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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Did you hear the one about the confiseur whose nougat was so highly prized? This man, who loved to cook and loved to fish, became a legend the day he hooked a trout and flicked it through the air, through the door of the local tavern, right into a pot of court-bouillon simmering on the stove. Wasn't that a way to get his truite en bleu! And did you hear the one about the young cooks who devised a Pleistocene dinner, complete with fossil moss, to celebrate the unearthing of an ancient haunch of musk ox? These and many other shaggy-chef stories are the heart of Idwal Jones's novel, which follows young Jean-Marie (nephew of the legendary confiseur) from Provence to cooking school and the attainment of his chef's toque, or "high bonnet."
Jean-Marie's journey is the mere skeleton of a plot on which the book turns -- it is truly incidental to the wonderful obsession with food that all the characters share. Even while Jean-Marie and his compadres are planning their Pleistocene dinner, they are doing so over jambalaya, salad, and brandy pudding, followed by a delicious eau de vie and strong coffee. When they leave the kitchen to dine out, they pass the time telling chef stories, including the one about the man who was once "ruined by a dish." It makes for delicious reading.
High Bonnet is another volume in the Modern Library Food Series. For more fun-with-chef books, check out George Orwell's classic Down and Out in London and Paris and Anthony Bourdain's modern classic Kitchen Confidential, as well as Ludwig Bemelmans's Hotel Splendide and Nicholas Freeling's The Kitchen. (Ginger Curwen)