Hot Best Seller

El último chef chino

Availability: Ready to download

Nicole Mones has mined the endless riches of China once again in The Last Chinese Chef. This time she hits the trifecta: the personal stories of Sam and Maggie, the history and lore of Chinese cuisine, and an inside look at cultural dislocation. Maggie McElroy is a widowed American food writer who is suddenly confronted with a paternity claim against her late husband's est Nicole Mones has mined the endless riches of China once again in The Last Chinese Chef. This time she hits the trifecta: the personal stories of Sam and Maggie, the history and lore of Chinese cuisine, and an inside look at cultural dislocation. Maggie McElroy is a widowed American food writer who is suddenly confronted with a paternity claim against her late husband's estate--by a Chinese family. Her editor offers her another reason to go to Beijing: write an article about a rising young Chinese-American-Jewish chef, Sam Liang. Having sold the home she had with her late husband Matt and reduced her possessions to only the barest necessities, with her life feeling as though it is contracting around her, Maggie embraces the oppportunity to sort out her feelings about Matt's supposed infidelity and do some work at the same time. She and Sam hit it off right away, even though he is involved in a very important competition for a place on the Chinese national cooking team for the 2008 Olympics. They travel together to the south of China where she meets her husband's possible daughter--with Sam standing by to act as translator--and where Maggie meets much of Sam's family. He has been welcomed back with open arms, even though he occasionally feels that he has one foot in China and one in Ohio. The Beijing uncles and the Hangzhou uncle are a raucous, loving, argumentative bunch of foodies who advise Sam about menus, encourage a romance with Maggie, make him start over again when the dish isn't perfect, and alternately praise and criticize his cooking. Maggie loves being in the middle of it all and finds herself more and more drawn to Sam. She begins, with Sam's help, to see food as "healing" and understands the guanxi or "connectedness" that takes place around food. At the beginning of each chapter is a paragraph taken from a book entitled The Last Chinese Chef, written by Sam's grandfather and translated by Sam and his father. Mones has written that book, too, which is an explanation of the place of food in Chinese history and family life. The novel is rich with meaning and lore and an examination of loving relationships. Don't even touch this book when you're hungry. The descriptions make the aromas and textures float right off the page. --Valerie Ryan


Compare

Nicole Mones has mined the endless riches of China once again in The Last Chinese Chef. This time she hits the trifecta: the personal stories of Sam and Maggie, the history and lore of Chinese cuisine, and an inside look at cultural dislocation. Maggie McElroy is a widowed American food writer who is suddenly confronted with a paternity claim against her late husband's est Nicole Mones has mined the endless riches of China once again in The Last Chinese Chef. This time she hits the trifecta: the personal stories of Sam and Maggie, the history and lore of Chinese cuisine, and an inside look at cultural dislocation. Maggie McElroy is a widowed American food writer who is suddenly confronted with a paternity claim against her late husband's estate--by a Chinese family. Her editor offers her another reason to go to Beijing: write an article about a rising young Chinese-American-Jewish chef, Sam Liang. Having sold the home she had with her late husband Matt and reduced her possessions to only the barest necessities, with her life feeling as though it is contracting around her, Maggie embraces the oppportunity to sort out her feelings about Matt's supposed infidelity and do some work at the same time. She and Sam hit it off right away, even though he is involved in a very important competition for a place on the Chinese national cooking team for the 2008 Olympics. They travel together to the south of China where she meets her husband's possible daughter--with Sam standing by to act as translator--and where Maggie meets much of Sam's family. He has been welcomed back with open arms, even though he occasionally feels that he has one foot in China and one in Ohio. The Beijing uncles and the Hangzhou uncle are a raucous, loving, argumentative bunch of foodies who advise Sam about menus, encourage a romance with Maggie, make him start over again when the dish isn't perfect, and alternately praise and criticize his cooking. Maggie loves being in the middle of it all and finds herself more and more drawn to Sam. She begins, with Sam's help, to see food as "healing" and understands the guanxi or "connectedness" that takes place around food. At the beginning of each chapter is a paragraph taken from a book entitled The Last Chinese Chef, written by Sam's grandfather and translated by Sam and his father. Mones has written that book, too, which is an explanation of the place of food in Chinese history and family life. The novel is rich with meaning and lore and an examination of loving relationships. Don't even touch this book when you're hungry. The descriptions make the aromas and textures float right off the page. --Valerie Ryan

30 review for El último chef chino

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    The story goes down like steamed chow mein: Soft and amiable, with nothing too heavy to chew on. Before I realized it, I had finished over half the book. I just kept shoving the words in my brain without stopping to ponder them. The Last Chinese Chef satisfies the Recommended Daily Allowance of insight into China's culinary traditions. In fact, it contains abundant, nearly toxic levels of Chinese food descriptions, all punctuated by our heroine Maggie gloating about how incredible it tastes. Thi The story goes down like steamed chow mein: Soft and amiable, with nothing too heavy to chew on. Before I realized it, I had finished over half the book. I just kept shoving the words in my brain without stopping to ponder them. The Last Chinese Chef satisfies the Recommended Daily Allowance of insight into China's culinary traditions. In fact, it contains abundant, nearly toxic levels of Chinese food descriptions, all punctuated by our heroine Maggie gloating about how incredible it tastes. This is all pressed together with superfluous sub-plots and characters, and then deep-fried in love. The ending fortune cookie is a sweet but cringing sex scene. For all its pretenses of being about genuine Chinese cuisine, The Last Chinese Chef sure goes down like American-style Chinese takeout.

