Monday, April 07, 2008

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones

This was a novel that I'd gotten in ARC from the publishing house at the ALA convention last year. The cover bird, made totally of food, intrigued me, and the idea of a journalist interviewing the last Chinese chef of a dynasty of famed chefs also made me curious about the contents of the book.
A fast read with a swift moving plot and succinct prose, The Last Chinese Chef kept me reading into the wee hours. I was captivated by the story of Maggie McElroy, who must travel to China to investigate the claim that her newly deceased husband fathered a child on a woman there while on business. Maggie meets up with Sam Liang, who was to open a restaurant, but finds out that while that plan was scrapped due to an investor bagging on him, that he can still cook in China if he wins a cooking contest offered by the government. Sam grew up in America, but traveled to China to learn cooking from his famed uncles and a book written by his grandfather, who was some kind of uber chef in China during the Mao years.
Food is written about as a sensual experience and cooking as an art form that must satisfy the palate and the soul simultainiously. Sam and Maggies relationship grows steadily out of their mutual love of good cuisine, and the romantic tension that springs up between them is eventually consumated.
This is a book not to be missed by those that enjoy food and love a good story with an HEA.

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