated it liked it
Recommended to Judy by: erin brewster
Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef tells the story of Gabrielle Hamilton's, owner of Prune Restaurant in NYC, dysfunctional childhood and the oasis she stumbled upon through cooking.

I experienced a jumble of emotions while reading this book. Disbelief over her parents abandonment of their children, frustration with Gabrielle's bitchiness and unwillingness to forge deep relationships, admiration of her perseverance and talent in cooking, and hope for her futur
Apr 08, 2011 Tracey rated it it was amazing
If you like odd-ball, quirky families that produce eccentric, talented, opinionated people...than read this book! A young women living in a house with no media influences with a French Mom and an artist Dad raise this lovely lady, Gabrielle, who knows what it means to live, eat and create.

She shares all sorts of life experience coupled with her passion for cooking...

For me, this is quintessential foodie reading. I love a good story, a talented writer and the distraction of someone cooking consta
Sep 20, 2012 Kate rated it did not like it
I suppose "Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef" (which is at least 2 lies) was shorter than

"It's not my fault that everything disappoints me: One narcissist's completely predictable culinary path and résumé of failures with a heaping dose of spin"


"Blood, Bones, and Butter: A few mouthwatering meals described in delicious detail served with an amazing amount of whine"
Wow. I really can't believe how utterly disappointed I was by this book. I skimmed the last 30 pages or so, I was so completely bored and sick of Hamilton.

Here's the thing, and I admit this freely: I was interested in this book because a year or two ago I read an interview with her from Anthony Bourdain in his collection of writing ("The Nasty Bits"). The Hamilton he fawns over, and that I was interested in, was not really in these pages. One of the quotes from said essay are when she says, "Fuc
Dec 07, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-finished
I'm torn. On the one hand, I found myself engaged while reading, and at one point it had me dying for a sandwich from an Italian deli. On the other hand, the author is intensely unlikeable, and her memoir had some really glaring holes in it.

I get that this wasn't necessarily about her romantic life, but I want to know how the following happened: "I mostly like women, which is why my marriage to a man who needed a green card was safe except that I really wanted him to love me. Then we had two kid
Apr 21, 2015 Autumn rated it really liked it
And now I want to have a dinner party.

Mary Cornelius
Apr 07, 2015 Mary Cornelius rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, 2015-to-read
This book made me love food even more. And I already love food quite a lot.
Jun 06, 2011 Ciara rated it it was ok
i read an excerpt from this book in the food issue of "the new yorker" a few months ago, & i really enjoyed it. i was looking forward to getting the book from the library & savoring the piece i had read again, & hopefully spending 300 pages enjoying all kinds of beautiful, descriptive language about food, cooking, & tough ladies. instead, i found my mind wandering as i reread the excerpt, & the rest of the book failed equally in holding my attention. usually i can blaze throu ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Athena rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I was really engrossed by the first third of this book but rapidly became mired in the author's unpleasant passive/aggressive personality traits. As much as she wants to present her early life as some wonderful fairytale, a wild tribe family of children with a cool French mom & artistic Dad, it comes off as a Camelot from which she was forcibly evicted by her parents' divorce and she has never forgiven them for it. Daddy pays some significant bills for her as does a well-off, hardworking old ...more
May 01, 2011 Denise rated it it was ok
Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of the acclaimed New York restaurant Prune. In Blood, Bones and Butter she chronicles how she ended up a famous chef giving lectures in cooking schools and running a successful restaurant. Gabrielle grew up in a big, boisterous, unconventional family with a French mother and an unreliable, artistic father. Both her parents taught her to love food, so when the family split up and she was a teenager at loose ends and needing money, she went to work in a restaur ...more
K.M. Soehnlein
Mar 14, 2011 K.M. Soehnlein rated it it was amazing
I gobbled this memoir up in a single day. Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune, a 30-seat restaurant in the East Village that she never planned on opening but which has been a solid success -- and a useful platform to share her ideas about cooking, hospitality, hard work, the food industry, family, lovers, raising children, travel and much much more.

The first part of the book recounts an idyllic childhood with bohemian parents that crashes to pieces after a sudden divorce. The second s
Dec 12, 2011 Angela rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2011 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have a healthy skepticism of memoirs by people who aren't famous for any reason in particular, but willing to give anyone talented the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, it is not Hamilton's writing, which is perfectly fine, which torpedoes the book but her. From semi-idyliic childhood parties with a loving mother and a ner-do-earn but charming father, to abandonment, drug abuse, shop lifting, stealing from employers, foreign travel, life as a run of the mill caterer, MFA student, chef-owner, g ...more
Mar 22, 2012 Derrik rated it it was ok
I had serious bipolar disorder while reading this book. At times I liked Gabrielle, and at others she was the epitome of what I despise in someone. The begining of the book was really fascinating, I loved reading about her family and the stuggles she went through and guessing how each of her experiences would influence her as an adult. My favorite part of the book, however, was probably her in college. However,it all went down hill from there. She got more and more pretentious the longer she had ...more
Thing Two
I purchased this book for my husband last year; he generally enjoys reading memoir/cooking books. He got about a third of the way into this one and left to collect dust on his nightstand.

