Kitchen life detailed in ‘Heat’
Personal experience drew my attention to “Heat,” the memoir of author Bill Buford’s experience of leaving his job at The New Yorker to work in the kitchen at Mario Batali’s Babbo restaurant in New York City. It was about 12 years ago that I left a corporate job to cook. I began in a similar manner that Bill writes about in “Heat,” volunteering my time in exchange for experience. I sought out restaurants that were very good at the types of food I loved and wanted to prepare for other people. I eventually came to Colorado to cook, working my way up to executive chef at a large guest ranch in northern Colorado. After a while, I remembered that I had a family, no more obvious than the late night my wife and son were helping prepare and serve dessert for 40 people on my supposed night off. At that point, we made the decision that the 12- to 15-hour days I was spending in the kitchen six or seven days a week were not the best contribution that I could make to our family life. I was at peace with that decision; I had taken my shot at my dream and walked away knowing that I could cook. It is on this type of journey that the author of “Heat” takes us.Life in the kitchen, regardless of how many stars a restaurant has been awarded, is nothing like it’s portrayed on the Food Network. I think the author captures the chaos, the urgency and panic of everyday kitchen life. He sums it up in his realization that “the line cooks were moving so fast I couldn’t follow what they were doing. I became aware that everyone had simultaneously increased the speed of their preparations. At the end of the evening I would not be able to say what it was I had seen … their skills were so deeply uncalculated they were available to them as instincts….”
Along the way, the author finds time to capture in words the food he experiences and much of the fun and excitement that also can be found in the restaurant world. He never loses the perspective that the kitchen is ultimately a test of survival. There are many books available from the vantage point of well-known chefs who are at the top of the restaurant business. “Heat” gives us the perspective from someone beginning on the outside looking in.Buford’s experience with Mario Batali and the level of performance Batali expects in his restaurants take the adventure beyond just Buford’s experience and make this work a captivating read.
The chef I learned the most from and who did more to instill the work ethic I took into the kitchen was brutally honest with me from the beginning. If I wanted to work under constant pressure in a miserably hot and cramped environment for little pay, then the kitchen was the place to be.He owns and operates the Gateway Cafe in Lyons. I promise that eating there is worthy of being the sole destination next time you take a day trip to explore our state. If the heat in the actual kitchen is more than you really want, a comfortable chair is all you need to enjoy the experience of “Heat” by Bill Buford.
“Heat” is available at The Bookworm in Edwards. Larry Ebersole is the marketing manager for Weber’s Books on Main Street in Breckenridge. He is available at the store or by e-mail at Amentalengineer@ cs.com.
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