If you’ve never been to Prune, whatever you do, don’t go now. It’ll be more crowded than ever. There’s a simpler way to experience the unique POV of chef/owner : buy a copy of “Blood, Bones & Butter.” A searing memoir that swears like a Marine, dispels all romantic notions of retiring in Italy, and exposes the unsavory dark corners of life we’d rather not think about, from the we eat to the painful effects of divorce. And if you’ve ever had a quaint notion about quitting your day job to open a restaurant, you better know how to trap rats, deal with shirtless neighbors who like to sun themselves outside your front door all the while attending to the unhappy customer at table 7.


Driven by two things—hunger and worry—Hamilton made it through her first forty years thanks to an uncompromising work ethic and dogged worldview, from tough teenage years, to 18-hour days as a catering cook, to Michigan, to Europe, and eventually to the corner of 1st and 1st. Hamilton writes as if she’s in a rush, and with two boys in tow, payroll to be made and a rabbit to braise, she probably is. What I admire most in this story is the brutal honesty. She doesn’t have time for the food police. She avoids the trendy and simply cooks the kind of food she grew up liking. She detests laziness. Case in point: in one story, she finds herself in an unknown part of Brooklyn looking for a midday meal, but even though she is starving and her blood sugar is crashing, she dashes off a comment like, “I hate brunches that serve free mimosas,” driving past place after place staffed by cooks who gave up caring long ago. Every meal is too important to be left to the bored.

But this memoir isn’t all long hours and kitchen heat. There’s a warm story about , my all time favorite TV chef. A quest for the perfect French omelette. A loving relationship with an Italian mother-in-law. And more than one perfectly made Negroni, quite possibly the world’s most perfect cocktail.

A few years ago I had one of my more memorable lunches at . I was meeting Mike Colemeco, who happens to be friends with Gabrielle. Menus were put away and a suggestion was made: “I just got a piece of pork belly…” A few minutes later, a perfectly seared cube of tender pork, topped by a layer of melting fat, was brought to our table. A vegetable on the side, a glass of wine and that sums up Prune. Buy something good and cook it correctly. This book is much the same. All the fluff has been stripped away. What you are left with is a delicious story of one cook’s life, a little messy, brutally honest, successful. A great meal of a book, told correctly.