Dirt
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 Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. Studying at L'Institut Bocuse, cooking at the storied, Michelin-starred La 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.

Dirt Details

TitleDirt
Author
ReleaseMay 5th, 2020
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
ISBN-139780307271013
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Food and Drink, Food, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Cultural, France, Cooking

Dirt Review

  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a zillion games of scrabble, done a zillion crosswords and I AM BORED!!!)I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the aut When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a zillion games of scrabble, done a zillion crosswords and I AM BORED!!!)I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.The hugely anticipated follow up to Heat--Bill Buford's hilariously self-deprecating, highly obsessive adventures in the world of French haute cuisine.In Dirt, Bill Buford--author of the best-selling, now-classic, Heat--moves his attention from Italian cuisine to the food of France. Baffled by the language, determined that he can master the art of French cooking--or at least get to the bottom of why it is so revered--Buford begins what will become a five-year odyssey by shadowing the revered French chef Michel Richard in Washington, D.C. He soon realizes, however, that a stage in France is necessary, and so he goes--this time with his wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow--to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France. Studying at l'Institut Bocuse, cooking at the storied, Michelin-starred Mère Brazier, Buford becomes a man obsessed--to prove that French cooking actually derives from the Italian, to prove himself on the line, to prove that he is worthy of these gastronomic secrets. With his signature humour, sense of adventure, and masterful ability to immerse himself in his surroundings, Bill Buford has written what is sure to be the food-lover's book of the year.I LOVED the book "Heat" so was so excited to see this book pop up available to read and review. It is an intense read but I found myself laughing out loud at times. I also had some serious PTSD flashbacks to a certain chef yelling at me when I was taking Hotel Management. Not only did I learn NOTHING to get me a job a hotel, but I send nine months in a kitchen with a drunken. Englishman yelling at me for not being able to "turn a potato" as I had broken my wrist and was in a cast and asking "why am I taking hotel management when I am allergic to parsley, cilantro and pork?". (That last one is still the STUPIDEST question anyone has ever asked me....) Anyone who has spent time in a kitchen (aside from the one in their home) will recognize this book as a homage to the insanity of being around chefs. Buford has a writing style that is homey and wonderful and he is not afraid to slag the French and tell them they learned to cook from the Italians. (Catherine de Medici brought the idea of "French food" to France ... not that the French would EVER ACKNOWLEDGE THAT!) I loathe what the term "foodie" has become, but anyone who loves food would love this book - and anyone with a French husband like I have will laugh at the French in general as a result of this book. Of course, my husband pretty much lives on spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fried rice and winners and beans unless I am "allowed" to cook him something else but I will give him a break as he works in an ER which is scary during this #COVID19 disaster. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🥘🥘🥘🥘🥘p.s. - I like the cover with the potato on it!
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Good book. I'm fascinated with books written by people who have decided to go back to cooking school or become chefs. Since I don't enjoy cooking I can only attribute it to my love of restaurants. This one was very good with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. It made me want to go back to Lyon once we can travel again!
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    Did not finish, author’s tone of voice turned me off.
  • Benjamin
    January 1, 1970
    What to say about this book. It's a fish out of water tale of an American cook who goes to Lyon, France to work in the kitchens of Michelin starred restaurants. The writing is fine, clear, and clean. But, like the book itself, it's missing something. There weren't any words or phrasing that I found myself underlining. You're introduced to a jumble of characters who come and go through the pages, a few too many to keep track of. I wished he would've written more about Bob. It's a fine book and wo What to say about this book. It's a fish out of water tale of an American cook who goes to Lyon, France to work in the kitchens of Michelin starred restaurants. The writing is fine, clear, and clean. But, like the book itself, it's missing something. There weren't any words or phrasing that I found myself underlining. You're introduced to a jumble of characters who come and go through the pages, a few too many to keep track of. I wished he would've written more about Bob. It's a fine book and worth the read, especially if you dig food, but it's basically his last book, except with French instead of Italian food.