  2. 4 out of 5

    kimberly

    a very quick read, a bit of fluff and not very deep. maybe i'm a total asshole cynic, but i'm often turned off by sentences like this (last sentence of the summary on the back), "It is here, amid lessons of tradition, obligation, and human connection that she finds the secret ingredient that may yet heal her heart." ok, it's the last 3 words. ugh. the only part that kept me interested were the descriptions and talk about chinese food, and honestly, it wasn't that enlightening for me. maybe cause i a very quick read, a bit of fluff and not very deep. maybe i'm a total asshole cynic, but i'm often turned off by sentences like this (last sentence of the summary on the back), "It is here, amid lessons of tradition, obligation, and human connection that she finds the secret ingredient that may yet heal her heart." ok, it's the last 3 words. ugh. the only part that kept me interested were the descriptions and talk about chinese food, and honestly, it wasn't that enlightening for me. maybe cause i'm chinese? where my dad cooks incredible food like this all the time? i've visited china? this shit ain't new. this book should be enjoyed by someone who enjoys food and other cultures. BAM. done. but for me, it was just lacking. sentences felt clumsy and... dialogue felt weird and stilted. i get it, she's writing dialogue for people speaking chinese, and it felt like a weird direct translation. i mean, dude, my dad has a crazy accent and speaks in broken english. i read amy tan and her dialogue is incredible, it doesn't make me feel awkward, or displaced, but this book totally did that - i felt awkward and it seemed so clunky. and i write all that and at the same time, there were teeeeeensy blips where i connected with the main character. she feels kinship with the people she meets in beijing, and like when i visit my family in china, even though i can't communicate with them via language, i feel loved. it feels wonderful and calming - it's this great sense of community and the lack of territorial bubbles is a surprisingly welcome facet of life (not in stores or on the street, dear god no, but in a home; it's surprising how not touchy feely we americans are). so if you're interested in chinese food and the hows and whys of it's interconnectedness with chinese culture in its entirety, give this book a try. i mean, it's not *terrible*, it's just not great. but the food stuff is interesting. ... and thus ends my crappy review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sari

    This is an amazing book and one of the best books I've read all year. As someone who has limited cooking skills and who is even less adventurous with new food than your average five year old - trust me when I say that this book has made me want to try a world of new things. Maggie is a widow who writes for Table Magazine. Her husband died a year ago in a sudden accident and she's just found out that a claim has been filed against his estate in China, where he frequently traveled for work. A pater This is an amazing book and one of the best books I've read all year. As someone who has limited cooking skills and who is even less adventurous with new food than your average five year old - trust me when I say that this book has made me want to try a world of new things. Maggie is a widow who writes for Table Magazine. Her husband died a year ago in a sudden accident and she's just found out that a claim has been filed against his estate in China, where he frequently traveled for work. A paternity claim. Maggie travels to China to unravel the past and on the way picks up an assignment from her boss to write about a man named Sam who is opening a new restaurant. Sam is half Chinese/half American and came to China from America to learn to cook "the old way" from his Uncles who are all chefs. The things Maggie learns about Chinese food and culture, and about herself, are what make this book come to life. The stories of Sam and his family and their relationships through the history of China are interwoven throughout the book. And of course, you wonder - will Maggie and Sam be more than friends? Every character was interesting, every person's life was read with delight. I love the little details of food - every meal tells a story. Every dish, every flavor, every texture - they all mean something. Food wasn't just something to eat to live by, it was inspiring; poetry, art, theater - they all arise from the wonderful food everyone shares. I love the community and tradition that go into every meal, that every meal should not just be something to eat, but something to share and savour. I loved this book. I almost hated reading it because I loved it from the first page, and I knew every page I read meant I was one page closer to the end.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    2.5 stars The story of an American food writer who flies to China to interview an American, of Chinese descent, competing in China's culinary Olympics. The chef, Sam, comes from a long line of famous Chinese chefs and the contest is very competitive. Ten chefs compete for two spots from their region. Maggie, the food writer, is in her late 30's and recently widowed. Her husband had done business in China and now a family is filing for support for a child they claimed her husband fathered. Maggi 2.5 stars The story of an American food writer who flies to China to interview an American, of Chinese descent, competing in China's culinary Olympics. The chef, Sam, comes from a long line of famous Chinese chefs and the contest is very competitive. Ten chefs compete for two spots from their region. Maggie, the food writer, is in her late 30's and recently widowed. Her husband had done business in China and now a family is filing for support for a child they claimed her husband fathered. Maggie makes the trip to tie up her husband's business, write the article and for a change of pace. At first the book is quite interesting. I had no idea that during Mao's time, food played such a pivotal part of the Cultural Revolution. I had no idea that chefs were imprisoned for cooking food that the Imperial Palace liked. I had no idea that most restaurants were closed. I had no idea it was such a mine field. Then the book just becomes tiresome. It's just too much. It's like dipping into a bowl of fat and rolling around it. It might taste good at first but after a while you just have had too much. It's just too effusive. I just couldn't wait for it to be over. It's too bad because it could have been a really interesting story. A good book editor might have reigned in the author's effusiveness. Unfortunately this book didn't have one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel was a fictional tale about the history and mystique behind the Chinese cuisine and the impact of the cultural revolution and the dislocation and breakup of cultures, traditions and families. Nicole Mones had a unique vantage point from which to explore those themes when she opened a textile shop in China in 1977, shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao that had gripped the country for many years. Ms. Mones remained there for eighteen yea The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel was a fictional tale about the history and mystique behind the Chinese cuisine and the impact of the cultural revolution and the dislocation and breakup of cultures, traditions and families. Nicole Mones had a unique vantage point from which to explore those themes when she opened a textile shop in China in 1977, shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao that had gripped the country for many years. Ms. Mones remained there for eighteen years, then becoming a food reporter for Gourmet Magazine. The fictional story centers around Liang Wei from his book, The Last Chinese Chef, with each chapter beginning with an epigraph from the chef's writings about the mysteries of Chinese cuisine. Of the chef's four sons, three remained in the Hangzhou region, the home of literature-based cuisine, while one brother emigrated to America where he married and had a son. His son Sam decided that he wanted to pursue the art of Chinese cuisine and was to compete in a cooking contest hoping to be one of the two chefs selected to represent China in the Olympics. Maggie MccElroy, a food writer for a New York-based food magazine, having her own unfinished business in China subsequent to the death of her husband and the settling of his estate, is grateful for the assignment to fly to Beijing to interview Sam Liang, a rising Chinese American-Jewish chef and write an article about the chef and the upcoming competition. A friendship ensues. What I liked most about this book were the fictional epigraphs about the depth and importance of Chinese cuisine. When we visited China several years ago, what struck me the most was the importance of their cuisine from each province as well as the relationship to family and traditions and holiday celebrations. "Three qualities of China made it a place where there grew a great cuisine. First, its land has everything under heaven: mountains, deserts, plains, and fertile crescents; great oceans, mighty rivers. Second, the mass of Chinese are numerous but poor. They have always had to extract every possible bit of goodness and nutrition from every scrap of land and fuel, economizing everywhere except with human labor and ingenuity, of which there is a surfeit. Third, there is China's elite. From this world of discriminating taste the gourmet was born. Food became not only a complex tool for ritual and the attainment of prestige, but an art from, pursued by men of passion." -- LIANG WEI, The Last Chinese Chef

