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The Last Chinese Chef | [Nicole Mones]

The Last Chinese Chef

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Food writer Nicole Mones has spent 18 years traveling to China, so it's fair to say that when she writes about a food writer who spends two weeks in China, Mones is up to the task. Although the novel contains no actual recipes, it won a World Gourmand Award in the category of Chinese cookbook. Such is the extent to which Chinese food is the thread that holds this story together. Cutting a clear path through the forest of noodles is narrator Elisabeth Rodgers, giving voice to the metaphor that extends from cooking to loving with a refreshingly crisp negotiation of the Chinese language.

The food writer in the story is a widow on a mission to determine if her late husband fathered a child by some other woman during his work in China. Since she may as well do some work while waiting for the paternity test results, Maggie profiles Sam, a competitive cooking descendant of the famous chef who authored the canonical kitchen text The Last Chef. Each chapter begins with a short excerpt from this mythic cookbook that relates as much about Chinese sociology as it does about the value of pork fat, read by the always delightful James Chen, whose voice unfortunately pops up only in these opening bits.

Foodies will find a treasure trove of practical information on the unjustifiable undervaluing of Chinese cuisine, and all listeners will enjoy some extended lessons on the cultural traditions that can heal lonely hearts. Rodgers is terrifically funny as Sam's uptight uncles, as well as the enigmatic lawyer and translator who assist Maggie with her husband's estate. Mones has written her third paean to Chinese virtues, and whatever you may make of the legal drama or the love story, you will never look at a takeout menu the same way again. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

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 husband's 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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2008 Nicole Mones (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"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." (Amazon.com review)
"Early in her visit, Maggie scoffs at the idea that 'food can heal the human heart.' Mones smartly proves her wrong." (Publishers Weekly)

"Elisabeth Rodgers delivers the novel with verve. James Chen narrates the chapter openings, which are quotes from a revered ancient tome on Chinese food preparation and philosophy. Cookery lore; subtle aromas and flavors; bold colors and textures all vie with story elements that focus on culture and family to keep listeners fully engaged." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (591 )
5 star
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4.1 (427 )
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (425 )
5 star
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4 star
 (153)
3 star
 (41)
2 star
 (16)
1 star
 (9)
Performance
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  •  
    Robin 10-20-11
    Robin 10-20-11

    Hi all. I'm in my 50's (that's relevant, i think), and I favor fiction. I like the british sensibility, and was introduced to the Forsyte Saga through audible ... loved it! I happen to also like Chinese writers, but they are not well represented yet at audible. Looking to follow readers with similar tastes ...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "i loved this book"

    i have listened to this book a few times already ... it is charming, soulful and performed well. don't hesitate to purchase this one!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    She Piney Point, MD, United States 02-15-11
    She Piney Point, MD, United States 02-15-11 Member Since 2014

    Bookaholic. Favorite authors- Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert A Heinlein.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    10
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    "Very enjoyable"

    Fun story, enjoyable listen. Wish this had been published before my visit to China as it contains very interesting insight into China and Chinese Food. Only one caution, listening to this story may make you hungry :-)

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Longview, TX, United States 07-18-13
    Linda Longview, TX, United States 07-18-13 Member Since 2012
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    Story
    "Interesting view of Chinese Culture"

    The plot is fairly simple, yet enjoyable. The plot and bi-cultural background of the male character provides a good vehicle for exploring Chinese versus American culture. The romantic interest is pleasing.

    I'm not a cook or "food-ie" but found this story interesting and educational. I will probably re-listen at some future date to absorb more of the history and cultural details.

    The performance is well done. It seemed a little stilted the first few minutes, but either that changed or I became accustomed to the reader.

    A good use of a credit.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Tucson, AZ, United States 02-05-13
    Linda Tucson, AZ, United States 02-05-13

    Sericulturalist and horticulturalist, mad scientist and earth oven baker.

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    "A Tasty Surprise"

    A beautiful book that keeps you guessing until the end. Family, food, and loyalty combine into unexpected possibilities.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha 02-04-13
    Martha 02-04-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Good and very interesting story."

    I really enjoyed the story and learning about Chinese food and some of the Chinese customs. After finishing the book, I was so hungry that I had to go out for Chinese. The pdf with a couple of recipes was pretty neat. I only wish it had more recipes.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cinderbelle 12-11-12
    cinderbelle 12-11-12

    zcmcd

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    "I enjoyed this very much..."
    What did you love best about The Last Chinese Chef?

    I enjoyed the developing friendship between Sam and Maggie. Sam was my favorite character.


    What about Elisabeth Rodgers and James Chen ’s performance did you like?

    I felt Elisabeth Rodgers was by turns, superb/outstanding/exceptionally good, but also fell into a cadence at times that irritated me... Still, I had to give the narration 5 stars because I enjoyed her reading more than most audiobooks I've listened to. James Chen was incredible...


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was pretty touched throughout the story actually... I particularly enjoyed the last half hour of the book.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm glad I picked this one up... I want to listen to it again...

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ying Austin, TX, United States 07-30-12
    Ying Austin, TX, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2001
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    "Good read on Chinese cuisine and culture"

    Being a Chinese grew up in China, I highly appreciate this book. The author shows that she does understand and appreciate Chinese culture and its relationship with its cuisine. Very entertaining listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CK Cole 06-02-12
    CK Cole 06-02-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Didn't Want It to End!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I already have.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Last Chinese Chef?

    The kitchen with his father and uncles all working with him.


    What about Elisabeth Rodgers and James Chen ’s performance did you like?

    Clear and just the right amount of drama.


    If you could rename The Last Chinese Chef, what would you call it?

    For Love of Food and the Stories it Tells


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F. Hawkins 01-14-15
    F. Hawkins 01-14-15 Member Since 2008

    silentsun

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    "disappointed"

    from the reviews I expected a better story. It was ok, worth finishing, but not a great story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 03-10-13
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 03-10-13 Member Since 2015
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    "A Delightful Concoction!"

    Its all there ... the modern juxtaposed with the traditional, the everyday transformed into the exotic, old love and new. A mix of healing and nourishing food for the body, the soul and the heart. There's even some intrique waiting to be cleared up, which keeps you in suspense. All this with a cast of the most likeable characters you'd ever wish to meet. Yummy!

    Excellent narrators make it all come alive.

    Bon appetit!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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