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Heat

(article, Christina Eng)

In the smart, engaging Heat, Bill Buford charts two careers: the life path of Food Network star Mario Batali, the ponytail-sporting chef in the signature orange clogs, and Buford's own recent transformation from untrained restaurant grunt to full-fledged foodie. 

Born and raised in Washington state in the early 1960s, Batali grew up surrounded by family and food. His mother is French-Canadian; he gets his red hair and fair complexion from her. His Italian father is a former Boeing executive who currently owns and operates Salumi, an Old World deli in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood.

Drawn to the Bay Area’s thriving restaurant scene, the younger Batali moved to San Francisco in the mid-1980s. He worked for a catering company, cooked at the Clift Hotel, and hung out after hours at Stars, chef Jeremiah Tower’s venerable haunt. 

Traveling over the years among kitchens in the U.S. and Italy, he gained perspective on food techniques and traditions. In 1992, Batali hooked up with a college friend to run Rocco in New York City. It was the first in a series of restaurants he would helm. With business partner Joe Bastianich, he now runs several in Manhattan, including Otto and Del Posto. In 1995, the Food Network called.

Buford also traces his own indoctrination into the hectic life of a professional kitchen and his growing fascination with the crazy but wonderful world of food. He weaves seamlessly into this narrative details of the long hours he worked at Babbo, Batali's Greenwich Village eatery, and the months he later spent abroad learning all he could about pasta and meat.

Like Batali, Buford developed a curiosity about ingredients and techniques, and carved out opportunities to live and learn in Italian cities such as Porretta and Panzano, where he apprenticed with "a Dante-quoting butcher." By integrating parts of Batali’s experiences with elements of his own adventures, Buford delivers two terrific stories in one, neither overshadowing the other.

p(bio). [christina_eng@hotmail.com "Christina Eng"] is a writer in Oakland, California.


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