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Editorial Reviews

From the chef of the excellently unpretentious New York restaurant Prune comes this delicious memoir charting her experiences with both feast and famine. Having gone to graduate school for creative writing, Gabrielle Hamilton is entirely able to describe her life story not only as a chef, but as a writer. As a bonus, she narrates the audiobook herself with the deep feeling and attachment one should expect from someone analyzing her own life. Hamilton’s personality really shines through. With each deadpan punchline and every impeccable bit of Italian, it becomes increasingly obvious how Hamilton has managed to not only survive, but actually thrive, in the financially risky and still sadly machismo-dominated food service industry.

Beginning with her youth as a high school dropout abandoned by a hippie father and French mother, Hamilton relied on her experiences in the family kitchen to get hired as a waitress or line cook at a variety of average diners. Later, she travelled the world for a few months more on the strength of her wits than her wallet, learning about world cuisine from anybody willing to teach her. Her highly specific recollection of what it is like to be starving on a cross-county train ride is pure poetry, and the kind of thing one wants to hear directly from the mouth of the person who lived it. As Hamilton finds herself increasingly imbedded in the world of food, she is somewhat startled to realize that it has been her true passion all along.

There is easily something in here for everyone to enjoy. Industry people will appreciate the rant against brunch joints that offer a free mimosa. Aspiring chefs will be relieved to know that some fulfilling work-life balance is indeed possible. Foodies will delight in the comparison of regional Italian cuisine with its woefully inadequate American counterpart. And, of course, scrappy women who always manage to land on their feet will appreciate this unflinching testimony to the importance of having strength of character and a willingness to go your own way. Gabrielle Hamilton’s voice work is excellent because she doesn’t act like the popular girl at the party, regaling everyone with gossipy tales she acquired as toast of the town. Rather, she casually and quietly builds a fierce little empire of wisdom out of the scattered, broken bits of adventure that have been her life so far. This is a genuinely good listen, written and read by a genuine person. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary


“I wanted the lettuce and eggs at room temperature... the butter-and-sugar sandwiches we ate after school for snack... the marrow bones my mother made us eat as kids that I grew to crave as an adult.... There would be no ‘conceptual’ or ‘intellectual’ food, just the salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry. In ecstatic farewell to my years of corporate catering, we would never serve anything but a martini in a martini glass. Preferably gin.”

Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent 20 fierce, hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Above all, she sought family, particularly the thrill and the magnificence of the one from her childhood that, in her adult years, eluded her. Hamilton’s ease and comfort in a kitchen were instilled in her at an early age when her parents hosted grand parties, often for more than 100 friends and neighbors. The smells of spit-roasted lamb, apple wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade became as necessary to her as her own skin.

Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family - the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work.

©2011 Gabrielle Hamilton (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. Ever. Gabrielle Hamilton packs more heart, soul, and pure power into one beautifully crafted page than I’ve accomplished in my entire writing career. Blood, Bones & Butter is the work of an uncompromising chef and a prodigiously talented writer. I am choked with envy.” (Anthony Bourdain)
“Gabrielle Hamilton has changed the potential and raised the bar for all books about eating and cooking. Her nearly rabid love for all real food experience and her completely vulnerable, unprotected yet pure point of view unveils itself in both truth and inspiration. 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. After that I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen.” (Mario Batali)
“I have long considered Gabrielle Hamilton a writer in cook’s clothing, and this deliciously complex and intriguing memoir proves the point. Her candor, courage, and craft make for a wonderful read but, even more, for an appreciation of her talent and dedication, which have resulted from her often trying but inspiring experiences. Her writing is every bit as delectable and satisfying as her food.” (Mimi Sheraton, food critic and author of The German Cookbook and Eating My Words)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Ralph
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 10-17-11

Finding yourself

Beautiful written memoir of growing up and finding your way to the life one needs to live. Gabrielle Hamilton shares her life and her becoming a chef and owner of the wonderful restaurant Prune in NYC. If you love Anthony Bourdain put this book at the top of your reading list

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  • Josanne
  • Centennial, CO, United States
  • 08-29-11

Don't need to like cooking to love this book

I thought this book was very interesting, wonderful to hear about Gabrielle's slightly wacky upbringing and how she made her way into her current profession. I liked that she narrated the book I think that makes the story even better. Would recommend this book.