Must you like a person in order to enjoy reading their memoir? I appreciate Ms. Hamilton has a gift of the written word - and would have loved to know what else she learned earning her MFA other than her dislike of the program director - and she has had a variety of experiences from which to glean, but, in the
Kasa Cotugno
Mar 10, 2011 Kasa Cotugno rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Anthony Bourdain calls it the best food memoir, but it is so much more than that. The fact that she holds a degree in writing but not in culinary arts is remarkable seeing that she's truly made her mark in the kitchen, opening her own restaurant with experience as a line cook and freelance catering worker, never having run a kitchen but knowing exactly what she wanted the place to look like and what she wanted to serve. Bourdain has said that Prune ...more
Three and a half stars. I can't quite get to a four.

My food epiphany occurred in France (of course), with food prepared by—wait for it—an Italian (of course). It was a three a.m., post-nightclub gathering of bleary-eyed, eardrum-collapsed international students, crammed into Bruno’s and Filippo’s kitchen in the Alpine city of Chambéry, where I had chosen to study because of its proximity to Italy (of course).

I was already half in love with Bruno from Ancona, but when he handed me a bowl of pasta
Cydni Perkins
May 29, 2011 Cydni Perkins rated it really liked it
This book was beautifully written in a highly descriptive, poetic style. The author's whole messed-up life is contained in it. The story strolls along at a slow pace, stopping to linger on every stage of the author's life. I didn't start to dislike Gabrielle until the end of the book, when she embarks on an unhappy marriage with a man she doesn't love, but makes the baffling decision to have children with him despite everything. She reveals a certain coldness in her own nature as she complains a ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Imogen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is in love with food and needs a little boost of inspiration
In the memoir Blood, Bones, and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton, she tells her life story from being as a child in her backyard, to her teen years in new york, to her annual trips to Italy, in a way that was so realistic to real life. I loved the way she described the catering business and the way she described in detail how it felt to be in the kitchen of a popular New York City restaurant. The way she described working in the food business was inspiring and motivated me even more to pursue worki ...more
Sep 04, 2011 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
This is not a perfect book by any means but the sheer emotional power with which Hamilton depicts growing up in a dysfunctional family, New York in the 80s and 90s, her love affair with food, and less sucessfully with her husband, and her infatuation with Italy left me moved to tears at many junctures. Hamilton is a good enough writer that more is visible than what she admits to wanting us to know and we see what she does not say at many points -- that she's being unfair to her mother, that her ...more
Aug 05, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
This book is not flawless, but it is by far the best I've read in this genre. Hamilton actually made me miss those exhausting days in catering and restaurant work. The way she describes her passion for preparing food and feeding people, in professional and familial circles alike, resonated with me in a serious way. I will be sure to try to get a table at Prune the next time I am in New York City.
For the Book Riot Read Harder 2016 challenge.

I am not a foodie. I enjoy food but cooking at home for one is tedious so I'm not all that into home cooking. I'd love to be more like Gabrielle and have a passion for recreating what I enjoy on holiday as that's a huge part of travelling for me; sampling the local cuisine. I've experienced her loneliness at a table of a foreign family, not being able to understand or be understood, as well as the welcoming and warm reception the same people give. It
Apr 16, 2017 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the Gabrielle Hamilton episodes of Mind of a Chef and was so transfixed I ran to find a copy of this book. She is selfish, a narcissist, a perfectionist and also a damn good writer. Her prose is so lush and so heavy with detail - exactly the way I like it. This book was a true delight for me: I love food, I love memoirs and I love essayists who are able to reflect in such a candid, forthright, unapologetic way. Gabrielle Hamilton is certainly not for everyone - just skimming Goodreads, it' ...more
Mar 25, 2014 Sue rated it liked it
I am a sucker for good books about food – growing it, preparing it, making nutritious choices, making sustainable choices. Aside from the fact that I just love good eating, I worry a lot about the impact of depleted soils, bad animal husbandry, and erratic climate on our food supply. It all seems kind of fundamental to me.

Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir doesn’t worry about the politics of food. She just wants to cook it; this very gifted chef is also a gifted writer, so get ready for plenty of food
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Around the Year i...: Blood, Bones, and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton 3 34 Jul 09, 2016 04:05PM  
Sullivan Universi...: What's in a memoir 1 2 May 12, 2016 12:42PM  
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Sullivan Universi...: General Discussion 1 1 May 12, 2016 11:57AM  
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“Be careful what you get good at doin' 'cause you'll be doin' it for the rest of your life. -Jo Carson” 25 likes
“How can it be, after all this concentrated effort and separation, how can it be that I still resemble, so very closely, my own detestable mother?” 14 likes
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