Heat by Bill Buford

The full title of this book is Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford. Without previous experience in the food business, Buford enters first the food and restaurant business in New York City by working at Mario Batali’s Babbo, and secondly a less capitalist view of food in Italy in the second half as the apprentice butcher. The book is funny, light and interesting. There are a lot of distinct characters in this book. The first half of the book draws similarities to Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain as it shows you the harshness that is the restaurant business. For my love of food, I have never wanted to be a professional chef or cook. My dad is a cook, and it was not a profession he chose for himself at first. He’s been doing it for thirty years, and he is very ready for semi-retirement. Knowing this, I became invested in Buford and felt good when he felt accomplished.

The book takes a different and dare I say, more introspective turn in the second half with the apprenticeship in Italy. Maybe it’s because I love travel books as much as food books or travel in general forces different perspectives for the writer, but there are even more unique characters and stories from Tuscany. The second half reads more like a Bill Bryson travelogue. I did enjoy Buford’s style, and the ending hints at a sequel in France. While Batali and a number of personalities in the book are anti-French, I’m a francophile so I very much excited at the prospect of reading Buford again en France.

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