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  • Linda Negro
    January 1, 1970
    I was initially put off by the misogynistic, masochistic world of the chefs who inhabit French kitchens that Bill Buford immersed himself in while living five years in Lyon, ostensibly to prove that the origins of French haute cuisine hail from the refined feasts and chefs of the Italian Renaissance.Buford’s attempt, as an observer, at shame for not standing up for those who were browbeaten, both physically and verbally, in his presence seems hollow. Ultimately he fell for the bait— as he wanted I was initially put off by the misogynistic, masochistic world of the chefs who inhabit French kitchens that Bill Buford immersed himself in while living five years in Lyon, ostensibly to prove that the origins of French haute cuisine hail from the refined feasts and chefs of the Italian Renaissance.Buford’s attempt, as an observer, at shame for not standing up for those who were browbeaten, both physically and verbally, in his presence seems hollow. Ultimately he fell for the bait— as he wanted to earn the approval of those men and a “membership” in the old boys club or at the least the chance to rub elbows with those men. And he did earn their respect working side by side with much younger men — doing the menial tasks of the kitchen — cutting leeks in perfect cubes, potatoes into cylinders while planning appetizers and staff meals all while at the beckon call of chefs up the line. Unfortunately he will never know how much of his success in the kitchen and in aging their approval, was truly due to his cooking or the overarching power of his pen. While it is likely the latter there is no doubt Buford and his reader’s cooking improve as a result.But Buford redeems himself and saves the book with his exhaustive research that not only traces cuisines through cookbooks and history of world events but also through the terrain ( the dirt) and waterways and their fruits. He walks the paths in the steps of those who carried the passion, wares, ingredients and fruits of the cuisine back and forth between northern Italy and Southern France. He fishes in the lake for the delicate fresh-from-the-water gout (taste). The recipes are interwoven in the stories he tells, as is the French language he uses as weft.Another thread in the tapestry that works is the experience of moving a family including toddler twins to a foreign land and watching them become so thoroughly French that the family had to escape back to New York and English as a second language classes.The best books for me are those which open new worlds and send me searching for more information, other cookbooks and in this case more techniques of the French cuisine. And I would have finished this book far sooner if I had not been looking for La Varenne, Fernard Point and other cookbooks. It also caused me to think of not only the Italian but also,the French arms of my family (the French Le Blancs who became Whites from their Island home just off the French coastBuford’s most heart rending find was the handwritten cookbook, written on cardboard and scavenged paper by French prisoners of war who were trying preserve the heart of their Frenchness — their cuisine— as they were dying of starvation.The other salvation for the book comes in the story of the bread-baker Bob who understood that the ingredients and time-honored methods, not the abusive power, formed the heart of French cooking. Buford’s ability to find the small mill and small farms of wheat that were the source for this style and special taste of bread, was a treasure.Ultimately Buford won’t definitively commit to the origin of French food although he nails the connections. He gives the French a bit of face-saving style with the ragu/ragout and the French delicate preparation. And it is probably just as well because the cuisine belongs to the region with no respect to the borders. And I’m confident we will find that the heart of French Cooking will be preserved not because of the abusive men chronicled in this book, but in spite of them.It is in the attention to the detail of the food, recipes and the exhaustive hard work a fine cuisine takes that this book will make its most important contribution.
