The Hundred Foot-Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey

by Richard C. Morais

Judy Stantion (07/20/11): A very sweet book, but not to be read while hungry. The author read up on cook books and the culinary arts before writing this yummy book with a nice story about a young Indian boy's journey towards becoming a 3 star chef in Paris. It's also a book about relationships, with family, and professional colleagues. Well written, characters you get to know. Pretty fast read.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss: I had never heard of The Hundred-Foot Journey until a book club member recommended it as our featured book of the month. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted as soon as I began to read. This is a lovely, well-written and charming book about the life of Hassan, an Indian-born young man whose family relocates to France after a family tragedy. The family has always been in the restaurant business, but Hassan has a gift and will eventually become a great chef in the world of high society. As Marilyn details the events and storyline of the book in her review, I will only add that the characters were human --- they had flaws as well as virtues, but we truly care for them because they are good people. It was fascinating to me to learn about the world of four and five-star restaurants and the cut-throat world of master chefs. Excellent book!
Rating: *****

Marilyn Baron: Although a love story is woven into the plot, love of family is the focus of this charming debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais. Hassan Haji, a Muslim of Indian descent, now a middle-aged celebrated chef and proprietor of a French haute cuisine establishment in Paris, flashes back to Bombay where he grew up working in his family’s modest restaurant.

Following a family tragedy, Hassan’s colorful, extended family moves to London. After traveling around Europe, they eventually open an inexpensive Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai, across the street from a traditional French relais run by the famous chef Madame Mallory in the fictional village of Lumière in the French Alps.

Madame Mallory recognizes something in Hassan, that mysterious “it,” that rare innate talent that comes along in a chef once a generation. The fact that Hassan, in the person of a “skinny Indian teenager,” is a “great artist,” infuriates her. After a clash of cultures, strikes and counterstrikes, and a horrific accident, Madame Mallory takes Hassan under her wing and ultimately guides his destiny from behind the scenes.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a beautiful fable, a gem, like a fine meal, to be savored. The author’s description of the culinary world, his characters and his sense of place are authentic.

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard C. Morais at a reading and book signing in Atlanta earlier this month and he had some advice to share with other writers.

A U.S. citizen who has lived abroad for most of his life, Morais says the reason he writes is that “he’s desperately trying to find out what he has in common with other people.” At the same time, he says he gets to “pretend to be someone different from my background. It’s a great joy and hard to put a monetary value on.”

Morais writes in layers. “You start with yourself and your essence, do research to get the voice, which stimulates your imagination, then you add the layers.”

Morais compares writers with magpies. “They gather real details and in their writing process, at the precise moment they need them, the details surface from their unconscious.

“Don’t mimic anybody,” advises Morais. “Every route is different. You’ve got to find your own path.” Ultimately, Morais counsels authors to “Write the book you’d want to read.” In this case, he wrote the book I wanted to read.
Rating: *****

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