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I've never been a great fan of Chinese food. Now I understand why: I've never eaten Chinese food, only some poor hybrid cousin that is is ubiquitous at strip malls and shopping center food courts from Paris, Texas to Paris, France. I might have come close to the real thing a few years ago in Chinatown, San Francisco, but I think cooking as Mones described can only be found in China... Mones introduced me to a sublime and seductive world of Chinese cuisine that left me trembling with desire for Po I've never been a great fan of Chinese food. Now I understand why: I've never eaten Chinese food, only some poor hybrid cousin that is is ubiquitous at strip malls and shopping center food courts from Paris, Texas to Paris, France. I might have come close to the real thing a few years ago in Chinatown, San Francisco, but I think cooking as Mones described can only be found in China... Mones introduced me to a sublime and seductive world of Chinese cuisine that left me trembling with desire for Pork Ribs in Lotus Leaves, 30 Crab Tofu, Beggar's Chicken... It's a story told with tremendous love for her characters, from the 3 Chinese uncles to Sam, who I imagined looking something like Brandon Lee & Christian Bale, with Penelope Cruz's hair) and for China, particular its principal setting of Beijing. The plot veers towards chick-lit SPOILER ALERT BEGINS(Maggie, food writer at celebrated gourmet magazine must travel to China to pursue paternity claim against her recently-deceased husband. Maggie meets Chinese-Jewish American chef who is about to compete for a slot in the 2008 Olympics national cooking team. More than a wok heats up in Sam's kitchen... SPOILER ALERT ENDS, but the narrative is saved from the banal by Mones's impeccable research into Chinese culinary history and the back story of Sam's family. It's a scrumptious read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Very enjoyable read about the history and culture of Chinese cuisine, which I knew almost nothing about. Unlike Western culture, the Chinese have a very different take on food, it's preparation and presentation. The subtle but important nuances of their cuisine reveal aspects of their political structure, their fine arts, their history, their religion and their reverence to family. This part was fascinating to read about, and the backstories provided an informative and engaging peek into that wo Very enjoyable read about the history and culture of Chinese cuisine, which I knew almost nothing about. Unlike Western culture, the Chinese have a very different take on food, it's preparation and presentation. The subtle but important nuances of their cuisine reveal aspects of their political structure, their fine arts, their history, their religion and their reverence to family. This part was fascinating to read about, and the backstories provided an informative and engaging peek into that world. I wasn't as taken with the main story (the love story between food writer Maggie and chef Sam Liang). It is in the telling of this story where a potentially 4 star story became a 3 star one for me overall. I'm not a person to buy into "insta-love" over a 7 day period, or that a widow would be as generous to (view spoiler)[accept financial responsibility for her deceased husband's possible love child, or be so easily accepting of his one-night stand girlfriend (hide spoiler)] . There are probably women who could be this way, but I would not be one of them, and I just couldn't suspend disbelief for this part of the story. Overall, I think alot of people would enjoy this book. I'm glad I read it for the non-love-story aspects of it, as it certainly educated me in some of the finer points of Chinese cuisine.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really wanted to like this book, and I did enjoy the tidbits about Chinese culture and food, but stilted dialogue and a generous helping of cliches made it hard to get through without lots of skimming. (Seriously, a drinking game could be crafted around the amount of times the author writes that writers are good at observing.) A very predictable romantic plot didn't help matters much either... I really wanted to like this book, and I did enjoy the tidbits about Chinese culture and food, but stilted dialogue and a generous helping of cliches made it hard to get through without lots of skimming. (Seriously, a drinking game could be crafted around the amount of times the author writes that writers are good at observing.) A very predictable romantic plot didn't help matters much either...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Madhulika Liddle

