Bill Buford left publishing to pursue fine French cooking and to answer one historical question – is French cuisine, really in fact, Italian? This memoir is perfectly structured, fast and full of details of French life and food. Often funny, sometimes bittersweet, and occasionally showing the brutality that rages in the finest French restaurants, Buford shows us how method – from ingredients to presentation – is what makes French cooking unique.
“You can almost taste the food in Bill Buford’s Dirt, an engrossing, beautifully written memoir about his life as a cook in France.” —The Wall Street Journal
What does it take to master French cooking? This is the question that drives Bill Buford to abandon his perfectly happy life in New York City and pack up and (with a wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow) move to Lyon, the so-called gastronomic capital of France. But what was meant to be six months in a new and very foreign city turns into a wild five-year digression from normal life, as Buford apprentices at Lyon’s best boulangerie, studies at a legendary culinary school, and cooks at a storied Michelin-starred restaurant, where he discovers the exacting (and incomprehensibly punishing) rigueur of the professional kitchen.
With his signature humor, sense of adventure, and masterful ability to bring an exotic and unknown world to life, Buford has written the definitive insider story of a city and its great culinary culture.
About the Author
Bill Buford is the author of Heat and Among the Thugs. He has received a Marshall Scholarship, a James Beard Award, and the Comune di Roma’s Premio Sandro Onofri for narrative reportage. For eighteen years, Buford lived in England, and was the founding editor of the literary magazine Granta and the founding publisher of Granta Books. He moved to the United States in 1995 to join The New Yorker, where he has been the fiction editor, a staff writer, and a regular contributor. In 2008, he moved with his family to Lyon, France, and lived there for five years. He was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, educated at University of California, Berkeley, and King’s College, Cambridge, and now lives in New York City with his wife, the wine educator and writer Jessica Green, and their twin sons.
“A profound and intuitive work of immersive journalism.” —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 observerand participant. He’s an entertaining, often comical, raconteur.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Blazingly entertaining and frequently scalding.” —NPR
“A delightful, highly idiosyncratic exploration. . . . [Dirt] may well bean even greater pleasure than its predecessor.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Pure pleasure. Masterfully written. If you care at all about food, about writing, about obsessive people with a sense of adventure, you have to read this book. It is, in a word, wonderful.” —Ruth Reichl
“[Buford] is knowledgeable, quick, and funny—and Dirt is a work of cultural, historical, and gastronomical depth that reads like an action memoir. . . . He truly took me to the heart of French cuisine.” —Eleanor Beardsley, NPR
“A satisfying and envy-inspiring travelogue.” —Joumana Khatib, The New York Times
"Bill’s ability to fully immerse himself in a foreign place, seemingly at the drop of a dime, is always a sight to behold. With Dirt, Bill dives deep into the unforgiving kitchen culture of Lyon and expresses what it’s truly like to be a cook in this legendary food city.” —Marcus Samuelsson
“[Buford’s] writing is filled with humor and heart. . . . [He] underlines a deeply resonant tenet of life: the value of community.” —Time
“Required reading for anyone with a love of history, good eating, and masterful storytelling.” —David Chang
“Buford has created a unique brand of immersive food writing that channels some of the greatest ever American investigative journalism. In Dirt, he ‘embeds’ his entire family in Lyon, to uncover the heart of French cuisine, its glory, its glaring insecurities and uncertain future.” —Financial Times
“A serious and comprehensive history of French cooking, and of [Buford’s] adopted city.” —The Boston Globe
“Bill Buford is an enthusiast of the highest order. His deep dive into Lyonnais cuisine is a detective story, a love story, and an act of bare-knuckled reverence. It’s earthy, brainy, and delicious.” —Pamela Druckerman
“A great American architect of words.” —The Washington Post
“[A] rollicking, food-stuffed entertainment. . . . Gourmets and gourmands will savour this account of [Buford's] five-year adventure—and so will students of the author’s curious, compelling character.” —The Spectator
“[Dirt] presents an opportunity to examine what it means, exactly, to be an eater. . . . Buford has extended the old adage, You are what you eat, to something broader, encompassing history, culture, the world: We are what we eat. That notion has never rung truer.” —The New Republic
“An energetic, delightful writer, painting scenes like a first-class impressionist. . . . Buford has a knack for bringing the foibles of the human condition to life with an appetite for the eccentric and an eye for detail.” —Milk Street Magazine
“Alternatively buoyant, humorous, and thoughtful, Dirt is a very enjoyable feast.” —Jacques Pépin
“A remarkable book. . . . Buford’s a delightful narrator, and his stories . . . are by turns funny, intimate, insightful, and occasionally heartbreaking.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)