Dirt Adventures in Lyon as a chef in training, father, and sleuth looking for the secret of French cooking

Bill Buford

Book - 2020

"Bill Buford turns his inimitable attention from Italian cuisine to the food of France. Baffled by the language, but convinced that he can master the art of French cooking - or at least get to the bottom of why it is so revered - he begins what becomes a five-year odyssey by shadowing the esteemed French chef, Michel Richard, in Washington, D.C. But when Buford (quickly) realizes that a stage in France is necessary, he goes--this time with his wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow--to Ly...on, the gastronomic capital of France. Studying at Institut Bocuse, cooking at the storied, Michelin-starred Mère Brazier, enduring the endless hours and exacting "rigeur" of the kitchen, Buford becomes a man obsessed with proving himself on the line, proving that he is worthy of the gastronomic secrets he's learning, proving that French cooking actually derives from (mon dieu!) the Italian. With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterful ability to immerse himself, and us, in his surroundings, Bill Buford has written what is sure to be the food-lover's book of the year"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2020.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
413 pages : 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9780307271013
0307271013
Main Author
Bill Buford (author)
  • I. No French
  • II. Lyon with toddlers
  • III. Instruction by Paul Bocuse
  • IV. In a historic kitchen
  • V. Stagiaire
  • VI. Dinner
  • VII. Italy (Obviously)
  • VIII. France (Finally)
  • IX. The gastronomic capital of the world
  • X. the greatest adventure in the lives of our family
  • Epilogue: Just about everybody dies.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Having learned his way around a Tuscan kitchen (Heat, 2006), Buford used his connections with American chefs to garner a novice's spot as cook in a French restaurant. He settles for nothing less than an apprenticeship in Lyon, esteemed as France's gastronomic capital. Uprooting his wife and twin sons from New York City in itself proves quite an accomplishment, dealing with an exacting bureaucracy to produce necessary visas, finding a place to live, and enrolling the boys in school. Cooking at La Mère Brazier and attending classes at L'Institut Bocuse, France's premier culinary school, proves daunting enough for the language barrier alone, but even more challenging to earn respect in the closed world of chefdom. Buford's fellow cooks are barely out of their teen years and not above physical violence when provoked. He delves into the controversial origins of French cuisine and restaurants, drawing unflinching portraits of past and present luminaries like culinary school founder Paul Bocuse himself. He pursues origins of dishes, sauces, and their ingredients, even participating in the stark grittiness of butchering a pig and learning that in France the best, most coveted flavors come from the earthiest animal organs. An inside look into haute cuisine. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Once you've mastered Italian cuisine, what's next? New Yorker writer Buford (Heat) recounts his time working for Mario Batali, and deciding to move—along with his wife and twin toddler sons—to Lyon, France. From a rocky start, which included missed flights and difficulty securing visas, Buford eventually found work in a local bakery, studied at L'Institut Bocuse, and navigated the hierarchy of the award-winning La Mére Brazier. But besides grueling days at the restaurant, Buford also spends time investigating the contentious history of French cuisine (could there be a connection with the Italian Medici daughters, who moved to France when they married?), and researching the seminal recipes of Brillat-Savarin. The author and his family remain in France for five years before returning to New York. VERDICT An often funny and eye-opening behind-the-scenes look at haute cuisine, as well as life as an expat in France. Readers will be engrossed not only by Buford's story, but that of his family as well.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Buford (Heat) delivers a vivid and often laugh-out-loud account of the tribulations, humblings, and triumphs he and his family endured in the five years they lived in France. In the mid-aughts, Buford determines to move to France to learn about French cooking, and after much effort he, his wife, and their twin toddler boys arrive in Lyon, a city notable for "its gritty darkness, the sewage smells," where it's initially impossible for Buford to find a kitchen to work in. It isn't until he does a stint at a cooking school that he finagles a spot in a Michelin-starred restaurant, where the work is relentless and the culture unreformed (an Indonesian cook, for instance, is given the name Jackie Chan). Meanwhile, Buford's twin boys become fully French, and Buford puts on his culinary deerstalker cap to investigate the influence of Italian cooking on French cuisine, and vice versa. Buford's a delightful narrator, and his stories of attending a pig slaughter, befriending the owner of a local bakery, and becoming gradually accepted by the locals are by turns funny, intimate, insightful, and occasionally heartbreaking. It's a remarkable book, and even readers who don't know a sabayon from a Sabatier will find it endlessly rewarding. (May) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The author of the best-selling Heat presents an uproariously self-deprecating account of his adventures in the world of French haute cuisine, describing his five-year culinary odyssey spent studying the methods of leading chefs, schools and restaurants. (cooking).

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Bill Buford turns his inimitable attention from Italian cuisine to the food of France. Baffled by the language, but convinced that he can master the art of French cooking - or at least get to the bottom of why it is so revered - he begins what becomes afive-year odyssey by shadowing the esteemed French chef, Michel Richard, in Washington, D.C. But when Buford (quickly) realizes that a stage in France is necessary, he goes--this time with his wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow--to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. Studying at Institut Bocuse, cooking at the storied, Michelin-starred Máere Brazier, enduring the endless hours and exacting "rigeur" of the kitchen, Buford becomes a man obsessed with proving himself on the line, proving that he is worthy of the gastronomic secrets he's learning, proving that French cooking actually derives from (mon dieu!) the Italian. With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterful ability to immerse himself, and us, in his surroundings, Bill Bufordhas written what is sure to be the food-lover's book of the year"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“You can almost taste the food in Bill Buford’s Dirt, an engrossing, beautifully written memoir about his life as a cook in France.” —The Wall Street JournalWhat does it take to master French cooking? This is the question that drives Bill Buford to abandon his perfectly happy life in New York City and pack up and (with a wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow) move to Lyon, the so-called gastronomic capital of France. But what was meant to be six months in a new and very foreign city turns into a wild five-year digression from normal life, as Buford apprentices at Lyon’s best boulangerie, studies at a legendary culinary school, and cooks at a storied Michelin-starred restaurant, where he discovers the exacting (and incomprehensibly punishing) rigueur of the professional kitchen. With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterful ability to bring an exotic and unknown world to life, Buford has written the definitive insider story of a city and its great culinary culture.