There is something here for everyone. Anybody who enjoys characters will be drawn into the dramas of the Babbo kitchen cast and especially the antics of the loony Marco Pierre White, whom Buford visits several times. Dinner party cooks will understand the drive toward learning more and the gratification that derives from making other people happy. Those of us in our 40's will certainly understand the allure of re-examining your life and career, not to mention the romance of actually changing it, dramatically. Finally, many of us will also be consumed by jealousy. Heat is a remarkable journey — I only wish I'd thought to make it.
The New York Times
In Buford's delightful Heat, Batali is perfectly cast as the ringleader to this kind of circus -- the sort of bruiser who, if he finds a sacred cow, is likely to serve it up medium rare. Chefs are "some of the world's nuttiest people," Buford notes, and Batali rules by sheer force of his personality over the tough, burly crew of eccentrics -- full of curses, bravado and liquor -- who produce Babbo's exquisite food. "Wretched excess is just barely enough," runs one of his mantras; he's Falstaff with a spatula.
The Washington Post
"Buford's mastery of the stove is exceeded only by his deft handling of English prose."
Buford's voice echoes the rhythms of his own writing style. Writing about his break from working as a New Yorker editor and learning firsthand about the world of food, Buford guns his reading into hyperspeed when he is jazzed about a particularly tangy anecdote, and plays with his vocal tone and pitch when mimicking others' voices. At its base, Buford's voice is tinged with a jovial lilt, as if he is amused by his life as a "kitchen slave" and by the outsize personalities of the people he meets along the way. Less authoritative than blissfully confused, Buford speaks the way he writes, as a well-informed but never entirely knowledgeable outsider to the world of food love. Listening to his imitation of star chef Mario Batali's kinetic squeal, Buford ably conveys his abiding love for the teachers and companions of his brief, eventful life as a cook. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover. (Reviews, Apr. 3). (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Part memoir, part ethnography of a subculture, this engagingly recounts Buford's (Among the Thugs) three years as an apprentice at Babbo, one of Mario Batali's New York City restaurants. Readers familiar with other culinary memoirs will not be surprised by the gritty reality of life in the kitchen, but what sets Buford apart is that he is an outsider, a journalist who is allowed to live among the chefs for a short time. Through his eyes, we see what "heat" truly is and why so many cooks have a penchant for Dante: cooking is hell. The pacing is quick, and the writing often mirrors the intensity of the kitchen. The author's journey transforms him from bumbling peon to competent line cook, from contemplative pasta maker to culturally sensitive apprentice. A well-seasoned cast of characters rounds out this culinary odyssey. A solid addition recommended for most libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/06.]-Rosemarie Lewis, Broward Cty. P.L., Ft. Lauderdale, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Could loving to cook translate into being a professional under the tutelage of the famous chef of a three-star New York restaurant? Buford jumped at the chance to find out. This energetic account of his intense culinary education brings readers into the scalding kitchens where fine food is prepared by obsessive chefs for whom timing is critical and cooking is art. The author entwines the history of pasta with his preparation of it, and he visits the theory that it was the Italians who brought fine cooking to France rather than the other way around. Buford follows the example of his mentors as he travels to Italian villages to serve as kitchen slave to a master of pasta-making and as an apprentice to a butcher to learn to perfect that culinary craft. A journalist for the New Yorker, the author writes with the same gusto with which he cooks. Readers learn how physically demanding professional cooking is, how hard it is on the ego, and how satisfying it can be. This is the ultimate career book for would-be chefs, and a book that noncooks will savor until the last word.-Ellen Bell, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Because it's a story that begins from [Buford's] own gangly moment of apprenticeship, rather than a retrospective of a successful cooking career—and because he's a terrific writer—it's one of the most satisfying restaurant memoirs I have read.
New Yorker staff writer and obsessed foodie Buford (Among the Thugs, 1992) infiltrates a top chef's kitchen to plumb Italian food as haute cuisine. The author worked as a lowly, often humiliated cooking intern at New York's celebrated Babbo restaurant-the "slave," as he puts it, of chef and partner Mario Batali. Buford sometimes has trouble not stooping to grovel when he brings the American-born, Italian-trained Batali onto the scene, but he nonetheless manages a full portrait of the celebrity chef as occasional paranoid, willful boor and megalomaniacal disciplinarian. The chef frequently assumed a highly visible seat at Babbo's bar, doing no cooking but sipping wine and making sure to be seen while the underlings he had molded labored in the kitchen to fulfill the promise of his innovative menus. Celebrated for personal excesses with food, drink and more, Batali serves as Buford's icon of culinary contradiction, railing against "faggoty French cooking," then, in a pensive lapse, affirming that only women are ultimately capable of "cooking with love." There was plenty for the author to learn as he bungled knife-sharpening, carrot-dicing and other basics, barely tolerated by professional colleagues who were often at each others' throats, all trying to master the art and get their own joints. Buford's experiences at Babbo led him to attempt the delicate art of pasta-making in Italy. Regrettably, his dogged inquiry into the historical transition that led to using eggs instead of water in the dough is a needless drag. After that, he apprenticed himself to a Tuscan butcher, beginning his studies with the pig but moving on to the cow in "graduate butcher school," where he learned the mantra,"It's not the breed. It's the breeding." As he pursues his culinary obsessions, Buford provides an abundance of esoterica on fine Italian cooking, as well as a lot of inside dope on some not-so-savory aspects of selling top-dollar restaurants to the public. Brightly rendered and sophisticated, as befits a New Yorker writer, but very uneven. First printing of 100,000