The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey

4.0 64
by Richard C. Morais

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That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."

And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life's journey in Richard Morais's charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the

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That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist."

And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life's journey in Richard Morais's charming novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

Born above his grandfather's modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumiére, a small village in the French Alps.

The boisterous Haji family takes Lumiére by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages—charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.

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Editorial Reviews

Eliosa James

I have a passion for cooking, but I wouldn't go near a professional kitchen. I've read enough to know that chefs have a lot in common with gladiators, or perhaps berserkers is more accurate: they're lunatics with fierce aggression and good knife skills. Of course, that makes them fascinating. The great chef biographies -- Heat, Kitchen Confidential, Cooking Dirty -- have a place of pride on my bookshelf, cheek by jowl with The Complete Robuchon. I don't even lend them out.

So I come to a novel that purports to be the biography of a chef with sharpened knives: if the fictional cook can't brunoise properly, I'll gloat over it. In fact, I started The Hundred-Foot Journey fairly convinced that, without a background in a professional kitchen, Richard C. Morais couldn't possibly succeed (which, in retrospect, is like saying that Shakespeare was bound to flub Julius Caesar because he'd never been a dictator).

But The Hundred-Foot Journey blew my smug preconceptions to bits. Morais's fictional biography captures the dirt, passion, and madness of a chef's life and spices it with one extra ingredient: he can really write. The best chefs have an enthralling, if raw, intensity, and while Anthony Bourdain, for one, slings his ink with panache, most writing chefs tend to rocket through a life marked by food, sex, and drugs with the same curt bravado with which they survive nightly service; it's often hard to discern why they chose such a brutal career. Morais, on the other hand, so deftly weaves food into the fabric of every moment that one can't imagine his protagonist doing anything in life except cooking.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is written from the point-of-view of Hassan Haji, an inspired cook who can see in a woman's locks, for example, "an intricate cocoon of finely spun threads, translucent in the light, as if a chef had taken a blowtorch to sugar and woven threads of candied filaments through her hair." This is a novel in which every moment, every observation, speaks to the way food doesn't merely nourish, but enchants.

It begins when Hassan is a young boy whose family runs a restaurant in Mumbai. They move to London and on to France, opening a modest Indian bistro across the road from a patrician temple of haute cuisine. Hassan turns his back on Indian food in order to apprentice at the cross-road rival; years later he conquers Paris with his own three-star Michelin establishment.

One of the most striking characters in the novel is Hassan's mentor, a brilliant chef named Madame Mallory. When Hassan's family first establishes the huge, garish Maison Mumbai across from her culinary landmark, she responds with utter fury. It's not until her rage precipitates a terrible accident that she realizes the extent of her vanity and selfishness. That revelation comes while looking at a boar's head on a plate: "in the depths of those glinting little eyes she sees the balance sheet of her life." What the reader finds, through her eyes and Hassan's, are lives whose events are accompanied by a cascade of flavors and smells. Indeed, Hassan sums up his life as the movement from one smell to the next, as here: "[I] unceremoniously turned on my heel, to continue on my journey down the Rue Mouffetard, leaving behind the intoxicating smells of machli ka salan, an olfactory wisp of who I was, fading fast into the Parisian night. "

Whether you are only an armchair chef, or even a denizen of the steamy depths of a professional kitchen, you will be enchanted by this book.

--Eliosa James

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Product Details

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8.76(w) x 5.88(h) x 0.94(d)
1190L (what's this?)


