Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French cooking
By Bill Buford
A hilariously self-deprecating, highly obsessive account of the author's adventures, in the world of French haute cuisine, for anyone whose ever found joy in cooking and eating food with their family--from the author of the best-selling, widely acclaimed Heat.
A New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2020
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
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. With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterly 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.
This book may well be an even greater pleasure than its predecessor. Moving himself, his wife and their two young boys to Lyon, Buford sets out, with characteristically self-deprecating humor, not merely to learn the techniques of French cuisine, but to understand its essence . . . Most enjoyable are the apprenticeships in which he sets out to master the five mother sauces, bake the perfect baguette and construct the same misleadingly named 'duck pie' . . . Delightful, highly idiosyncratic." —Lisa Abend, The New York Times Book Review
"I heartily recommend Bill Buford's Dirt . . . blazingly entertaining . . . Buford again proves himself to be a relentless reporter and a self-deprecating guide . . . As his title suggests, it's not just the fanatical dedication and meticulously exacting prep. This deliciously salty chronicle, loamy with culinary history and profiles of the great chefs, is worth digging into." —Heller McAlpin, NPR
"A welcome reminder of simpler times . . . Buford's writing is filled with humor and heart . . . He unveils the importance of understanding a city in order to better prepare its dishes . . .[and] underlines a deeply resonant tenet of life: the value of community." —Annabel Gutterman, TIME
"As with good cookery, no shortcuts are taken in Dirt. When Buford picks up a subject — be it bread or language or culinary history or Italian versus French food or the nature of Lyon — that subject is simmered until every tendon has softened. This is a big book that, like an army, moves entire divisions independent of one another. Watching Buford choose a topic for scrutiny is like watching an enormous bodybuilder single out one muscle, on the mountain range of his or her arms, for a laser-focused burn . . . He has a smart, literate, sly voice on the page . . . There is an excellent history of cooking in Lyon, with Fernand Point and Paul Bocuse at its molten center . . . I admire this book enormously; it’s a profound and intuitive work of immersive journalism." —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"You can almost taste the food in Bill Buford’s Dirt, an engrossing, beautifully written memoir about his life as a cook in France . . . Buford brings a novelistic approach to his story; he is both observer and participant. He’s an entertaining, often comical, raconteur . . . His descriptions of his new city are vivid and evocative . . . humorously self-deprecating . . . Buford has another goal besides training in a French kitchen: to investigate the history and origins of that country’s cooking and its links to Italian cuisine." —Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
"If you gobbled up Buford’s 2006 book Heat like a bowl of fabulous pasta, you’ll lap up this new volume like a vat of vichyssoise." —Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post