Sunday, June 7, 2009
Pure genius - it is the only way to describe the new book, Heat, by Bill Buford. This is Buford's highly entertaining journey into Mario Batali's kitchen at Babbo to learn the ins and outs of cooking, and in the process, the amusing story of one of America's most creative and unusual chef's, Mario Batali. The writing is fluid, the story-telling amusing - this book is a must read for anyone who likes to eat.
Buford begins his book with a story of the night in 2002 when he invited Batali to a birthday dinner for six at Buford's own house. Buford describes his own cooking abilities as "more confident than competent," yet he was eager to take on the challenge of entertaining not only the birthday guests, but the culinary giant, Mario Batali himself. The evening arrives and, of course, the tables are turned. Batali himself prepares the feast, entertains the guests with his antics and conversation, and in the wee hours of the morning, takes the party out into the streets and restaurants of Manhattan.
All great chefs are doers, they get into the kitchen and cook. Trial and error, the relentless pursuit of new and different recipes is the mark of a great chef. Like the artist Michaelangelo, a great chef moves on from one masterpiece to another, constantly amazing the viewer, or in the case of the chef, the consumer, with something new.
Genius, like that of Michaelangelo or Mario Batali, comes along only on rare ocassions, once every five hundred years or so. There are minor artist and minor chefs who fill the intervening years, but true genius is a rare thing. Genius is unique. It is the rare ability to transcend the common and ordinary and create something never before experieinced by the human race. In Michaelangelo's case, it was his ability to capture human emotions in the marble and paint with which he worked. In Batali's case, it is his ability to find within that broad category we call food, the rare and delectible treats that become truly remarkable culinary experiences.
picture from Starpulse