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Bill Buford's "Heat"


moosnsqrl
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A former New Yorker writer, Bill Buford, originally thought he was going to write an article on the Molto Mario phenomenon. He decided early-on that there was enough material for a book, so he quite his day job and went to work at Babbo. Not content with that exposure, he traveled to Italy to study under some of the same teachers Mario learned his craft from.

There is an excerpt here. Note: if you follow the link (upper right) to Amazon and purchase, it helps support npr. If you do go to Amazon, there is a guest review by one A. Bourdain.

I was surprised to hear the author report that many of the old Italian chefs/cooks were surprised (and not all that pleasantly) by Mario's success. The author compared their reaction to that of the Delta Blues masters who toiled in poverty and relative anonymity long after the young white boys learned/stole their classic licks and made a fortune with them.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I have the book on order and have not read it yet. But, re your point about Italian chefs being surprised (and not always pleasantly) about Mario's success, leads me to wonder if there isn't a "celebrity chef" phenomenon in Italy. It has obviously existed in France for some time. In the U.S. we have Rachel Rays, Emerils, etc. and we are used to that.

I just found it surprising, that's all. I guess in American culture we are used to someone - be it James Beard, Jane & Michael Stern, Paula Dean, and so on - compiling recipes and techniques from many people, and making themselves famous as a result.

Am I being too simplistic, here?

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I have the book on order and have not read it yet.  But, re your point about Italian chefs being surprised (and not always pleasantly) about Mario's success, leads me to wonder if there isn't a "celebrity chef" phenomenon in Italy. It has obviously existed in France for some time.  In the U.S. we have Rachel Rays, Emerils, etc. and we are used to that. 

I just found it surprising, that's all.  I guess in American culture we are used to someone - be it James Beard, Jane & Michael Stern, Paula Dean, and so on - compiling recipes and techniques from many people, and making themselves famous as a result.

Am I being too simplistic, here?

There isn't a celebrity chef phenomenon in Italy because the ways of la cucina are passed on by mama, nona and village, not television.

And I wouldn't necessarily call Rachael Ray a celebrity "chef".

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I'm about 3/4 of the way through Heat, at that point where I can't put it down but I don't want to finish the book because then what am I going to do? It's a fantastic read; Buford is an astute, thoughtful, hilarious writer. It's about so much more than Mario Batali - the author gives us insightful glimpses at the rich history of Italian cuisine (I can't wait to try to make polenta) and his characters just jump off the page. AND he learns how to cook in a professional kitchen in the process. Love this book.

Edited by daisy17 (log)
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i just finished "heat" last night.it's fantatsic. interesting insights on babbo, batali, the thinking at food network, and much more. best book i've read this year.

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I was surprised to hear the author report that many of the old Italian chefs/cooks were surprised (and not all that pleasantly) by Mario's success.  The author compared their reaction to that of the Delta Blues masters who toiled in poverty and relative anonymity long after the young white boys learned/stole their classic licks and made a fortune with them.

A non food aside:

The diaspora of black blues muscians to Chicago were making money off the delta blues while their teachers toiled in poverty, and some not so much, long before the white boys came along.

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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I read the first chapter in a bookstore over the weekend; it's a dinner party where the author invited Mario over and, naturally, he took over in the kitchen. Very amusing chapter, including some eye opening insights into Mario's, ahem, colorful past. That's now three books that hit the shelves just in the past month that I want. And my birthday's next week! :biggrin:

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I have the book on order and have not read it yet.  But, re your point about Italian chefs being surprised (and not always pleasantly) about Mario's success, leads me to wonder if there isn't a "celebrity chef" phenomenon in Italy. It has obviously existed in France for some time.  In the U.S. we have Rachel Rays, Emerils, etc. and we are used to that. 

I just found it surprising, that's all.  I guess in American culture we are used to someone - be it James Beard, Jane & Michael Stern, Paula Dean, and so on - compiling recipes and techniques from many people, and making themselves famous as a result.

Am I being too simplistic, here?

There isn't a celebrity chef phenomenon in Italy because the ways of la cucina are passed on by mama, nona and village, not television.

