Elza's Kitchen

Elza's Kitchen

by Mark Fitten

Gail Reid (01/12/13): This second novel from Mark Fitten again takes place in post-communist Hungary. Elza, a well-liked chef and restaurant owner, with all the trappings of success, finds herself stuck in a mid-life crisis. In spite of repeated marriage proposals from her young lover, the handsome sous chef at her restaurant, Elza at 48, does not really love him.

Elza needs inspiration and she hatches a plot to get a well-known Parisian restaurant critic to come to Eastern Europe and review her restaurant. This takes some scheming and some delightful characters such as her former professors from culinary school, the Professor of Sauces and the Professor of Meats, to intervene. Elza may be extremely popular in Delibab for her outstanding Chicken Paprika but haute cuisine, this is not. What ensues is both humorous and meaningful as she resolves her mid-life dilemma in a most unusual and creative way.

Marc Fitten's stylized writing in which many characters are not named - they are identified by their titles such as the critic, the sous chef, and the dishwasher - gives this book a bit of an allegorical and charming feel. Descriptions of Hungarian dishes and desserts are mouthwatering. Like his earlier work, Valeria's Last Stand, Fitten tells a highly likeable story with memorable characters.
Rating: ****

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