This book was yummy from start to finish. I loved the reader and the subject matter was very interesting. The descriptions of the cooking and the food was out of this world. Very entertaining and I hated to have it end.
This book is an interesting combination of information about Chinese food and cooking and a trite romantic story. The lovely story of the food kept me until the end, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone because the other part of the story dominates. The narrator of the romance novel is awful, but I couldn't tell if she was a poor reader or simply had unreadable material to cope with. It's been a long time since I have listened to anything so terribly written. No one talks like these characters do, and nothing in the real world happens as it does in this book. The narrator of the Chinese food parts of the book does better, but the writing is also better.
In "The Last Chinese Chef" author Nicole Mones presents a glimpse into another corner of what we westerners often consider a veiled and mysterious culture. Mones' other credits include "A Cup of Light" and "Lost in Translation" (no relation to the film of the same name). I gave the main narrator Elisabeth Rodgers 4 stars for having the guts to tackle pronunciation of the names and terminology. Her portrayal of the book's characters was quite capable but not memorable. Co-narrator James Chen provides the "intro" to each chapter, reading excerpts from the fictitious book for which the novel is named.
In "Chef", Mones' central character Maggie McElroy is a writer for a popular food magazine whose own personal tragedy results in a journey of discovery into Chinese life and culture, and particularly food. The author draws heavily on her own experience and knowledge gained through many years of living in and writing about it as a contributor to Gourmet magazine. Her wealth of knowledge on the subject lends greatly to the authenticity of the story and also gives this book what I consider its strongest credit.
While the characters are all fairly well developed, the storyline is thin and predictable. However, the story does provide the basis for the rich and detailed descriptions of Chinese cuisine and its surprisingly integral and inextricable ties to the culture. This is the book's true strength. If you are a foodie, you will be enraptured by the detailed descriptions of the various dishes that are focal to the story. If you love history and learning about other cultures, you will find much to enjoy here. If you are a fan of both food and history... well stop reading this and go get "The Last Chinese Chef". Just make sure you read on a full stomach, or you'll soon be calling out for delivery!
A pleasant car listen, very relaxing. The food is succulent, but the descriptions of Imperial cuisine, its philosophy, symbolic load, referents, etc. showed I’d never want to eat this stuff or learn the 3000 years of Chinese social/political/literary history necessary to appreciate it. Consider, for example, cooking down 30 crabs (and their shells), and absorbing the puree into tofu, just so it can masquerade as a humble dish and surprise jaded diners. All in all, a great explanation of the Imperial approach to food - and thereby a justification of the Chinese revolution and the revival of antiquarian interest in this genre of historical cookery.
Much better as food/philosophy than as shallow romance. The American narrator protagonist is a clueless space cadet who can do nothing but gush admiration for her man's achievement and for an uncomprehended culture. The man, an appealing sensitive Chinese-American chef who is determined to be traditional Chinese, nonetheless spurns Chinese women, as though only a Westerner will do... In the end, is there any more reason to accept these prejudicial stereotypes in romance novels, than in mystery novels, etc? As always, stereotypes testify to the author's limitations, but it is saddening to see these propagated.
The intertwined lines unfolding the plot are a great technical achievement. Most impressive, though, is the seamless integration of food, history, and attitudes. I hope the author will serve out more of this from the regional cuisines of China, where she’s lived for close to two decades. I am hungry for more of her cooking.
This is a beach book, and while the narration was okay, and the narrator had pretty uninspiring (even at times embarrassingly trite) material to work with, her voice began to irritate me. Every sentence sounded the same, with a strange sound pattern and the breathiness made me think of old time radio thrillers. There was the predictable story, and then the predictable over the top quality of the food descriptions. All together a little too much for my digestion.
As someone of Chinese descent I can only say: mouth-watering. I don't know that much about Chinese food - but I love eating it. And listening to this book I must say, the author understood the preeminent place Food takes in Chinese culture.
The rest of the story was pretty predictable, but okay.
Caveat: I had trouble with the pronunciation of Chinese expressions/names. It's certainly not Mandarin as I've learned it and maybe the narrator does not know Chinese at all. But I did find it a bit distracting, trying to figure out what she was saying.
The voice sounded mechanical, droning on and on, the story was more a lecture than a narrative, far too much information. The writing clumsy and ending predictable.
No, I don't usually listen or read books again.
I really enjoyed the Chef. He was determined to be successful.
When his father came to China.
Unpredictable book. Normally I am able to predict books within the first couple of hours. I was intrigued throughout the entire book.
The reading was so annoying I couldn't concentrate on the story. Read more like a historic English romance.
I listened to this story a little at a time over several months because the reader was just getting on my nerves. Her tone was so completely inappropriate at times (especially in the voice of Sam). Too bad this wasn't noted by the author / editor before release. With the proper dramatic tone and voice it could have been a lot better. The story mix was a little weird too. Oh well. Some folks have obviously loved it.