Gabriel Lightfoot is an enterprising man from a northern England mill town, making good in London. As executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, he is trying to run a tight kitchen. But his integrity, to say nothing of his sanity, is under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberant multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own. Despite the pressures, all his hard work looks set to pay off.
Until a worker is found dead in the kitchen's basement. It is a small death, a lonely death -- but it is enough to disturb the tenuous balance of Gabe's life.
Elsewhere, Gabriel faces other complications. His father is dying of cancer, his girlfriend wants more from their relationship, and the restaurant manager appears to be running an illegal business under Gabe's nose.
Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, the consequences of which strip him naked and change the course of the life he knows -- and the future he thought he wanted.
This is not the book for someone looking for a heartwarming or comforting read. It is disturbing, irritating, even maddening at times, but is it also brilliantly done. Every bit of dialogue demonstrates the missed human connections of her troubled characters, and the kitchen works as a perfect metaphor for the simmering tensions of life in twenty-first century London. (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
The Wall Street Journal
“In the Kitchen” is ambitious, but with its one-dimensional characterizations and laggardly pace - it’s too long at 436 pages - this novel is, ultimately, hard to digest.
The Washington Post
If you're curious about contemporary literature, you'll read this overcooked novel. You'll skip through the sludge of the early chapters.
The Christian Science Monitor
“In the Kitchen” has its flaws, but those are intertwined with Ali’s terrific writing. It’s like an overly ambitious special whose flavors don’t quite jell. You’d come back to the restaurant, but next time, you’d order something else. And it still beats fast food any day
Starred Review. Ali deftly interweaves a collection of compelling plots in this powerful portrayal of a man whose life is slowly spiraling out of control.
With sometimes sly humor, Ali deftly sheds light on the irony of struggling in a land with abundant opportunities
Starred Review. Flawed but still impressive, the work of a fearless writer determined to challenge herself.
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Ali is a middlebrow writer, and an essentially frothy one at that, whose “gritty” choices of subject matter have convinced people she’s writing literary fiction.
The Independent (UK)
[Ali] takes risks that don't always succeed. In the Kitchen is too long... the writing is inconsistent, with a surfeit of cliché, but it's a serious and intelligent, if ultimately unsuccessful attempt at tackling the state of the nation.
PERSONNEL Chef: the cook in charge of a restaurant; from the French chef de cuisine, literally the head of the kitchen. Executive Chef: sometimes called the head cook, he or she is the one responsible for running the food preparation in a kitchen, ordering food and supplies, making staff schedules, dealing with administrative tasks. Executive chefs are usually employed by large restaurants, hotels, country clubs and even cruise lines. Most manage a staff of at least ten employees. Sous Chef: a chefs assistant, from the French sous meaning "under." Chefs de Partie: each runs one section of the kitchen, oversees prep, cooking, and presentation of meals, and directs the chefs under him in that section. Commis Chef: a trainee chef who has the most junior position in the kitchen. Commis is French for "clerk."
IN THE KITCHEN Mise-en-place: French culinary term meaning "put in place." It...
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