With some books, you know you’re in good hands from the beginning, and so it is here with ex-Granta editor and current New Yorker staffer Bill Buford’s account of his two-year immersion in the kitchens of the chefs he admires – primarily Mario Batali, “the most recognized chef in the city with more chefs than any other city in the world”. We’re witness to Buford’s education and humiliation in the kitchen as he learns of the intricacies of pasta; and his later stints in Italy, dealing with the dissection of pigs and cows. Memorable episodes involve his discovery of short ribs, his time at the grill station and the pitfalls of making pizza. At times, though, the sheer weight of detail becomes exhausting, as well as the mini-biographies of almost everyone Buford encounters. Yet, it’s great fun and you don’t have to be a gourmet – or a gourmand – to savour this account of the masochists, screamers and dysfunctional geniuses of food preparation.