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The Last Chinese Chef Audiobook
The Last Chinese Chef
Written by: 
Nicole Mones
Narrated by: 
Elisabeth Rodgers, James Chen
 >   > 
The Last Chinese Chef Audiobook

The Last Chinese Chef

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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 (776 )
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4.3 (589 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Lynn K. Cooper 01-13-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good flow to story"

    Story told well. The interplay of different narrators was good. Helped me to appreciate the basis and culture behind Chinese cuisine

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    girorv montreal, QC, Canada 01-05-15
    girorv montreal, QC, Canada 01-05-15 Member Since 2011

    To listen to a great book while I knit is heaven on earth.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Yummy !"

    First of all , let me admit , that I am a foodie. When my husband found out this book was about a food writer and a chef, he lost all interest. Is being a foodie a requirement ? No I don't think so. I, thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere set out by the author successfully transported me to China. The characters were developed enough that I was easily able to buy into the story. The narrators did a marvelous job of putting me in the scene. All in all a good story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Lynn Nolan Edmonton, Alberta 01-04-15
    Jennifer Lynn Nolan Edmonton, Alberta 01-04-15 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
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    50
    3
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    "Interesting but..."

    It was an okay story but a good performance. I listened to it completely but I did get bored a few times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deb Waynesville, NC, United States 12-07-14
    Deb Waynesville, NC, United States 12-07-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
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    12
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    "me or the book??"

    It was the book. I wanted to like this - but I just couldn't. It was so boring, I couldn't even get into any of the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria 09-14-14
    Victoria 09-14-14 Member Since 2008

    RangerGirl

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "learning about China"

    A very good introduction to the way life and food unfolds in China. It brought me a lot of nostalgy, for we used to live there for three years....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 06-22-14
    Mark SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 06-22-14 Member Since 2016
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    "The Chinese words pronunciations were cringing"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone who didn't really care if the Chinese words were pronounced closed enough. It was hard to ignore or guess the off tone pronunciations when so many Chinese words were used to convey the emotions and the cuisine.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    About food.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Elisabeth Rodgers and James Chen ’s performances?

    Yes, if there are no Chinese words pronunciations in the reading.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The story about Chinese cuisine.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison Washington, DC, United States 12-21-13
    Alison Washington, DC, United States 12-21-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A nice surprise..."
    What did you love best about The Last Chinese Chef?

    I picked this book up because it was part of a sale event. I had low expectations because I sometimes find it hard to follow books set in Asia and spanning multiple generations. This book was easy to get into, had interesting storylines and characters, and I found myself looking forward to the chances I'd get to listen. You can see the ending coming a mile away, but even though you're progressing toward a known outcome, the journey is fun. And as a bonus: now I'm curious to try some legit Chinese food!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. G. Bates Los Angeles, CA United States 11-23-13
    K. G. Bates Los Angeles, CA United States 11-23-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Terrifically Satisfying"

    It's kind of what would happen of The Pilot's Wife and Eat, Pray, Love were put in a Vitamix and spun around: sadness gives way to curiosity, then self-discovery and, ultimately, romance. Maggie, a thirty-something widowed food writer, is called to China by her late husband's Bejing office to resolve a possible paternity suit that demands attention according to Chinese law. Since she's going, she accepts an assignment from her employer to profile a rising-star chef, and parallel discoveries begin: Was her late husband unfaithful? Did he leave a child behind? Can Sam Liang, the Chinese-American chef she's come to profile, admit Maggie beyond his protective armor to allow her to see the emotional center of true traditional Chinese cuisine? Will Sam win a critically important competition that will finish the arc of Maggie's profile? This modern story is interspersed with the diary of Sam's grandfather, chef to China's Dowager Empress, and Sam's father, who spurned his inheritance as culinary royalty to begin a humble life in America. Family, food, forgiveness are the backbone of The Last Chinese Chef. Fans of Nicole Mones' previous work (Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light) will feel full and happy at the end of this book. New readers will be left with an appetite for more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynne 11-17-13
    Lynne 11-17-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fast, Flavorful read"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Last Chinese Chef to be better than the print version?

    N/A


    What other book might you compare The Last Chinese Chef to and why?

    none


    Which character – as performed by Elisabeth Rodgers and James Chen – was your favorite?

    Really liked both Maggie and Sam


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

    I wouldn't change the name


    Any additional comments?

    This if a wonderful cultural journey through food, friends and tales of the past. There is enough intrigue to keep the you engaged but no violence. It has me ready for some real true, Chinese cuisine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Garnie 08-23-13
    Garnie 08-23-13

    Granny

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent"
    If you could sum up The Last Chinese Chef in three words, what would they be?

    Love, Food, China


    What other book might you compare The Last Chinese Chef to and why?

    I have not read another like this book


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I particularly appreciated the sections explaining the Chinese philosophy of food preparation, ingredients, and the importance of sharing meals. The "quotes" of the Last Chinese Chef introducing each chapter were poetic. I visited China and appreciated and enjoyed the people there. This book helped explain why I had such admiration for the lovely, funny, warm people I met there.


    Any additional comments?

    I am planning another visit to China. This book will allow me to pay more attention to the cooking in China and so seek some imperial Chinese meals. I am so glad to have this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Rogayah
    Reading, United Kingdom
    5/6/12
    Overall
    "Yum yum"

    I was surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. It has all the ingredients of an excellent read - a gripping story - what happens next? It is a sad story - a man dies, the grieving widow becomes a heroine and we learn a lot about China and its cuisine. The narrators have served up an excellent mixture of past and present.

    If you are interested in food, especially Chinese food, in China and its history and in a good yarn do buy this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Thomas
    London, United Kingdom
    11/21/11
    Overall
    "Good, not great"

    This is a reasonably good book. The characters are believable and engaging and the description is quite vivid. I found the narrator a bit bland - she didn't add a great deal. The other thing I found was that the description of the food was a bit monotonous. Everything was the most wonderful thing she'd ever eaten. It would have made for a believable story, and made it easier for the reader to empathise if there'd been a few nice things, a few not so good, as there are for most people discovering a cuisine. But still a decent book, engaging plot and not badly written

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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