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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

4.2 (856 )
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4.3 (658 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Linden 12-01-15
    Linden 12-01-15
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    "Exotic"

    I enjoyed all the information about Chinese history and food. Pleasant experience. The narration was well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jen in Australia 10-27-15 Member Since 2008
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    "For present and future China lovers"

    I loved how she wove actual Chinese into the story, though the lack of tone used by the narrator meant it was always a little off, and though set in Beijing, no Beijing accent applied. Still I loved the simple story. Not complex or too surprising but compelling enough to get to the end in a few sittings. Makes me want to track down some of the references to poems and foods. I learned a new phrase: 油而不腻, meaning "taste of fat but not too greasy" a rare thing in average Chinese meals. But having been to China and experienced real food there, I appreciated the joyous exploration of food and relationships.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Finola Jennings Clark Saint Lucia 06-09-15
    Finola Jennings Clark Saint Lucia 06-09-15
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    "Great food story"

    Really gave a captivating insight into Chinese food- the art of eating. Loved those descriptions. It was a little disappointing in the last chapter or so- I would have liked a little more But overall I loved it and now would really love to go to China if I could experience anything resembling this :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jancie Celebration, FL, United States 02-28-15
    Jancie Celebration, FL, United States 02-28-15 Member Since 2005
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    "Interesting look into Chinese culture and cooking"
    Would you listen to The Last Chinese Chef again? Why?

    Yes, it's a book I would revisit every few years.


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

    Perhaps The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Swet due to,the clash between cultures.


    Have you listened to any of Elisabeth Rodgers and James Chen ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, but they were both outstanding.


    If you could take any character from The Last Chinese Chef out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    It would have to be the chef himself. I would want him to explain the meaning behind each dish.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm looking forward to listening to other books by this author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeanine Hanford, CA, USA 02-10-15
    Jeanine Hanford, CA, USA 02-10-15 Member Since 2004
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    "Highly recommended read"

    This book kept me wanting to listen longer. Really enjoyed the entire story.

    I learned a lot about food and how I have been looking at food from a very narrow perspective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tina 02-02-15
    Tina 02-02-15 Member Since 2014
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    "What I needed to hear"

    I listened to this book during a critical transition phase in my life learning to deal with a loss. The story was soothing and I was comfortably reflective listening to it. A good book with realistic characters that a listener will feel connected to. I also felt a deep connection to China and its history listening to the descriptions of values and cultures.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    B-Zara 01-25-15
    B-Zara 01-25-15

    coaleye

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    "Great story and performance."

    I wanted to listen to this straight through. The cadence was great, the historical commentary on both food and politics were perfect. I really cant think of a way to improve on the entire experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Liese H. 01-23-15
    Liese H. 01-23-15
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    "great food but predictable love story"
    What did you like best about The Last Chinese Chef? What did you like least?

    The descriptions of cooking and food were fascinating. The story itself was not. It was formulaic and predictable, and mildly entertaining.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Predictable.


    What three words best describe Elisabeth Rodgers and James Chen ’s voice?

    Elisabeth Rodgers's voice is a bit depressing and flat. James Chen's voice is more interesting and engaging.


    Was The Last Chinese Chef worth the listening time?

    It was OK. At first, I wasn't going to finish it but I got hooked on the food.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn K. Cooper 01-13-15 Member Since 2014
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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.

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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

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