And I wouldn't necessarily call Rachael Ray a celebrity "chef".

Good catch on the "chef" comment! I should have said celebrity cook. Even Julia Child didn't call herself a chef, but rather a cook. FoodTV may disagree with me, however.

I am really looking forward to this book; I really enjoyed Buford's article in the New Yorker about Batali (was in 2005 I believe).

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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Really intriguing excerpt - definitely makes me want to read the book. I had no idea Mario worked for MPW - small world - wonder if Gordon Ramsay and MB ever worked in the same kitchen at the same time.

If only morons cover meat with aluminum foil, then what's the correct way? I've seen chefs rest meat under foil on cooking shows many times, including AB on Good Eats.

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I believe the correct way is on a gold plate on a stone altar inside a temple consecrated by Escoffier. Man, WHO CARES?? Just find a way to let the meat sit while it reabsorbs juices, and try to keep it from cooling off too much. But always, always, let it rest a moment or two. You'll be happier for it.

Edited by Reefpimp (log)

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Really intriguing excerpt - definitely makes me want to read the book. I had no idea Mario worked for MPW - small world - wonder if Gordon Ramsay and MB ever worked in the same kitchen at the same time.

If only morons cover meat with aluminum foil, then what's the correct way? I've seen chefs rest meat under foil on cooking shows many times, including AB on Good Eats.

Paul Kirk, KC-based bbq guru, author, winner of many contests, refers to foil as "the Texas crutch" and doesn't resort to it for 'holding' or 'resting', so I've certainly had exposure to that school of thought before. Although true enough a lot of people use that method. I guess I'd like to read McGee on the subject (or perhaps one of our esteemed resident food scientists could weigh-in on the theory behind pro and con?).

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I believe the correct way is on a gold plate on a stone altar inside a temple consecrated by Escoffier.  Man, WHO CARES??

:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I personally couldn't imagine a more perfect book!!!

I think all of us that don't work in professional kitchens wish we did, and at the very least want to know exactly what goes on in one.

I'm more than half-way though and when I'm done I'll go back to the start and read it again. Haven't done that since Kitchen Confidential came out...

I just ate at Babbo a month ago, and had a GLORIOUS meal. The washrooms are situated right beside the kitchen in a little alcove. I stood peering into the kitchen for quite some time as I waited. The activity was incredible. I only wished the book came out a month or so before it did so I could have read it while in NYC...

:biggrin:

"You like Thai?"

"Yea, you like shirt?" -Trent Steele & Max Power (From The Simpsons Episode No. 216)

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I believe the correct way is on a gold plate on a stone altar inside a temple consecrated by Escoffier. 

What type of stone?!? Marble, slate, granite, ...?!?

Carrera marble, no? :wink:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Really intriguing excerpt - definitely makes me want to read the book. I had no idea Mario worked for MPW - small world - wonder if Gordon Ramsay and MB ever worked in the same kitchen at the same time.

If only morons cover meat with aluminum foil, then what's the correct way? I've seen chefs rest meat under foil on cooking shows many times, including AB on Good Eats.

I always use an upturned metal bowl with a tea towel over it. Seems to work fine...

Edited by pjackso (log)

"You like Thai?"

"Yea, you like shirt?" -Trent Steele & Max Power (From The Simpsons Episode No. 216)

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If only morons cover meat with aluminum foil, then what's the correct way? I've seen chefs rest meat under foil on cooking shows many times, including AB on Good Eats.

i just finished reading that chapter and there is a slight difference between what was said and what has been reported. in the book, it quite explicitely says that batali said that only a moron would "wrap" the meat in foil. that i agree with.

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I just ate at Babbo a month ago, and had a GLORIOUS meal.  The washrooms are situated right beside the kitchen in a little alcove.  I stood peering into the kitchen for quite some time as I waited.  The activity was incredible.  I only wished the book came out a month or so before it did so I could have read it while in NYC...

:biggrin:

:shock: At first, I misread "peering" as "peeing"!

Dear Food: I hate myself for loving you.

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I just ate at Babbo a month ago, and had a GLORIOUS meal.  The washrooms are situated right beside the kitchen in a little alcove.  I stood peering into the kitchen for quite some time as I waited.  The activity was incredible.  I only wished the book came out a month or so before it did so I could have read it while in NYC...