    Maggie McElroy, food writer and newly widowed, is swamped by grief for her husband Matt - dead in a car accident - when she receives some startling news from a colleague of Matt's in Beijing: a Chinese woman has filed a claim for paternity, saying that her little daughter is Matt's. Maggie, shocked and betrayed, has no option but to go to China to sort out this mess and verify if little Shuying is indeed Matt's or not. But when Maggie's editor at Table magazine discovers about this trip, she mak Maggie McElroy, food writer and newly widowed, is swamped by grief for her husband Matt - dead in a car accident - when she receives some startling news from a colleague of Matt's in Beijing: a Chinese woman has filed a claim for paternity, saying that her little daughter is Matt's. Maggie, shocked and betrayed, has no option but to go to China to sort out this mess and verify if little Shuying is indeed Matt's or not. But when Maggie's editor at Table magazine discovers about this trip, she makes a suggestion: will Maggie be interested in doing a story while she's in Beijing? For there's a Chinese-American chef, Sam Liang, who's there too, getting ready to open a restaurant that specialises in the cuisine of the erstwhile Chinese imperial palace. And so begins the story of Maggie's trip to China: a trip, too, for others, back and forth in space and time. For Sam, born and brought up in the US, and having realised that his heart lies in cooking the food of his forefathers, now living in China the past several years. For his father, Liang Yeh, who fled China at the height of the Cultural Revolution and has shunned both his native country and the cooking that was his life, ever since. For his memories of his father, the great chef Liang Wei, writer of the [fictional] eponymous 1925 book on Chinese cuisine, The Last Chinese Chef. It is also the story of others whose lives are intertwined with those of Maggie and Sam: Sam's three titular 'uncles', his father's old friends and fellow apprentices, now Sam's own mentors. The family of one of these old men, who is dying. The woman who claims Matt fathered her child. Others, met in passing. It is a story of guanxi, the Chinese word for relationships and caring. Of the links between food and culture, food and literature, food and oppression. Of hope and disappointment, of journeys in life. Best of all, it's a book about food. Beautifully and mouthwateringly described, so wonderfully depicted that it ruined a week's meals for me (sitting and eating a boring weekday lunch while reading this book was sheer torture!) If for nothing else (though the story itself is pleasant, poignant and touching), read The Last Chinese Chef for the food. If you at all like Chinese food, it would be a sin not to.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    The blurbs on the cover and the reviews give you just about everything you need to know about this book going in--it's a combination of mystery/drama and culinary guide to Chinese food. It's a solid book, but given the level of ambition here I felt like I needed a bit more from it. The setup is somewhere between postmodern and magic realist, but the prose is not quite equal to either subgenre. My problem with the novel is this: as trade market novels go it's quite good, but there's potential for The blurbs on the cover and the reviews give you just about everything you need to know about this book going in--it's a combination of mystery/drama and culinary guide to Chinese food. It's a solid book, but given the level of ambition here I felt like I needed a bit more from it. The setup is somewhere between postmodern and magic realist, but the prose is not quite equal to either subgenre. My problem with the novel is this: as trade market novels go it's quite good, but there's potential for a better story here. The (practically useless) reader's guide suggests a knock on the book has been its lack of "villains." Mones certainly works hard here to ensure that every character's motivations get clarified, and while this knocks down some of the black-and-white morality we expect from such a story it doesn't humanize things quite as thoroughly as it seems like it should. Strained coincidences abound here, and they seem to arrive mainly to keep the central plot moving. I found myself wishing it would slow down and allow more space to build tension between characters and maintain some of the mystery and ambiguity in the relationships among them. When everything gets explained so assiduously, the opportunities for magic coincidences deflate into barely concealed plot devices. For a book so full of wonderful, interesting imagery, this is a shame--and a bit of a letdown. Still, it's well worth the short amount of time it takes to read. The introduction to the breadth of Chinese cuisine provided here is itself worth the price of admission.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Nicole Mones writes wonderful descriptions of food. Which is not surprising, given her 'day job' is writing for Gourmet magazine. I learned about classical Chinese cuisine, the philosophy behind Chinese cooking methods, and got hungry for many of the dishes she elaborated. But beyond that - it was pretty standard chick-lit fare. The first two chapters set up our protagonists: Maggie the food writer, who has emotionally closed in on herself since her husband died a year ago, and Sam, the Chinese-A Nicole Mones writes wonderful descriptions of food. Which is not surprising, given her 'day job' is writing for Gourmet magazine. I learned about classical Chinese cuisine, the philosophy behind Chinese cooking methods, and got hungry for many of the dishes she elaborated. But beyond that - it was pretty standard chick-lit fare. The first two chapters set up our protagonists: Maggie the food writer, who has emotionally closed in on herself since her husband died a year ago, and Sam, the Chinese-American chef who's returned to Beijing to revive his grandfather's classical Chinese cooking, and whose uncles get excited because he's talking to a 'female person' on the phone. Any guesses on will happen between them? Predictable story lines, very little character development, but a lot of gorgeous descriptions of Chinese settings. Although Mones has lived in China for a long time and clearly can be counted as some kind of 'insider', I also found the description of Chinese situations and attitudes overly romanticized. Modern China is a lot more complex, and in many cases, uglier, than this, and I'm sure Mones knows that. But it doesn't sell as well. My new resolution for 2013: Avoid any book with a 'Book Club Discussion Guide' in the back.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Speedtribes

