Gabrielle Hamilton: Miscreants in the Kitchen at Miami Book Fair
Photo by Melissa Hamilton
New Yorkers know her as the chef/owner of Prune and a prolific writer whose work has appeared in nearly every major food magazine, the New Yorker and The New York Times. Now Hamilton will most likely be known around the country as the author of Blood, Bones & Butter (Random House, $26), a presumably honest and exposing diary of her journey from her mother's kitchen to her very own, with all the embarrassing, shocking, crazy, and sometimes inspiring details included.
We'd love to tell you more about it, but Hamilton will appear at the Miami Book Fair's Presentation Pavilion this Saturday, November 19, at 11 a.m., along with chef/author Andrew Carmellini and author Jessica B. Harris, so we'll let her do that herself. Admission is free. The next night, Hamilton will cook alongside Michael Schwartz at Harry's Pizzeria, which will be renamed Prune Pizzeria Sunday in her honor. "We might try to re-create Chapter 1," she teases. The $155 tickets include four courses, beer/wine pairings, and a signed copy of her book.
In the meantime, here's a slice to enjoy while you wait:
New Times: I know you won't take offense to this question, but after reading about all of your illegal activities and such, I have to ask: What is it about becoming a cook that seems so appealing to rebels and vagabonds?
Gabrielle Hamilton: It's strange, right? I once did a very unscientific study: I always ask the front of the house how many of their parents are married. Invariably the front of the house has a more stable home life than the people who work in the kitchens. So weird. For me, I like very much putting order to chaos. To own a restaurant and make a kind of sane, consistent, functioning workplace is of great interest to me. You know, tame the flame.
Why is it more chefs don't write?
It's two radically different skill sets. The opposite question comes up for me.
But your book is a tell-all, not food writing.
It's not a tell-all. I wrote a memoir, strictly within the category of memoir. It happens to take place in the context of food because I'm in a kitchen.
Have you ever been to the Miami Book Fair before?
No. Am I gonna have fun?
I certainly hope so. It's not as much fun as being in a kitchen, but you're being paired with Andrew Carmellini and Jessica Harris, so that should be interesting.
Harris I know by her work. Andrew I know collegiately, of course. We're in the same town and the same biz.
Which criticism would be harder for you to swallow -- someone telling you a dish sucks or that you can't write?
What's been so gratifying is to be the one who is critiquing. That's been my practice since opening the restaurant and understood I'm in charge. I don't want for a customer to send something back. I'm able to see that in advance before it leaves the kitchen. It's the same thing with writing; there's no criticism someone could level at me that I haven't already self-savaged. It's a little like growing up -- you give yourself the criticism, and that's the stuff that hurts the most.
What would you say to male chefs who say females aren't as strong in the kitchen?
Do they still say that? That statement says more about male chefs. It reveals their small-mindedness. In sports, I get it. But... I've been doing this for 30 years. There's nothing we can't excel at or screw up equally. They should concern themselves with the work at hand and execute it thoroughly and leave gender aside as an interesting fact of their character but nothing more than that.
Stop back tomorrow for Part 2 of this interview.
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