Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: "Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef" by Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune, a well-known restaurant in New York City. But unlike many successful chefs, she never set out to pursue this career path, nor did her training follow the typical course of culinary school, apprenticeships under some of the world's leading chefs and working her way up to owning her own restaurant. Instead, she lived a fiercely independent life starting at age 13, faced some tremendous challenges and wavered back and forth as to what role food should play in her life until she stumbled on the opportunity to create and own Prune.

Blood, Bones and Butter is more than a story about how Gabrielle Hamilton became a successful chef and created a renowned restaurant. It is a story about one woman's love of food and cooking and eating and providing others the pleasures she derived from food, but beyond that it is an unflinching account of being forced into adulthood too early, dealing with adversity, questioning what direction your life will take, struggling with your identity, handling the challenges of relationships, marriage and motherhood, and finding your place in the world. Hamilton doesn't whitewash anything and isn't always a likeable person, but that made this book more compelling, because I didn't feel as if her opinions or her reminiscences were sanitized for readers.

I'll admit this book wasn't what I expected. I thought it would be the story of a lifelong affection for food and an opportunity to follow a successful chef on the path she took to get to where she is. And while it is both of those things, this book is more the story of a life, one that just happens to be rooted in the food industry. Gabrielle Hamilton—and her story—are simultaneously fascinating, inspirational, irritating and surprising—and that's probably why I liked this book so much.

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