Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany

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Heat is the story of an amateur cook surviving - or, perhaps more accurately, trying to survive - in a professional kitchen.

Until recently, Bill Buford was an enthusiastic, if rather chaotic, home cook. His meals were characterized by two incompatible qualities: their ambition and his inexperience at preparing them. Nevertheless, his lifelong regret was that he'd never worked in a professional kitchen.

Then, three years ago, an opportunity presented itself. Buford was asked by the New Yorker to write a profile of Mario Batali, a Falstaffian figure of voracious appetites who ran one of New York's most successful three-star restaurants. Batali had learned his craft by years of training - first, working in London with the young Marco Pierre White; then in California during the Food Revolution; and finally in Italy, being taught how to make pasta by hand in a hillside trattoria. Buford accepted the commission, if Batali would let him work in his kitchen, as his slave. He worked his way up to being a 'line cook' and then left New York to apprentice himself under the very teachers who had taught his teacher: preparing game with Marco Pierre White, making pasta in a hillside trattoria, and finally, in a town in Northern Italy, becoming an Italian butcher.

Heat is a marvellous hybrid: a memoir of Buford's kitchen adventure, the story of Batali's amazing rise to culinary fame, a dazzling behind-the-scenes look at a famous restaurant, and an illuminating exploration of why food matters. It is a book to delight in, and to savour.