    Because Nicole Mones was/is a writer for Gourmet Magazine, I fully expected beautifully tantalizing textual food to tempt me off the path of my diet. This book delivers in spades-- with the added benefit of being incredibly, emotionally TRUE to what it means to cook and eat Chinese food. This is the Chinese food I grew up with and the Chinese food that I cook. This is food that I have never really been able to verbally articulate to my Western friends, being forced to instead fall back to cookin Because Nicole Mones was/is a writer for Gourmet Magazine, I fully expected beautifully tantalizing textual food to tempt me off the path of my diet. This book delivers in spades-- with the added benefit of being incredibly, emotionally TRUE to what it means to cook and eat Chinese food. This is the Chinese food I grew up with and the Chinese food that I cook. This is food that I have never really been able to verbally articulate to my Western friends, being forced to instead fall back to cooking more and more in the hopes that maybe one day, one of them would understand. Now I don't have to. I'll just shove this book at them for them to read in the kitchen, while they wait for their food. Nicole Mones has as strong, clean approach to her writing that's both simple, yet descriptive. She writes the story from the outside perspective of a woman who knows nothing at all about Chinese food, and an American born who's living in China to learn the craft. Some have complained that this outsider perspective causes the book to be less authentic, but as an ABC myself, I found the story to resonate particularly well. It balanced nicely between the needed information, and the gently surprised sense of discovery that the characters tiptoe through as each page passes. For the food alone, it's a must read. But there's also an extra added bonus: There lies, in this book, a Chinese man who also happens to be a sexual being. *gasp* How many times does _that_ happen in Western fiction? The slow development of his love is very stylishly and tastefully handled. As this love story developed, my love for this book developed as well. <3

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    When I first read the first epigraph from the 1925 “book,” Last Chinese Chef – which was written by Nicole Mones for the novel of the same name – I was optimistic and enthusiastic. Mones lived in China for 18 years exporting textiles, then wrote about Chinese food for Gourmet. Her book is deeply researched and, on this level, is very satisfying. The characters, especially the central American character, Maggie, an American food columnist drawn to China to investigate a paternity suit against her When I first read the first epigraph from the 1925 “book,” Last Chinese Chef – which was written by Nicole Mones for the novel of the same name – I was optimistic and enthusiastic. Mones lived in China for 18 years exporting textiles, then wrote about Chinese food for Gourmet. Her book is deeply researched and, on this level, is very satisfying. The characters, especially the central American character, Maggie, an American food columnist drawn to China to investigate a paternity suit against her recently-deceased husband, however, seemed superficial. The food writing early in the book, as Maggie was introduced to Chinese culture and Chinese cuisines seemed overly pedantic. I kept going and I’m glad I did. The further I went in the book, the better I liked it. Perhaps Mone initially drew the characters simply, then allowed them to develop – much as some of the foods she described were initially one thing then were recognized as something else. Perhaps the characters developed as they were faced with new and different challenges. Perhaps it just took me some time to get into Last Chinese Chef. Regardless, I’m glad that I did, as its latter half was surprising, engaging, and textured, much like the food that Mones described. She ended on a beautiful note, leaving me hungry and wanting more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This book was written by the same author as Lost In Translation, Nicole Mones I really liked this book about a woman who is widowed when her husband is run over by a car when is is on a buisness trip to San francisco. She is a food writer and travels often herself. They agreed to never have children, and yet he starts to feel differently, and pressures her to reconsider. He had traveled often to China on business with his law firm. One of the partners from the China office calls to tell her that th This book was written by the same author as Lost In Translation, Nicole Mones I really liked this book about a woman who is widowed when her husband is run over by a car when is is on a buisness trip to San francisco. She is a food writer and travels often herself. They agreed to never have children, and yet he starts to feel differently, and pressures her to reconsider. He had traveled often to China on business with his law firm. One of the partners from the China office calls to tell her that there has been a paternity suite filed against her husbands estate, and that she will need to come to China and deal with it in person. She is stunned. Her editor assigns a story about a new Chef & restaurant in China. This chef slowly becomes her new friend and ali in this difficult time. His story is eqally facinating, and begins to explain the history and meaning behind all of the chinese food traditions from centuries ago. Facinating! I learned more about the Chinese philosophy of food than I ever knew before. It goes way beyond taste, colour, texture, & smell.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    One of the main characters, Sam, talks about the striving for simplicity of Chinese food. The Chinese chef should put so many layers into their food that to the observer, the food, like tofu, looks simply like tofu, but when they bite into it, they realize that what is seemingly simple, is very complex and surprising. Mones surprises with her layers of subplots that will appeal to more than one kind of reader. There's the story of Maggie, recently widowed and in China to address a paternity suit One of the main characters, Sam, talks about the striving for simplicity of Chinese food. The Chinese chef should put so many layers into their food that to the observer, the food, like tofu, looks simply like tofu, but when they bite into it, they realize that what is seemingly simple, is very complex and surprising. Mones surprises with her layers of subplots that will appeal to more than one kind of reader. There's the story of Maggie, recently widowed and in China to address a paternity suit filed against her husband. There's Sam, half Jewish, half Chinese chef, now living in China to honor his grandfather, the last Chinese chef of imperial China. There is the relationship between Maggie, the food writer, and Sam, the competitor in a national contest for chefs. There are many other layers, cultural and familial, but the most important layer is the food and Mones's keen writer's need for immersion, precision and sensuality of the food makes this a book to be devoured slowly, course by course.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    The components seem irresistible: food, foreign travel, a mystery. But, in the end this is a pretty pat novel, though very fun to read. The book was at its best describing Chinese cuisine and the community element in dining. It made me want to cook this food, eat this food and travel to China. The love story and the plot regarding the main character's "unresolved business" in China are rushed and predictable. Nonetheless, good read. Would like to read this writer's non-fiction regarding Chinese The components seem irresistible: food, foreign travel, a mystery. But, in the end this is a pretty pat novel, though very fun to read. The book was at its best describing Chinese cuisine and the community element in dining. It made me want to cook this food, eat this food and travel to China. The love story and the plot regarding the main character's "unresolved business" in China are rushed and predictable. Nonetheless, good read. Would like to read this writer's non-fiction regarding Chinese culture and food.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    Her husband died a year ago in a random street accident while on a business trip. Since that time, Maggie McElroy has been dealing with grief. They had no children – her decision. They both had demanding jobs requiring frequent travel. He was a lawyer. She is a food writer. Then, Maggie receives a call from one of her husband's colleagues, based in Beijing. A Chinese woman has filed a paternity suit and she needs to travel to China to obtain a DNA sample from the child. The narrative up to this Her husband died a year ago in a random street accident while on a business trip. Since that time, Maggie McElroy has been dealing with grief. They had no children – her decision. They both had demanding jobs requiring frequent travel. He was a lawyer. She is a food writer. Then, Maggie receives a call from one of her husband's colleagues, based in Beijing. A Chinese woman has filed a paternity suit and she needs to travel to China to obtain a DNA sample from the child. The narrative up to this point follows a familiar template: Widow stunned by husband's secrets. We are rescued by a second narrative. Sam Liang, a Chinese-American, had returned to Beijing to learn traditional Chinese cooking from his uncles, Jiang Wanli, Tan Jingfu, and Xie Er. Timed with the Peking Olympics, there is to be a culinary competition. Sam will be one of ten contestants vying for the two Northern Chinese chef spots on the team. The two stories converge when Maggie agrees to interview Sam for her magazine while she is in China. Sam has an interesting history. His grandfather, Liang Wei, was trained in the waning days of imperial rule and wrote a book about Chinese cuisine and aesthetics that might be comparable to Brillat-Savarin's analysis of western gastronomy. His father Liang Yeh was rigorously trained by Liang Wei, but was forced to flee for his life when the ideology of the cultural revolution sought to eradicate all vestiges of tradition, including food preparation. Restaurants were closed and chefs either imprisoned, executed, or like much of the population, starved. He made it to America where Sam was born. There is a studied delicacy in the friendship that grows between Maggie and Sam. They begin as reluctant professional contacts. Maggie begins to act on her tentative instincts when an opportunity presents itself. “She and Sam seemed to be in the first stages of alliance people pass through while deciding whether or not to become friends. Already they seemed to be looking out for each other, at least a little.” (p.92) However, the true momentum of this book derives from the descriptions of food. A taxonomy of flavors includes xian (shee-in)-sweet; xiang (shee-ahng)-fragrant; nong-complex and concentrated; and you er bu ni (yuu-er-buu-nee)-fat. In addition, there are considerations of texture: cui (tswai)-dry and crispy; nen (nuhn)-fibrous and tender; and ruan (rwahn)-softness. Sam teaches Maggie a little about Chinese cuisine and its goals. The point is not just taste, but a whole network of associations – personal, familial, cultural, and even historical. This network of relationships is summarized by the word guanxi (gwahn-she). In order to plan a banquet, the chef must first select a theme. Sam chooses a literary theme. Intended to allude to the Song poet, Su Dongpo, he selects a dish called dongpo rou (doong-pwaw roe) for one of his dishes. The discerning judges will immediately grasp the connection of the dish with the famous poet, the region of Hangzhou renowned for the dish, and Sam's own familial ties to the region. It will also offer a variety of desirable contrasts: The precisely shaped cut of pork, the cloud-like softness of the crown of fat, and the subtlety of the flavored sauce. For presentation, Sam will surround the square with rice studded with ginkgo nuts, dates, lotus buds, gelatinous silver ear mushroom and pine nuts suffused with the sauce. Cultural continuity is reflected in these traditional dishes. Sam's uncle, Xie Er muses: “People sometimes said the cuisine's long history was the very thing that made it special, but it was not the longevity of the art itself that counted – no. Rather, it was the cuisine's constant position as observer and interpreter. Throughout history chefs created dishes to evoke not only the natural world but also events, people, philosophical thought, and famous works of art such as operas, paintings, poems, and novels. A repertoire was developed that kept civilization alive, for diners to enjoy, to eat, to remember.” (p.98) This memory was what made food a dangerous topic and a political target during the cultural revolution. This is a light-weight romance saved by its rich cultural references. The tension between tradition and innovation that has marked China's long history is left untouched. The permanent foreignness of the outsider is frequently mentioned, and then dropped. Some of the aesthetic descriptions indulge in a mystique lauding over-refinement. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable story about food, history and cooking. It ties together some very modern ideas about the connection between taste, sight, smell and childhood associations with the theme of traditional Chinese cuisine. Finally, there's a lively sense of pacing as the story shifts backward and forward in time. One of the most charming stories is of xiao wo tou (shee-ow waw toe), a simple corncake which the Dowager Empress favored because it reminded her of her youth and the Court's flight after the Boxer Rebellion. A few of the recipes and much of the author's restaurant journal are summarized on her website, http://www.nicolemones.com.

  18. 5 out of 5

    sanaz

    It was a light read I found looking for novels with the theme of food. As many other American novels it was hundred pages too long, full of repetitions as if it wanted to teach you a lesson. But in good moments, moments of talking about food and Chinese food philosophy, it was brilliant and delicious. By the way tell me if you know any good food novel. I am always up for one!

