I hate to say it, but I have never really been that much of a fan of Chinese cuisine – Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese yes, but Chinese falls in the ‘not that inspiring’ department for me.  I know that is not always true, but other than Peking duck, there is not a lot on a Chinese menu that rivets me.  And then I read The Last Chinese Chef and understand now, that the truth is that I have never really had ‘true’ Chinese cuisine, well, at least as it is described in the book…

The Last Chinese Chef is written by Nicole Mones, who is probably more renowned for her previous novel, Lost in Translation.


The story goes like this… recently widowed American food critic Maggie McElroy, who is having trouble dealing with the loss and infidelity of her husband, visits China to determine the paternity of a child who is claimed to be that of her husband who died unexpectedly. She has also been given the undertaking of interviewing a rising culinary whizz, Sam Leong, who, as well as opening  a new restaurant, is translating his grandfather’s philosophical culinary masterpiece, The Last Chinese Chef.

The story is a perhaps a little predictable… girl meets boy, girl not sure if likes boy, boy quite likes girl, certain chemistry… share intimate moments and vulnerabilities… more chemistry… and all while eating exquisite traditional Chinese food.

However, despite its predictability, I absolutely loved this story. There was a certain sensuality within the storytelling about Chinese cuisine that made me want to hop on the next plane to China and dine on the same divinely inspired dishes. I wanted to meet this Sam, and banquet at his restaurant, and read his grandfather’s food philosophies… unfortunately… yes, it is all just a story…


The Last Chinese Chef succeeded, (in my humble opinion) of unveiling a beautiful culinary historical tapestry, rich with tradition and cultural eccentricities. And while the plot was thin at the best of times, it was an easy and enjoyable read.

Now to find me a Chinese cookbook that has a truly traditional Dongpo Pork recipe (that’s ‘dongpo’, not ‘dog poo’)… so I can relish it for lunch today…

Click here to read more about The Last Chinese Chef


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This post was written by Petra Frieser – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds