Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Amid the fading glory of the Imperial Hotel, embattled Executive Chef Gabriel
Lightfoot tries to maintain his culinary integrity in the hotel's restaurant,
while managing an unruly but talented group of immigrant cooks. He must please
the management of the hotel, recently purchased by an international
When the dead body of a Ukrainian porter is discovered in the restaurant cellar,
the tenuous balance in Gabe's life begins to slip. Adding to his stress, Gabe's
plan to open his own restaurant with two wealthy investors is hitting a critical
stage, his father is diagnosed with cancer, and his girlfriend starts talking
about a new level in their relationship. Meanwhile, Gabe convinces himself that
Gleeson, the restaurant's shifty floor manager, is using hotel property to
conduct some sort of nefarious business.
With all this on his mind, Gabe encounters a young immigrant named Lena, a girl
mysteriously tied to the death of the porter, and he makes a decision, the
consequences of which irrevocably change the course of the life he knowsand the
future he thought he wanted.
Questions for Discussion
Consider the title of this novel. Is the kitchen the most significant
setting in this novel? Why do you think the author chose In the Kitchen?
With the group, brainstorm other title possibilities.
Gabe believes that his girlfriend Charlie is his perfect mate and
envisions a happy, married life with her. What, then, accounts for his
relationship with Lena? What attracts Gabe to Lena? Does he ever truly love
her? On some subconscious level, do you think his actions were an attempt to
sabotage his future with Charlie?
Gabe is haunted by a reoccurring nightmare of discovering Yuri's body in
the catacombs and he is plagued by his inability to interpret the meaning.
Is he ever able to decipher these visions? How would you explain the various
settings and symbols that haunt him?
Gabe and Nikolai debate the existence of free will. Gabe argues that
How we behave is up to us, but Nikolai believes that everything is
predetermined by one's particular circumstances (galley page 293). With whom
do you agree?
Gabe can't seem to remember or define what changed his relationship with
his father when he was a boy. By the end of the book, does Gabe know? Does
their relationship transform over the course of the novel? In what way?
Discuss Gabe's relationship with his sister Jenny. In what ways does she
act a foil to his character? What qualities do the two characters share?
What does Fairweather reveal to Gabe about the state of the economy,
politics, and social class and race in England? How do their views differ?
How have Gabe's experiences in various kitchens, working with people
representing a vast array of different cultural backgrounds, shaped his
opinions and values?
Both Jenny and Charlie tell Gabe that he is selfish. Do you agree? Why
is it so important to Gabe to discover how other people view him? What
motivates Gabe to give Lena his money?
What are the major turning points in Gabe's ultimate downfall? Why was
Yuri's death the catalyst for Gabe's personal unraveling? Considering his
mother's bipolar disorder, do you think his breakdown is at all symptomatic
of a neurological issue? Is Gabe's collapse a result of his upbringing, his
personality, or events beyond his control?
By the novel's conclusion, do you think that Gabe has recovered from his
anxieties and self-destructive tendencies? What impact did his father's
death make? What role did Jenny play in Gabe's recovery? If the story were
to continue, what do you think would happen between Gabe and Charlie?
If you were to open your own restaurant, what type of cuisine would you serve?
Share your fantasy plans including the menu, the name of the restaurant, the
location, the décor, and the type of clientele you would hope to have with the
Read Monica Ali's previous works, Brick Lane and Alentejo Blue.
How are they different from In the Kitchen? In what ways are they
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Scribner.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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