  19. 5 out of 5

    L

    As I read "The Last Chinese Chef" I craved every dish described, begged my husband to go out to Chinese food, spent tons of money at Uwajimaya on all sorts of noodles and spices and sauces that I can't read let alone know what to do with, got a really fancy rice cooker for Christmas, and am now trying to figure out how to use cleavers. One dish in particular, in which the chef works the skin off of a whole chicken in one piece and then stuffs the skin with sliced vegetables, pork, and other meat As I read "The Last Chinese Chef" I craved every dish described, begged my husband to go out to Chinese food, spent tons of money at Uwajimaya on all sorts of noodles and spices and sauces that I can't read let alone know what to do with, got a really fancy rice cooker for Christmas, and am now trying to figure out how to use cleavers. One dish in particular, in which the chef works the skin off of a whole chicken in one piece and then stuffs the skin with sliced vegetables, pork, and other meats and then cooks it so that it looks like a roasted chicken but completely fools the diner with its unique taste was described so incredibly well that I need to go to the author's web site (which evidently includes some recipes) and see if I can figure it out. Having been to banquets in China, as well as to the Hutong in Beijing, many of the descriptions rang particularly true to my own experience and also brought out so much of the culture that I did not understand at the time. Clearly, this book is well researched and the research adds a depth and credibility to the story. The story line, beyond cooking, is okay (which is why I rated this book a 4 and not a 5. If the book only included the culinary story line, with no discussion of the romance, etc. it would have been a 5). Woman (food writer) is widowed, life is shattered, finds out that a woman in China is claiming to have had an affair with her husband which produced a child, according to a "treaty" the child may have rights to 1/2 the deceased's estate, goes to China to figure out this situation and also to write a story about a Chinese American chef. Instead of food being a backdrop for the story the story is really a backdrop for the food. Gotta go - I'm hungry again just thinking about it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This book is filled with mouth-watering descriptions of Chinese food: tastes, textures, appearances, and smells. I felt the stories moved slowly at first, although they picked up at the end. I've read quite a few novels set during the post-1949 revolution, so was waiting for a death-defying escape by the father of one of the main characters. I was a little disappointed that that never happened. I also thought Sam's character could have been developed better. He's supposed to be half-Jewish, but This book is filled with mouth-watering descriptions of Chinese food: tastes, textures, appearances, and smells. I felt the stories moved slowly at first, although they picked up at the end. I've read quite a few novels set during the post-1949 revolution, so was waiting for a death-defying escape by the father of one of the main characters. I was a little disappointed that that never happened. I also thought Sam's character could have been developed better. He's supposed to be half-Jewish, but then other than his early experiences cooking Jewish food, we never learn more about that part of his life. I did like The Last Chinese Chef better than a food memoir I recently read about China. If you want to learn more about Chinese food and the philosophy behind the preparation of Chinese food, I would strongly recommend this book. If you want a thrilling story with strong characters, this book will entertain you, but you might walk away feeling it could have been a bit stronger in both these areas.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Pickering

    A treasure! "Food was always to be shared...The high point of every meal was never the food itself, he taught us, but always the act of sharing it." One of my favorite things to read about is cultural diversity. This was a wonderful story that describes culture through food and its preparation with an extra dollop of a blooming romance. I am not one to like the philosophical passages some books place at the beginning of their chapters but I found these passages in the story quite insightful and A treasure! "Food was always to be shared...The high point of every meal was never the food itself, he taught us, but always the act of sharing it." One of my favorite things to read about is cultural diversity. This was a wonderful story that describes culture through food and its preparation with an extra dollop of a blooming romance. I am not one to like the philosophical passages some books place at the beginning of their chapters but I found these passages in the story quite insightful and useful. Although not much of a cook myself I was not put off or bored with the cooking phases of the story--the author artfully placed them without losing the interest of the reader. Another thing I appreciated about the author, she didn't show the main characters' love affair with China at the expense of the American culture. It shows how you can appreciate another culture as not being better but just different.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Meri

    The timing of my reading was auspicious (as the Chinese would say). I was in China at the time. This was one of those rare books that I loved from the moment I picked it up. Normally, I'll go through about 20 pages of a book before I will like or dislike it, but this one had me from page 1. It's about a woman who is grieving her husband and goes to China to work out a paternity suit. While there, she discovers Chinese cuisine. The story is okay, nothing predictable but not too exciting either. W The timing of my reading was auspicious (as the Chinese would say). I was in China at the time. This was one of those rare books that I loved from the moment I picked it up. Normally, I'll go through about 20 pages of a book before I will like or dislike it, but this one had me from page 1. It's about a woman who is grieving her husband and goes to China to work out a paternity suit. While there, she discovers Chinese cuisine. The story is okay, nothing predictable but not too exciting either. What puts it over the edge is Mones's writing. She is excellent with words and has a keen eye for people. I was very sorry to see it end--well, I was also sorry to leave China. The two were intertwined.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mundi

    I read 'Lost in Translation' long enough ago now to have forgotten most of the details, and having only the mist of the story drifting in my memory, so when I began "Last Chef", I was expecting explorations in human relationships and personal truths. These are present, in spades, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that these are subsumed underneath, around, and within the more prominant story which is the relationship that Chinese have with their food, and how deeply and thickly st I read 'Lost in Translation' long enough ago now to have forgotten most of the details, and having only the mist of the story drifting in my memory, so when I began "Last Chef", I was expecting explorations in human relationships and personal truths. These are present, in spades, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that these are subsumed underneath, around, and within the more prominant story which is the relationship that Chinese have with their food, and how deeply and thickly steeped in their culture food and the meaning of food is to them. With some culinary training under my belt, and a passion for food of my own, I found this book by Mones historically and culturally intriguing, as well as still having the undercurrent of human self-reflection and emotional catharsis.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This was an interesting history of Chinese cooking and Chinese Empires however I didn't enjoy the love story or even believe in it. I see on Amazon most people loved this book so I feel out of step but my main criticism is that I dont' feel it was well written. I couldn't get past that This was an interesting history of Chinese cooking and Chinese Empires however I didn't enjoy the love story or even believe in it. I see on Amazon most people loved this book so I feel out of step but my main criticism is that I dont' feel it was well written. I couldn't get past that

