This is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read. The fact that it is about kitchens and food and chefs, etc. hardly matters: it is, first and last, a swashbuckling adventure in which our hero, the author, driven by curiosity and some unreasonable lust for kitchen skills, faces the heat in the kitchens of a couple of the most outsized, megalomaniacal chefs in the world and in a butcher shop in Italy. There is gossip of rare incision, gory details that beggar fiction, scenarios beyond the imagination of theater, all falling over each other pell-mell because Bill Buford's lust for skills and experience is like a locomotive and his writing is brilliant.
His humility is the subject, really. It makes the story possible, makes the humor irresistable, puts him in situations that most of us are too proud to ever experience, and gives his prose the most winning lightness and warmth. By the end of the book, which I lamented like I was losing a pal, it became clear that Buford is a sort of modern-day Don Quixote, venturing forth into the unkown driven by a vague but powerful sense of childlike curiosity... actually, maybe he is the Elephant Child, repeatedly spanked by the grownups for his "Satiable Curtiosity"... or maybe he's a new breed of Late-Empire reporter, dutifully recording the vicissitudes of our wealth-enabled excesses from the foxholes of gluttony. Fact remains that he has shown us something keenly observed, something that is right under our noses but almost invisible, and he has done it so well because he is so omnivorous in his hunger for experience and so teachable. Here's another stab at describing Mr. Buford: he is the anti-Bond, in no way jaded, un-blinkered by savoir-faire, open to the world, and fantastically observant as a result.
This is great reportage, great story-telling, great humor... I strongly recommend it, especially if you loved Kitchen Confidential and The Reach of a Chef. Outstanding.