Synopses & Reviews
The Last Chinese Chef
is the transporting story of how the sensual, romantic elements of haute Chinese cuisine become the perfect ingredients to lift the troubled soul of a grieving American woman. For food writer Maggie McElroy, it's been a year of trying to get her equilibrium back in the wake of her husband's premature death. Now comes a shock: a paternity claim has been filed against her husband's estate. Could he, while working in his firm's Beijing office, have fathered a child?
As Maggie plans a difficult trip to China to investigate the claim, she is offered a chance to profile chef and rising star Sam Liang. What begins as a hoped-for distraction while in Beijing, however, turns into a life-changing event. As Maggie watches three generations of Liangs prepare sumptuous feasts together, she is moved by the Chinese belief that food must always be eaten in a circle of family and friends. As she reads Sam's grandfather's account of life as a cook in the Emperor's kitchen, Maggie discovers the centrality of food in Chinese history. And as Sam cooks a chicken as soft as velvetspiced along centuries'-old notions of what heals the heart Maggie begins to fall in love.
In the end, Maggie does unravel the truth about her husband. But most profoundly, The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman coming home to herself in the most unexpected of places.
"It doesn't seem quite fair for a writer to be as skilled at genre hopping as Nicole Mones....The Last Chinese Chef is a love story at many levels: love of tradition, love between family members." Seattle Times
"[Mones's] third novel...brims with vividly rendered meals and stories about the cooks who have created them for centuries." Charlotte Observer
"Mones' achievement appeals not just to devotees of fiction but equally to anyone interested in Chinese cooking." Booklist
"Meticulously researched gastronomy will entice foodies, even those whose familiarity with Chinese food is limited to takeout. Warning: Avoid reading while hungry." Kirkus Reviews
This exhilarating story is the transporting tale of how the sensual, romantic elements of haute Chinese cuisine become the perfect ingredients to lift the troubled soul of a grieving American woman.
This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Moness captivating story also brings into focus a changing China -- this time the hidden world of high culinary culture.
When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husbands estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.
In China Maggie unties the knots of her husbands past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sams family -- a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners -- and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places.
In her satisfying, sensual third novel, Nicole Mones takes readers inside the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China through the story of an American food writer in Beijing. When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husbands estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life. Since work is all that will keep her sane, her magazine editor assigns her to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American who is the last in a line of gifted chefs tracing back to the imperial palace. As she watches Sam gear up for Chinas Olympic culinary competition by planning the banquet of a lifetime, she begins to see past the cuisines artistry to glimpse its coherent expression of Chinese civilization. It is here, amid lessons of tradition, obligation, and human connection that she finds the secret ingredient that may yet heal her heart.
About the Author
Nicole Mones is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light. She started a textile business in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution and ran it for eighteen years, and she brings to her fiction writing an in-depth understanding of China and its culture. Mones is a frequent contributor to Gourmet magazine, which ran an excerpt of The Last Chinese Chef marking the first time Gourmet has ever published fiction in its pages. She lives in Portland, Oregon.