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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
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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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  20,849 Ratings  ·  1,863 Reviews
Bill Buford—author of the highly acclaimed best-selling Among the Thugs—had long thought of himself as a reasonably comfortable cook when in 2002 he finally decided to answer a question that had nagged him every time he prepared a meal: What kind of cook could he be if he worked in a professional kitchen? When the opportunity arose to train in the kitchen of Mario Batali’s ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2006)
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Nick This book is fantastic, I highly recommend it! I would also suggest Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw

Community Reviews

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Rating details
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May 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Petra X
I read this book last year and it was deleted from my booklist by Goodreads. Who naturally say this couldn't happen, I must have deleted it myself. I've never been able to prove before that the book was on my booklist until this one. It's not on my list yet I read it, and I wrote a comment last October on a friend's, Karen's review. I just came across this comment today.

"The bit about eating pure pork fat close to the beginning really put me off. It doesn't matter what fancy name you call it, no
Alex Givant
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book showing what it takes to become a cook. Loved his dedication to get skill from different place (like his multiple trips to the butcher shop in Italy), his humor (getting 225 lbs pig to Manhattan apartment in elevator :-)). I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to understand how much work the good cook put in (long shifts, endless trying to perfect cooking techniques) and what is food about (like his search of who first put eggs into pasta). I loved his idea of small foo ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read06, foodie, favorites
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
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amanda Wilkins
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Casey, Susanna, Marieke
Outstanding on audio.

Over the last couple of years, I have been reading my way through some of the more well-known "cooking" books, which tend to be more memoir than actual cooking: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Yes, Chef and Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef come to mind. Much of the writing is about the lives of these chefs and how they started cooking. Then it follows their restaurant careers and the success that they have t
Oct 22, 2007 rated it liked it
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 too.

"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
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, italy, mainstream-us
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
Feb 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  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
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
episodic but unified. zippy and makes you want to get on the line... or at least get up and start some Italian home cooking of your own -he says as he starts making pasta-
Tom Carrico
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Moira Burke
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jul 01, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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
Siobhan Fallon
Apr 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Aug 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
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

Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie
This book really helped me to appreciate the restaurant industry and Italian culinary history and culture. Things I learned: 1. Mario Batali is a disgusting man. 2. Restaurant work is rough. 3. Italians are awesome. 4. Pork is gross.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
I had a lot of fun with this. A good exploration of food and cooking. It probably could have been trimmed down quite a bit, but I won't hold that against it.
If you like cooking, if you like eating, if you like great writing, you'll love this book.
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: foodies
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
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this memoir, but didn't love it. The first half pulled me right in with tales of Mario Batali and his excesses, bizarre behavior and volatile temperament. He's definitely not in real life what you see on Molto Mario! I used to think I'd like to work with him but now, I'm not so sure. Being an old restaurant head from way back as well as Italian, the history of food and culture of Italy were quite interesting in the beginning, but got to be a little much after the second half of the book ...more
Marcie Baeza-Sauer
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book because I like reading about food and restaurants. However, I think the book would’ve benefited from focusing on his time with Batali and in the Babbo kitchen specifically. The second half of the book that takes place in Italy was interesting but I found myself wishing for less history and more cooking.
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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

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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.” 13 likes
“Food made by hand is an act of defiance and runs contrary to everything in our modernity. Find it; eat it; it will go. It has been around for millennia. Now it is evanescent, like a season.” 9 likes
More quotes…