Heat by Bill Buford: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
I haven’t written about a foodie book lately but this one wrapped me right in. I didn’t care that I didn’t know the name. I was intrigued that this guy worked for Mario Batali so I felt like I got to know that star, by way of Bill Buford. He became a kitchen “slave.”
I learned right along with Bill as he made his way through the stations in Mario Batali’s kitchen. It really sounds like a humbling experience given just what kind of learning curve it was from being a talented home cook to the bottom rung of the food chain chopping carrots for hours on end. Buford provides a lot of insight and life to the “characters” in the restaurant industry. There’s a lot of realness and upfront personalities behind the scenes at a restaurant.
In an effort to round out his education, he goes to Italy to learn pasta. I’d do that right now if you want to fund my trip! Ha! I actually don’t really want to learn to make my own pasta…there are some things I think are better left to the professionals. I haven’t been to Tuscany but I wouldn’t pass up a trip! It would be amazing to eat my way through Europe…not exactly Eat Pray Love style, but I’m sure you can imagine it too.
He goes back seeing an Italian butcher lesson. That is really fascinating because he finds a real talent. It was endearing to read about the culture in a tiny Tuscan village. I think what really made an impression on me was not the picturesque setting, but rather the pure passion they all have. These butchers and pasta makers do everything they can and everything they know to do it the right way.
I had a freak-out moment (#MomentsTurnedMonths) in grad school when I was so desperately unsure of my future. I worried what to do if I had a job that I knew I never loved. I felt claustrophobic. I was living with 3 girls who all hated their jobs/lives/futures. I interned where everyone was constantly annoyed by others around them. It terrified me. I left. I left grad school. I left the publishing industry. I left the terrible roommates. I made the right choice. I wanted to do something I could be good at. I wanted to do something that mattered. I wanted to feel happy at the end of the day.
I don’t want to be a chef. I don’t want to apprentice and work 80-hours-per-week in a kitchen. I’m happy to cook what I like and share that here. I admire that Bill Buford knew it wasn’t too late when he worked his way through the kitchen.
At the end Batali asks him about a restaurant. Buford says what every reader is (probably) hoping he’ll say. No, he doesn’t want his own restaurant. He wants to keep learning from the best. He’s hungry for more knowledge.