Gabrielle Hamilton, Cooking With Words

BRUNI-articleInline Frank Bruni reviews Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, in the NYT:

It’s hard to think of another American chef who has outdone Gabrielle Hamilton in converting the humblest of stages into the heftiest of reputations. The restaurant she opened in downtown Manhattan in 1999, Prune, has barely enough room for the 30 diners it squeezes in at brunch, lunch and dinner, and despite the reliable presence of dozens of additional customers waiting on the sidewalk, she has either escaped or resisted the itch for expansion that so many of her contemporaries scratch and scratch. Prune has no annex or uptown sibling; there is no Prune Dubai. Just this one cramped, irresistible nook with its scuffed floors, nicked tables and servers in pink.

And yet Hamilton’s renown among, and even beyond, the food cognoscenti is huge. That’s principally because what she has championed at Prune — hearty comfort food prepared to a gourmet’s standards and served in a manner so unceremonious that the utensils don’t always match — foreshadowed some of the most prominent dining trends of the day. It owes something as well to her success as a woman in a field still dominated by men. But there’s another explanation: Hamilton can write. For many years now, she has popped up in prominent publications as the author of eloquent, spirited glimpses into the heart, mind and sweaty labor of a chef. So the growing ranks of the restaurant-obsessed have been able to feast not only on her deviled eggs but also on her prose.

After much anticipation, the inevitable memoir has arrived. “Blood, Bones and Butter” traces nearly all of Hamilton’s life and career, from an unmoored childhood through her triumph at Prune, which didn’t end the search for a sense of place and peace that is the overarching theme of this autobiography, as of so many others. It’s a story of hungers specific and vague, conquered and unappeasable, and what it lacks in urgency (and even, on occasion, forthrightness) it makes up for in the shimmer of Hamilton’s best writing.