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  • Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir
    January 1, 1970
    Bill Buford’s previous culinary memoir, HEAT, was one of my favorite books of 2006. I loved reading his no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes, often hilarious examination of what really happens in the kitchens of Italian chef Mario Batali (a vision that has since been somewhat clouded by subsequent revelations about Batali’s inappropriate behavior with female colleagues and guests, but whose insights about the toxicity of restaurant kitchens feel that much more relevant as a result). Needless to sa Bill Buford’s previous culinary memoir, HEAT, was one of my favorite books of 2006. I loved reading his no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes, often hilarious examination of what really happens in the kitchens of Italian chef Mario Batali (a vision that has since been somewhat clouded by subsequent revelations about Batali’s inappropriate behavior with female colleagues and guests, but whose insights about the toxicity of restaurant kitchens feel that much more relevant as a result). Needless to say, I was eager to read Buford’s new memoir, DIRT, in which he upends his young family’s life and puts his career on the line to explore an even more revered culinary destination: Lyon, France.Buford, whose impetuousness comes off as charmingly enthusiastic, is determined to undertake a rigorous series of internships in some of the most famed eateries in the world. He’s convinced he has an edge because he’s already friends with one of Lyon’s favorite sons, Daniel Boulud, but he soon discovers that breaking into the French culinary establishment --- and Lyon’s proud and tradition-laden position at its center --- is about as difficult as making a perfect omelet.After a stint at his local boulangerie (his bittersweet friendship with its owner forms the emotional core of the story) and an intense course at an esteemed culinary school, Buford finally lands a position at a restaurant, where he has to claw his way up from the garde manger station to eventually preparing “le personnel” --- the staff lunch. He overcomes his nerves (and his chronic lateness), eventually delighting his colleagues with such unaccustomed delicacies as tuna burgers and (gasp!) Italian food.Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the topic of his earlier memoir, Buford continually circles back to a hypothesis that the Italian and French culinary traditions are more closely intertwined than originally thought (and any self-respecting French chef could admit). He spends a fair amount of the book exploring the possibility that Italian food influenced French cuisine (and Lyonnaise cuisine, more specifically) via travelers traversing the nearby Alps. Some of the history starts to read a little like inside baseball, but his premise will prompt at least some readers (and diners) to consider potential connections.Buford paints Lyon as a city that is undoubtedly rich in culinary history but also far from perfect, with areas that are crime-ridden, noisy and dirty --- hardly the picture-perfect vision of a French landscape. Likewise, he illustrates just how difficult rising through the ranks of restaurant kitchens can be, even for classically trained young chefs --- especially when those chefs are women or non-white.Much of the humor here comes from anecdotes about Buford’s surprisingly resilient young family. His wine expert wife and their two young sons (who are toddlers when they arrive in France) tolerate his whimsical notions and his long hours, and come to love their life in Lyon. The ending of DIRT finds the family back in New York, where Buford’s sons --- who by this point have spent more than half their life in France and are more fluent in French than in English --- are horrified by American school cafeteria food.One wonders if Buford will again upend his family’s life to embark on another international culinary adventure. If so, readers will be eager to pack up and follow along.Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    This fish out of water story of American food journalist Bill Buford's deep dive into French cooking is for professionals only. While I was initially charmed by his breezy accounts of moving to Lyon, talking his way into boulangeries and restaurants in order to learn to make complicated bread and food, and placating his long suffering wife who makes all the arrangements for his adventure, including moving twin toddler boys; I lost patience for his dense scholarly asides about obscure French cook This fish out of water story of American food journalist Bill Buford's deep dive into French cooking is for professionals only. While I was initially charmed by his breezy accounts of moving to Lyon, talking his way into boulangeries and restaurants in order to learn to make complicated bread and food, and placating his long suffering wife who makes all the arrangements for his adventure, including moving twin toddler boys; I lost patience for his dense scholarly asides about obscure French cookbooks and chefs, and grew tired of reading how utterly rude and misogynistic it can be behind the scenes in famous restaurants. At first it was fun and escapist to learn about the subtle ins and outs of making a perfect vinaigrette, or how a pig is butchered according to the old ways. But after a while, wading through all the dense detail became a slog. And I was never able to keep the names of all the chefs and bakers Buford wrote about straight, until the epilogue, where he helpfully listed what had happened to all his colorful real life characters. While I appreciated all the effort that went into the research and writing of this book, I ended up skimming the last 100 pages, which I have never done while reading Ruth Reichel .