  25. 5 out of 5

    Haoyan Do

    I really like the part of the book that talks about Chinese cuisine, which is what I am interested in. I am familiar with it, but I kind of want to know how Chinese cuisine is viewed by people who have a completely different cultural background. Since I read Anthony Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential", I've realized that food is not only for the taste buds, but also for the eyes of book lovers. My complaint about the book is that the book doesn't have enough cuisine material. A lot is said ab I really like the part of the book that talks about Chinese cuisine, which is what I am interested in. I am familiar with it, but I kind of want to know how Chinese cuisine is viewed by people who have a completely different cultural background. Since I read Anthony Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential", I've realized that food is not only for the taste buds, but also for the eyes of book lovers. My complaint about the book is that the book doesn't have enough cuisine material. A lot is said about Sam Liang's family history and his relationship with his dying uncle. Although I dislike this part, which digress from the cuisine description, I am OK with it. Then in Chapter 13, suddenly the detailed depiction of the love life of stereotypical Chinese women--subservient obsequious man chasers-- burst into the scene, I just can't read anymore. It's too painful for me to read. Years ago, "Madame Butterfly" completely destroyed my budding enthusiasm for opera; "The Valley of Amazement" put a stop to my obsessive interest in Amy Tan's books; the caricatured roles of Asians in Hollywood movies perished my desire to visit AMC theatres. Still I think it is a well written book and the part that describes Chinese cooking is very authentic and very real. I wish the author didn't get carried away by the trite stories of emotional entanglement. Still I like the author's writing since whenever she set out to be truthful and authentic (about food), she can do it wonderfully. I may read other books of hers and I hope subservient women are not recurring images in other books of hers.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This book further explains things I experienced while in China. In China it was easy to see the time spent in preparing specialty dishes, but as American's we assumed it was all about the presentation and being pleasing to the customer's eye. The Chinese never let me "grab dinner alone or bring food back to my hotel alone". The were always keen to ensure I ate with someone or in a group and I very much appreciated this so I could be sure to "know what I was eating" and how it was prepared. I eat This book further explains things I experienced while in China. In China it was easy to see the time spent in preparing specialty dishes, but as American's we assumed it was all about the presentation and being pleasing to the customer's eye. The Chinese never let me "grab dinner alone or bring food back to my hotel alone". The were always keen to ensure I ate with someone or in a group and I very much appreciated this so I could be sure to "know what I was eating" and how it was prepared. I eat just about anything, so each meal was another opportunity to try something truly unique. The oddest thing to me in the book was chef's trying to extend a meal's theme to include designs & messages on serving plates or artwork on the walls. Potentially Chinese diners would be looking for such connections, but it seems at least too much to ask of me ! Besides the food, I enjoyed Maggie's role in the book. Her work assignment was nicely woven into the story. I admired how she was able to work through an extreme personal sadness and tragedy, taking from it the positives that gave her life closure and peace. I closely related to Maggie being among so many Chinese speaking people and not having a translator for every word. In my work, I always had a translator, but there was no way they could be in every discussion or encounter and I was always trying to silently assess and interpret body language or words. Good times!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Astrida

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I thought it was almost daring to present the subject without ever mentioning the MSG. I also missed references to car honking sounds in the lavish silence scenes. Besides, the there is no such Children Rights treaty between the US and China, though it may be a good idea to have one. Also, the book referred to within the book is fictional. Still, many of cultural passages, as well of those describing grief felt authentic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    What a fantastic book to finish my reading year. Highly recommended!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    This was an entertaining little book, but it fell short for me. I do love to cook, to travel and to eat a broad variety of "ethnic" foods, but reading this book often felt like reading a cookbook and carefully studying each ingredient as I plodded along. Mones clearly demonstrated her broad knowledge of Chinese culture and cuisine. She often imparted some new item of information for me about Asian history, intellect and the importance of culinary arts and food sources for these people. The charac This was an entertaining little book, but it fell short for me. I do love to cook, to travel and to eat a broad variety of "ethnic" foods, but reading this book often felt like reading a cookbook and carefully studying each ingredient as I plodded along. Mones clearly demonstrated her broad knowledge of Chinese culture and cuisine. She often imparted some new item of information for me about Asian history, intellect and the importance of culinary arts and food sources for these people. The characters in this novel were interesting and often colorful. There also was a slight degree of tension where one would be eager to determine the fate of an individual. However,at times the plot seemed to wear thin as each new item of gastronomic delight was prepared and consumed. Fortunately, there was enough in this book to entertain me , but I could not see giving this anything more than 3 stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    A fascinating look into the Chinese culture, especially regarding the importance of food - and not just eating food, but the whole "guanxi" or relationship of the bonds between those who prepare the food and those who partake of it. Yes, this is a novel, and a major component of the book is the story of newly widowed Maggie as she comes to terms with her husband's death and his possible betrayal of her, which in turn becomes her reason to travel to China. Her assignment as a food writer to inter A fascinating look into the Chinese culture, especially regarding the importance of food - and not just eating food, but the whole "guanxi" or relationship of the bonds between those who prepare the food and those who partake of it. Yes, this is a novel, and a major component of the book is the story of newly widowed Maggie as she comes to terms with her husband's death and his possible betrayal of her, which in turn becomes her reason to travel to China. Her assignment as a food writer to interview a traditional Chinese chef, which seems incidental to her, becomes her introduction into the culture and cuisine of China and a way out of her grief. I truly enjoyed this well written book and now have a new respect and awe for the beauty of China's cuisine. "O Soul, come back! Why should you go far away? All kinds of good foods are ready"

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...