Review: Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood, Bones & Butter”

Gabrielle Hamilton chef/owner of PruneNever have I seen a contestant on Iron Chef: America become as popular as mild mannered Gabrielle Hamilton.  She has been one of the most searched for subjects on my blog for three years.  Chef Hamilton wowed judge’s Karine Bakhoum, Louisa Chu and Michael Ruhlman en route to a 53-49 victory over Iron Chef Bobby Flay in Battle: Zucchini.  Gabrielle’s modest Zucchini Tian was one of the most searched-for recipes on the Online for months after that appearance.

For those who don’t know Hamilton, she is the chef/owner of Prune, a popular bistro in New York’s East Village.  Prune is known for churning out scratch-made Continental Cuisine with an unassuming and decidedly cozy feel.  The chef draws on her travels abroad and her dysfunctional childhood for the inspiration on her menu.

It is that childhood that provides the backdrop for both her success as a chef and as the subject matter of her chef memoir Blood, Bones & Butter (available in the Wannabe TV Chef Store).  Since its release this past spring it has been one of the hottest food-oriented books on the market.  So popular in fact that the publisher actually had to dig a little to come up with a review copy to send me.

The praise for Blood, Bones & Butter has been exceptional.  Dig some of these quotes:

“I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything even close to this.”
Mario Batali

“I have long considered Gabrielle Hamilton a writer in cook’s clothes and this deliciously complex…memoir proves the point.”
Mimi Sheraton

“Gabrielle Hamilton approaches storytelling the same way she does cooking-with thoughtful creativity that delights the senses.”
Daniel Boulud

“Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever.”
Anthony Bourdain

That’s high praise from some highly respected people.  Though Bourdain’s quote demonstrates his adulation for Hamilton’s book, his own memoir Kitchen Confidential remains, for me anyway, the benchmark for all chef memoirs.  Being a guy I like a little more raunch in my chef memoirs I guess.  Still Blood, Bones Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton& Butter is a terrific read that is filled with poignant moments and emotional leeching.  It is wonderful story telling.

As with many of us in this industry, cooking did not start out as Hamilton’s Plan A.  It was simply something she could do well enough to pay the bills and maintain a steady supply of drugs and alcohol.  She worked her way to an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan by working as a catering chef.  And while her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Bon Appétit, Saveur, and Food & Wine it is for her rustic comfort food that she has gained most notoriety.

Blood, Bones & Butter may change all of that.  Hamilton’s gift with words is equal to her talent in the kitchen.  She has passages that are almost lyrical as she recites the life’s events that led to opening her renowned Manhattan eatery, her transition from lesbian feminist to loving mother and business woman not to mention the sordid affair (with a man no less) that eventually lead to marriage.

The best section of the book is at the end where she regales the reader with tales of her annual vacation to her husband’s family home in Southern Italy.  Her admiration for her mother-in-law Alda forms the heart of her love of everything about her new Italian family, the family she never had growing up.  Why don’t I let her tell you:

[mp3j track=”Excerpt-Blood-Bones-Butter.mp3″]

Blood, Bones & Butter is a great memoir, chef or otherwise, that will genuinely entertain.  Fans of Hamilton will not be disappointed.  Unless of course they are looking for the recipe to her Zucchini Tian.

Food TV Baffles Me Sometimes

Originally posted on July 25, 2008.

Hello, I am Stuart, and I’m a foodie.

Where do I start?

Last week’s Iron Chef: America:  I have been blogging this show for quite some time now and I have never seen any challenger capture the imagination of the public like Gabrielle Hamilton.  The hits I get on her are amazing.  I hope TFN is paying attention, they may have accidentally found the Next Food Network Star.  And Bobby Flay’s sous chef Renee ain’t bad either.  I should know I thought five years ago that Anne Burrell needs her own show.  Are you listening Tuschman?  I got the sight.

Which now brings me to all of the turmoil of NFNS:  Fixed!  Aaron had one of the worst performances of anyone in the history of the show last week and now (thanks to a network blunder) we know that he is the winner.  Fixed!  Well, actually Mary Nolan was the real winner.  Fixed!  She got a show and didn’t even have to compete.  And oddly enough Kelsey Nixon, the brightest face to come on the network in a while got axed (presumably to make sure Aaron would win).  Fixed!

SARCASM ALERT: But TFN was on to something with Mary Nolan.  My stats on her are off the chart.  She’s a solid fit for the network, but apparently a lot of you love her.  I like her, she’s nice, but Kelsey has star (Rachael Ray cross-over star) written all over her.  Instead of calling Aaron McCargo’s new show Big Daddy’s House they should call it One And Done.  Out of the ten chefs they had to choose from they went with the guy who was horrible on camera.  No wonder the winner’s show never gets picked up for a second season.  Except for Guy Fieri.  I see why Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen smoke NFNS in the ratings.  Sure they are just shows about people screaming and there is little actual cooking to them but you at least feel that they find the best person in the end.

ICA: Chef Gabrielle Hamilton

Never have I seen a contestant on Iron Chef: America become as popular as mild mannered Gabrielle Hamilton.  She has been one of the most searched for items on my blog.  This first hit the net on July 20, 2008.

Tonight Bobby Flay takes on Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in New York City.  Prune is a well thought of restaurant in the East Village that offers . . .  well, why don’t I let Gabrielle tell you for herself.

Chef Hamilton has endured herself to the city that never sleeps as Brooke Barrier explains in her article from the Nation’s Restaurant News.  The judge’s are Karine Bakhoum (bubbly) , Louisa Chu (adorable), and Michael Ruhlman (commanding).  Enjoy the Battle.

UPDATE:  I just watched the episode; congrats to Chef Hamilton for a great battle and win.

Be sure to read my review of Gabrielle Hamilton’s chef memoir “Blood, Bones & Butter” HERE.  There’s an excerpt read by the chef/author.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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