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  • Dan Gibson
    January 1, 1970
    Not as thrilling as Among the Thugs, not as fun as Heat, but Buford is still an incredibly gifted writer as he attempts to understand the influence (and influences) of the cuisine of Lyon. I thought the book started to drag near the finish, but it was a worthwhile read, inspiring me to look more into the food of that area.
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  • Judy
    January 1, 1970
    I liked, but not loved this book about Buford's dive into learning French cuisine. The best parts are his personal trials in the kitchens in which he worked in Lyons, and the sections involving his toddler twin boys as they absorb French culture and cuisine. I'm sad that I'll never get to taste a baguette from Bob's boulangerie.
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  • Rob Tsai
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a touching and at times mouth-watering homage to the home of French culinary history, Lyons - with its amazing breads, meats, wines and cheeses.Bill Buford, a New York literary editor, who is also an acc0mplished chef and food writer, decides to move to Lyons with his family and become an apprentice in a boulangerie, a French culinary school, and a few French kitchens. Reading about food is always a bit strange - as you simply want to reach into the page to taste the tastes and smel This book is a touching and at times mouth-watering homage to the home of French culinary history, Lyons - with its amazing breads, meats, wines and cheeses.Bill Buford, a New York literary editor, who is also an acc0mplished chef and food writer, decides to move to Lyons with his family and become an apprentice in a boulangerie, a French culinary school, and a few French kitchens. Reading about food is always a bit strange - as you simply want to reach into the page to taste the tastes and smell the smells.Some of the characters in the book jump off the page. Bob, the owner of a French bakery, who gives Bill his first job, makes what must be the most amazing bread in the world. The science and the art of baking, the weight of the flour, the temperature of the water, the humidity, the amount of yeast - all combine to create the delicious bread one can find in a France.The other scenes that stand out are the amount of hazing one has to endure in a French kitchen. Probably similar to what medical residents endure, or U.S. marine cadets. It's hard to justify the treatment, even in the name of tradition and learning, and I wonder how long these types of abuses will continue to be tolerated. At the same time, you don't want people who aren't toughened up by adversity - so it has to be a balance.
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  • Howard Christie
    January 1, 1970
    Had a cruise through Lyon scheduled before the pandemic so I was very interested to know more about the city and it’s food. Buford has previously written about Italian cooking ( Heat) so he seemed like a good candidate for this. Plus he completely went into this, moving with his wife and young sons and living in Lyon for 5 years. I admit I initially found him a bit grating. Typical American, always late, didn’t have paperwork done. He gave off that vibe that he had already written a book and cou Had a cruise through Lyon scheduled before the pandemic so I was very interested to know more about the city and it’s food. Buford has previously written about Italian cooking ( Heat) so he seemed like a good candidate for this. Plus he completely went into this, moving with his wife and young sons and living in Lyon for 5 years. I admit I initially found him a bit grating. Typical American, always late, didn’t have paperwork done. He gave off that vibe that he had already written a book and could spell chanterelles so why don’t people just offer him a kitchen slot. But they didn’t and he started in a bakery, which turned out to be fortunate. Bob the baker was an amazing one man show and helped Buford get to know Lyon. Eventually he did get a place in a top kitchen and here we are witness to all the evils we think of in a high stress location. Name calling, throwing pans and actual fighting are all part. Around this however are the consummate skills of French chefs.Buford won me over with his devotion to cooking, his growing love for the area and his sincere appreciation for the history of French cooking, of the food and techniques and especially for the chefs who have led the way.
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  • Miguel
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyable journey of a man’s quest to master French cooking and delve into its origins, that is whether it was highly influenced from Italy or not (which naturally would be controversial in both countries – meanwhile Germany just shrugs and just says “we have wurst”). Breezy throughout, it’s an easy read and Buford is joke-y, although never outright hilarious. It’s also a story of Lyon and what it takes to uproot your American family with 2 small twins to France and integrate (or not) into local Enjoyable journey of a man’s quest to master French cooking and delve into its origins, that is whether it was highly influenced from Italy or not (which naturally would be controversial in both countries – meanwhile Germany just shrugs and just says “we have wurst”). Breezy throughout, it’s an easy read and Buford is joke-y, although never outright hilarious. It’s also a story of Lyon and what it takes to uproot your American family with 2 small twins to France and integrate (or not) into local society. It’s a nice trip through both gastronomy and learning a new culture, with a bit of cooking history thrown in for good measure.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Don’t get spoiled by the New Yorker piece about the BakerI really like the read, but I wished I hadn’t read Bill’s New Yorker piece about the Lyon baker Bob before reading his new Book. The story about Bob is one of the main story lines, and perhaps THE story that leads to the realization of the idea “dirt” in french cooking. So reading the New Yorker piece is like going into a moive after already read a spoiler synopsis. I also wish Bill wrote a bit more about is journey in other restaurants, h Don’t get spoiled by the New Yorker piece about the BakerI really like the read, but I wished I hadn’t read Bill’s New Yorker piece about the Lyon baker Bob before reading his new Book. The story about Bob is one of the main story lines, and perhaps THE story that leads to the realization of the idea “dirt” in french cooking. So reading the New Yorker piece is like going into a moive after already read a spoiler synopsis. I also wish Bill wrote a bit more about is journey in other restaurants, he clearly worked in more than one, only really writes about one. But still a overall a good read...
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  • Anne Bogel
    January 1, 1970
    In his new memoir, foodie, food writer, and former New Yorker fiction editor Buford shares another first-hand account of his time in the kitchen. In a quest to deepen his culinary training, Buford and his wife, wine expert Jessica Green, move to France with their twin three-year-old boys. They intended to stay for six months so Buford could cook, but after settling in Lyon they extended their visit—and stayed for five years. A lush, detailed, and vividly drawn account of esteemed French kitchens In his new memoir, foodie, food writer, and former New Yorker fiction editor Buford shares another first-hand account of his time in the kitchen. In a quest to deepen his culinary training, Buford and his wife, wine expert Jessica Green, move to France with their twin three-year-old boys. They intended to stay for six months so Buford could cook, but after settling in Lyon they extended their visit—and stayed for five years. A lush, detailed, and vividly drawn account of esteemed French kitchens, and the culture that makes their grand food possible.Audiophile alert: I LOVED the audio version Buford narrates himself. He does an excellent job reading his own work.
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  • Jack Eyler
    January 1, 1970
    The book is both a culinary travel adventure and a history of French cooking. Unfortunately, the uneven nature of jumping between a chef in training at La Mere Brasier, in Lyon France, and the pieces of history encompassing French cooking, gets entangled traveling off in too many directions at once. There is a lot to like, of recipes, the La Riguer, of the French kitchen, the personal ordeals of the toddler twin boys; wife adapting to life in France, the grand chefs interaction woven into into t The book is both a culinary travel adventure and a history of French cooking. Unfortunately, the uneven nature of jumping between a chef in training at La Mere Brasier, in Lyon France, and the pieces of history encompassing French cooking, gets entangled traveling off in too many directions at once. There is a lot to like, of recipes, the La Riguer, of the French kitchen, the personal ordeals of the toddler twin boys; wife adapting to life in France, the grand chefs interaction woven into into the adventure but 1 Michelin star off for less than an epicurean banquet.
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  • Ireland
    January 1, 1970
    I was so bored I quit at page 24. I guess I'm just not into memoirs. Plus, this was a really long book, I could not imagine slogging through to the end. I also could not respect the authors choice to leave his wife and two toddlers in New York all week while he worked in DC. That is just too big of a sacrifice for food. It's just food, it's not a religion that inspires devotion. Or, maybe it is to him and some of his fellow chefs.
