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Bill Buford's "Heat"


moosnsqrl
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Looks like I'm the last eGullet member to final read Heat. What can I say, I'm cheap. I waited for the paperback.

I enjoyed it tremendously, although I thought that it drifted at times. Other people above mentioned that we don't get enough motivation for his quest to learn the secrets of Italy. I also think the book is a little disjointed. It started as a profile of Batali and his kitchen (which I thought was amazing) and morphed into the personal journey of the author (which was good but not as great). Buford is a fine reporter, but the Italian section felt less vivid than the New York section. Honestly, a big problem might be Buford's weak Italian. He just couldn't get to know these Italians as well as the New York cooks, because he literally didn't speak the language.

A couple of things struck me. First, I was surprised by how quickly the staff started cutting corners when Mario wasn't there. It seemed clear that they and Buford didn't think these minor shortcuts affected the food. But if Batali can't train his staff to meat his standards at all times, then what chef with multiple restaurants can?

The description of Ruth Reichl's visit while she was reviewing for the New York Times made me wonder if attempts at anonymity by critics are just a waste (Fat Guy, I'm starting to come around to your way of thinking). They seem to know when she was there. They also performed at a higher level until the review came out. If Reichl, with all her disguises, can't outsmart a restaurant, then who can?

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I enjoyed it tremendously, although I thought that it drifted at times. Other people above mentioned that we don't get enough motivation for his quest to learn the secrets of Italy. I also think the book is a little disjointed. It started as a profile of Batali and his kitchen (which I thought was amazing) and morphed into the personal journey of the author (which was good but not as great).

Oh, I really agree. The book really rambled for me in the middle and had me thinking, "sure, this is interesting, but what is the point? What is this moving toward in the end?" It was just a bit strange to have the book be a hybrid of a biography of Batali, an autobiography of the author, and a travelogue. All interesting stuff, but it really needed a strong-handed editor in my view.

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  • 9 months later...

'Memo', the sous chef, in the book has probably become well-known to TV audiences as Manuel, the chef on Top Chef 4. In some ways, I don't think I would have known that Memo in the book and Manuel on TV were the same person unless I had been told that.

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'Memo', the sous chef, in the book has probably become well-known to TV audiences as Manuel, the chef on Top Chef 4. In some ways, I don't think I would have known that Memo in the book and Manuel on TV were the same person unless I had been told that.

I'm not sure about this. I'm reading that early section now and it just doesn't seem like the same person. Wasn't Manuel Latino or Hispanic rather than Italian, as Memo is described? Also, the physical description of Memo (sort of like an early Sinatra) and his personality (ebullient and aggressive) just don't mesh with the Manuel presented on TV. Just sayin'. Maybe it was another "cheftestant"?

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I'm not sure about this.  I'm reading that early section now and it just doesn't seem like the same person.  Wasn't Manuel Latino or Hispanic rather than Italian, as Memo is described?  Also, the physical description of Memo (sort of like an early Sinatra) and his personality (ebullient and aggressive) just don't mesh with the Manuel presented on TV.  Just sayin'.  Maybe it was another "cheftestant"?

I think you're confusing Frankie and Memo(Manuel).

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I'm not sure about this.  I'm reading that early section now and it just doesn't seem like the same person.  Wasn't Manuel Latino or Hispanic rather than Italian, as Memo is described?  Also, the physical description of Memo (sort of like an early Sinatra) and his personality (ebullient and aggressive) just don't mesh with the Manuel presented on TV.  Just sayin'.  Maybe it was another "cheftestant"?

I think you're confusing Frankie and Memo(Manuel).

Read it over again and you are right. Sorry to doubt. Apparently, my seasonal allergies are affecting more than just my nose and sinuses.

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I enjoyed it tremendously, although I thought that it drifted at times. Other people above mentioned that we don't get enough motivation for his quest to learn the secrets of Italy. I also think the book is a little disjointed. It started as a profile of Batali and his kitchen (which I thought was amazing) and morphed into the personal journey of the author (which was good but not as great).

Oh, I really agree. The book really rambled for me in the middle and had me thinking, "sure, this is interesting, but what is the point? What is this moving toward in the end?" It was just a bit strange to have the book be a hybrid of a biography of Batali, an autobiography of the author, and a travelogue. All interesting stuff, but it really needed a strong-handed editor in my view.

That's an interesting comment. You're right of course, it rambled, and lost at least one friend of mine, but I enjoyed all it's disconnected parts.

But I think that they don't waste a lot of time and effort editing food-essay books. Not too long ago I read "From Here, You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant" by Michael S. Sanders

["From Here, You Can't See Paris is a sweet, leisurely exploration of the life of Les Arques (population 159), a hilltop village in a remote corner of France, untouched by the modern era. It is a story of a dying village's struggle to survive, of a dead artist whose legacy began its rebirth, and of chef Jacques Ratier and his wife, Noëlle, whose bustling restaurant -- the village's sole business -- has helped ensure its future.

"The author set out to explore the inner workings of a French restaurant kitchen but ended up stumbling onto a wider, much richer world. Whether uncovering the darker secrets of making foie gras, hearing a chef confess his doubts about the Michelin star system, or absorbing the lore of the land around a farmhouse kitchen table after a boar hunt, Michael Sanders learned that life in Les Arques was anything but sleepy. Through the eyes of the author and his family, the reader enters this world, discovers its still-vibrant traditions of food, cooking, and rural living, and comes to know the village's history, sharing along the way an American family's adventures as they find their way in a place that is sometimes lonely, often wondrous, and always fascinating."]

And I was scandalized by the lack of editing. Naturally, when we met each new character, we learned some introductory stuff about them, and from that point on they were mentioned by name, as we already met them. Then at one point, as if nobody paid attention to this, we were introduced to them anew. I realize that the writer's manuscript may have been a hopeless mess of a hodge-podge, but I kept thinking "isn't this what editors are for?"

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I had heard that the Heat was optioned to be made into a movie. Any word as to whether it has gone forward or not?

Not sure what form it would take as the trip to Italy would be hard to incorporate in the context of the New York action.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Since all my friends had read it and pretty much raved about it, I had to buy myself a copy too.

I had high hopes but found it a really hard read. I got about a third of the way through, and have

never picked it up again.

What someone said upthread about it being disjointed is really true. I had trouble keeping track of the characters and kept having to flip back to find out who he was talking about. :wacko:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Good thread. I loved this book. It reminded me that a love of good food is an invitation into different cultures, in this case Italian culture, which is so rich with history. Also, I'm still a Mario Bateli fan, I think he's keeping it pretty real for a 'celebrity chef'. I had the tasting menu at Babo on my birthday a while back and it was one of the best meals I've ever had.

"I take a vitamin everyday- it's called steak."

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