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  • Matthew
  • Dallas, TX, United States
  • 07-01-11

Bitter, Bitter, and Bitter!

I was hoping to like this book. Michael Ruhlman was 1/3rd right when he said the last part of the title should have been "bitter" rather than "butter." I have never heard a grown adult complain so much. The book is self narrated which makes you despise the author even more. (Her voice is extremely apathetic so listening to it is extremely hard.) She is vulgar and extremely crass. I'm no prude--but this woman is no lady--furthest thing from it. Her resentment toward her mother and husband is too much to take. Umm...if you are going to have a sham marriage for green card puposes maybe you shouldn't have expectations of love, affection, and for the love of god don't have children. throughout the book, she writes such redundant passages and waxes about her amazing abilities to complete the simplest of tasks. I was so glad to finish it. my recommendation...get grant achatz's life on the line and read about a real class act...not this %&*$@!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jayson Olson
  • Rancho Santa Margarita, ca, United States
  • 06-15-11

A cookbook of emotions.

This book isn't exactly what I was expecting. As a foodie who watches the Food Network for sport, I was really hoping to get deep into the underground world of being a chef, details of kitchen stories, a culinary education, and perhaps pick up a tip or two along the way.

Perhaps it's my fault for not quite understanding the gist of the book upon purchase, but I plugged along anyway.

Instead, I found myself listening to a sometimes salty, sometimes introspective self-examination sprinkled with rants, but a definite auto-biography of chef Hamilton experiences groing up within her family, her culinary family, and finally her extended family through marriage.

I found her narration often monotone in delivery with chef Hamilton occasionally revealing emotion only through whispers, rants, and sorrow. There are some humorous moments, but few and far between. There was one chapter in particular (somewhere in the middle) that it got a bit too cerebral and heady even for me, so I was glad to move on.

While the book does indeed have interesting tales and focus on certain culinary highlights of hers (working at a camp, her first job as a waitress, opening Prune and dealing with employees, being selected to speak on a panel about women chefs), the book takes a turn when we are introduced to her Italian husband. What starts off as a torid love affair from a self-admitted lesbian to marrying a man on a motorcycle who makes her fresh pasta slowly migrates over the years into a very loveless and loney marriage. By the end, I actually felt very sorry for her...(not in a pity way)...her description of how lonley she felt even surrounded by her extended family was heartbreaking at times and I felt a lot of empathy for her.

Her descriptions of cooking in Italy, the way she handled, smelled, and used ingredients were very good and for those moments, I could close my eyes and picture myself quite vividly in the kitchen with her. I wanted much more of that in this book.

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  • Michelle
  • BERKELEY, CA, United States
  • 04-16-11

Loved it.

I was captivated from the start. Stunning writing. And I really enjoyed her narration as well. To me it added a real authenticity to the story - every word spoken just as the author intended.

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  • vern
  • charlotte, NC, United States
  • 02-01-12

intolerable reader

Any additional comments?

Most audible books have excellent readers, they make the book come alive. This reader is dull beyond measure. She sounds bored and completely uninterested in what she's reading. Which in turn makes the story boring. I had to turn it off, I couldn't stand it. Truly disappointing.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Great story, the worst narration

I love food writing, I truly do. Gabrielle Hamilton is a gifted writer but I can't say the same about her narration. Her monotone turned a great book into a chore and I can't say I'd recommend it to anybody.

Read it, have someone read it to you but don't waste your money on this audio book.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Brittany
  • SEATTLE, WA, United States
  • 04-18-11

great read, but bug issue with this audiobook

GH tells an awesome tale about very real details of her upbringing and life working in the food industry. She has such a gift with prose that I would recommend the book to anyone I know!
I don't know what the other reviews were talking about regarding her narration because I could understand her perfectly and thought she did a beautiful job reading her work.
My audiobook however was great for the first half but super buggy in the second half so much that I couldn't finish the audiobook. I tried reinstalling audible and redownloading the book, but no luck. It was definitely an issue with this particular book, so watch out!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful