Fat Man in a White Hat

I discovered Bill Buford having watching Fat Man in a White Hat, a seemingly-truncated BBC4 series broadcast earlier this year. It featured a passionate and highly-articulate American guy who'd thrown in his job and moved his family to France to learn all about being a French chef.  I enjoyed the two episodes and looked the guy up to find more.  Turns out he's an amazingly good writer in the headlong experiential gonzo style.


My first stop was Heat, following his journey to learn Italian cooking. He starts out at Mario Batali's restaurants working his way up from dish pig to ever more important stations. It's a fascinating account of the life, the culture and the flavour of high-end kitchens, from the perspective of an enthusiastic outsider. The man clearly has a saint for a wife, obvious when he talks about how he brought a whole pig carcass home to his small New York apartment to process.  The book is excellent, and the man is an amazing journalistic talent.

Next I read his account of English football hooliganism, Among the Thugs, which is slightly less accomplished but still an excellent experience. Buford has a great way of describing the scene and everything he experiences in it that places you right in the action. His conclusion about football hooligans is depressing, but likely very true. His descriptions of life in English terraces pre-Hillsborough are enlightening.

Strongly recommended.