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  • Carla
    January 1, 1970
    The author travels to Lyon, France with his wife and two young sons to learn about the kitchens there and the relationship of Italian food to the food in France. There were a lot of names throughout that I didn’t recognize and some I did. I enjoyed the book but wanted a little more about the practicalities of moving to France with a family.
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  • Dina Horne
    January 1, 1970
    Personal life in France mixed with French cooking history. Even though I was clueless most of the time with all the details of French culinary history, there was enough drama and discovery that I could hold on. I kept chuckling at Bill’s stories of how HE was clueless half the time too, so it wasn’t too preachy. Loved his family experience living overseas.
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  • Mike Newman
    January 1, 1970
    An idyllic tale of baking and cooking throughout Lyon, France. If there is a thesis, one relating to the Italians inventing French cuisine, it’s buried in Bill Buford’s stories of the many kitchens he visits. That’s okay because those bring Lyonnaise cooking to life and will make you want to source your sourdough flour by a nearby farm and discord the fish of particular lakes
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  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    Bill Buford is one of my favorite writers. He's not afraid to go full immersion to get a story and explore a topic that he finds compellng. Better still, this is a topic—food, history, humanity—that I also find compelling. A really great read.
  • Kathy (Bermudaonion)
    January 1, 1970
    3.75I found this interesting mainly because we lived in Lyon years ago. Foodies will love the tales from the kitchen but I preferred the tales of expat life. Buford narrates the audio version and there are mouth noises throughout that were distracting at times.
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  • Brittany
    January 1, 1970
    Bob is the best partThe bread aspects, as highlighted in The New Yorker, were excellent and the highlight of the book. The pig part is also interesting, but if you want to save time, read the New Yorker excerpt.
  • Grace Hoffmann
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this. It's a little long but the long passages about working in the Lyonais kitchens are vivid. The homage to local ingredients is great. I greatly enjoyed the passages about his twin sons and their life in French public school. Really made me want to go to France and eat and eat.
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  • Allison Prouty
    January 1, 1970
    I love Bill Buford. I want to eat all the things and go to all the places with him.
  • Leslie Frucht
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyable glimpse at the kitchens of Lyon
  • Lissette M Saavedra
    January 1, 1970
    Content super cool. He’s so annoying
  • Gerald
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent reading! Reading this book helped understand the saying "Everyone eats but few know how to make food".
  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a sucker for this kind of writing and he excels at it. The debate over Italian influence on haute cuisine is particularly interesting.
  • Bobsie67
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyed Buford's Heat, so I was happy to read and enjoy his latest book recounting his "learning" to be a french chef. Oh, the hazards of working in a French kitchen in Lyon. A very demanding and tough life not always filled with reward. Celebrity chef income and status are rare. Buford does a wonderful job of describing what it's like to work in a French kitchen, as well as describing the French obsession with food, prepared precisely. Imagine taking the skin off peas?
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  • Elisabeth
    January 1, 1970
    I was 1/3 of the way through this book when I received the audio version of Dirt. I returned to the beginning of what I was already enjoying reading and listened to the author, Bill Buford, read his own words. The book came alive! Buford peels back the veneer of the stiff French chef and shows wonderful characters immersed in their passion and their community. He also confirms and describes the stereotypical competitive kitchen with each line cook trying to out do the person to the left or right I was 1/3 of the way through this book when I received the audio version of Dirt. I returned to the beginning of what I was already enjoying reading and listened to the author, Bill Buford, read his own words. The book came alive! Buford peels back the veneer of the stiff French chef and shows wonderful characters immersed in their passion and their community. He also confirms and describes the stereotypical competitive kitchen with each line cook trying to out do the person to the left or right.The lanuage of food is beautiful and inticing. I love to cook and live vicariuosly through books like this. Pure enjoyment sprinkled with a hint of jealousy!
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