:biggrin:

:shock: At first, I misread "peering" as "peeing"!

I don't think Mario would let me back if that was the case... :wink:

"You like Thai?"

"Yea, you like shirt?" -Trent Steele & Max Power (From The Simpsons Episode No. 216)

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wonder if Gordon Ramsay and MB ever worked in the same kitchen at the same time.

I'm fairly sure not. Batali would have had to have worked at Harvey's in Wandsworth and I'm pretty sure that didn't happen. I'd heard that White and Batali worked together in a place in Clerkenwell Green in London so its interesting to hear about the pub in Chelsea as well.

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I finished reading “Heat” a couple days ago. I’m still trying to decide what I think about it. “Heat” is fast, addictive reading – at least for those interested in cooking, restaurant kitchen life, and who know who Mario Batali is. (Yes folks, there are still people out there who don’t recognize the name.) It’s certainly well written and I really enjoy the perspective of the journalist in the kitchen of a significant New York restaurant over an extended period of time. It reminds me a lot of “The Fourth Star” by Leslie Brenner – a chronicle of a journalist who spends a year in the kitchens at Daniel before that notable restaurant received it’s 4 star review from the New York Times. Reading about what really goes on in these kitchens is fascinating for those of us not in the food industry.

But, something is bothering me and I think it’s Mario Batali. Not the book, but Mr. Batali himself, or at least the books portrayal of him. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s brilliant. I’d never turn down dinner at any of his restaurants (except Otto – not fond of the pizza there. I get my fill at Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern in New Haven on a regular basis.)

Much of my dismay comes from what’s almost certainly standard practice at the restaurant of celebrity chefs. If I had to pick a single issue, it would be the whole VIP thing. There are several passages discussing how Mr. Batali demands his staff wait on, serve and dote over VIP’s before the common folk. Again, I’m sure that this is as common as dirt but… it bugs me. I grew up in Southern California. There’s a legendary dive in Newport Beach called The Crab Cooker. It’s been there forever, serves food on paper plates with paper table cloths. A dive. I haven’t been there in a while but it used to be that, on a Saturday night, lines went out the door and down the block quite a ways. There’s a story from the early/mid 1970’s about then President Nixon walking up to the front of the line on a busy night and the Host, without ever looking up, saying to him “I don’t know who you are and I don’t care, everybody waits in line.” Regardless of what you think about Nixon, this is what I like to see in a restaurant. Any business is good business – one’s celebrity or VIP status doesn’t make their money any more valuable than the rest of us.

I have other peeves, but not really about the book. That the book made me think about these issues is a testament to how well written and executed it is. I enjoyed it.

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That's the part of the book that I'm up to reading- where he goes ballistic over the staff not recognizing a record producer; or the complainers letting slide since they ordered a very expensive bottle of wine. Unfortunately, this seems to be a very common phenomenon- the power trip relation between customer and restauranteur- the special treatment, the doting and being doted upon, the "inside phone numbers", etc. Written about extensively elsewhere. My democratic egalitarian self really abhors such things and really enjoys the story about the California restaurant. I've always enjoyed restaurants that treat all patrons as "special guests", even if they don't know you.

I'm getting a little ahead, since I haven't read any further in the book. One thing I'd like to find out about- it seems that Mario is a "born-again" Italian who has successfully Italianized much of America. My favorite persona is where he waxes eloquently and professorially on "Molto Mario" about regional cuisine as if he was born there and has travelled, lived there much of his life. Don't know- a lot of us know a bit about regional Italian cuisine without having ever even visited some regions. An interesting contrast to Giada, a "born" Italian who seems to Americanize Italian food a bit too much in the other direction to make it accessible. I enjoy her and applaud her trying to introduce and de-mystify the cuisine to those who may want to try new things- but I find it a bit too much of a compromise at times. I've enjoyed the couple of episodes where her family members pick on her for straying from the "Italian way" to cook too much of the "American way". Maybe I'll get some more answers by the time I finish the book.

Mark A. Bauman

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