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The Hundred-Foot Journey 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
slb62 More than 1 year ago
I loved, loved, loved, this book. Had a hard time putting it down and couldn't wait to pick it up again. I'm not a "cook" by any stretch of the imagination, and really just recently started trying new recipes and experimenting with flavors and spices, so I wasn't sure if this book was going to appeal to me. NO WORRIES! You do not have to know much about cooking at all, but maybe just have an appreciation for the dining experience and love a really well-written, vivid, and passionately told story. The characters were so well written, they just came out of the pages as well as the author's descriptions of the food and the atmosphere of a restaurant/kitchen. I simply fell in love with Hassan and the entire cast of characters. I kept thinking what a great film it would make!!!
Ravenclaw226 More than 1 year ago
I know, bad pun with a book that centers on food, but oh my goodness is this book ever spectacular! Read it before the movie! First of all, definitely a quick, light read, a definite palate cleanser to a lot of the heavy fiction novels out there. I finished the book in two days as I couldn't put it down! Second, the characters, or my goodness the characters! The story focuses on the young boy who we see grow through the story as a chef, he ends up meeting some lively people throughout his journey, many helping him on his way and encouraging him to keep reaching for the stars! Most notably an initial rival to his family Chef Gertrude Mallory. Mallory certainly becomes the biggest influence on the young mans life in numrous ways that I'll let you discover. But these exotic characters definitely come together in this majestic recipe of a book. There are moments I had to remind myself while reading this book that it is a work of fiction, not a biography of Hassan's life. But the story flows in such a way that you feel each of these characters was/is real. Morais' descriptions of the food make you truly hunger for more of the book (as well as a snack for yourself - there were definitely some notable points when my mouth was watering thanks to his beautiful descriptions that only a chef could describe in such detail)! Family, love, and food definitely become the overall focus of this story. It is endearing and heartwarming and fills you in many ways like a delightful 5-star meal. The closing moment of the novel probably being one of the sweetest tie ins of the story line and that moment alone being a huge reason to read this book. Great for someone looking for a light read, but would also make a great book club book (in the copy I possess you even get book club discussion questions and an interview with the author). Definitely one to read before the movie comes out! Also, if you are more preferential to biographies but feel the need to dabble in a little fiction this would be a great place to start as it reads like the bio of young Hassan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you loved the movie about a young Indian chef's rise to fame in the elite world of French cuisine, you may not care for the book, which differs from the movie in many ways. After a rather slow start (which the movie mercifully speeds through), the book focuses on the chef's career and offers interesting, if somewhat overly detailed, insights into the restaurant business in France, especially the impact of the business conditions and the star rating system. While it lacks the romanticism and contrived happy ending of the film, the book brings realism and gravitas to its topic, which some readers may find preferable. Foodies will revel in the mouth-watering descriptions of elaborate dishes, and fans of multigenerational immigrant success stories may find it rewarding. But those who expect a fluffy read should look elsewhere.
CozyLittleBookJournal More than 1 year ago
Richard C. Morais' debut novel, The Hundred Foot Journey, is a travel book for anyone who has ever watched The Food Network and thought, "Wherever that kitchen is, that's where I want to go." Food is the language of this book. The character of Hassan Haji sometimes struggles with issues of identity and belonging as he travels from Mumbai to London to Lumiere to Paris, but always this struggle is phrased in terms of food: to make curry or frogs legs, to seek out tiffin boxes or fish and chips. Even his Muslim identity is mentioned rarely except when relating to diet: to eat pork or not. Ultimately Hassan's true identity is food. His religion is food. His ethnicity is food. His blood runs with curry and wine and butter and garlic and the jus of fresh oysters. It's as though Pi Patel from Life of Pi was experiencing some sort of cosmic opposites day: an Indian boy, instead of trying to find his way home while adrift and alone, is continually travelling further afield while being wrapped in the memories and support of his family; where Pi invented stories to quell his loneliness, Hassan sometimes longs for solitude so he may study the stories of the ancient cookbooks which surround him; where Pi's starvation was his constant companion, Hassan's one constant is food.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book. Food plays a major role, and the colors and aromas come alive, making my mouth water. But mostly it is about the journey of a family and one boy in particular, adjusting from the hustle, bustle and chaos of his youth in India to the serenity, detail and distance of Europe. Must read!
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed "The Hundred-Foot Journey"! First of all, it's about food and cooking and restaurants and chefs----what's not to love? And it's about the growth and education of one particular young chef from India to England to rural France to Paris and into the Michelen universe. The descriptions of food and recipes and cooking arts intertwined with the fascinating plot made me keep a note pad by my chaise to jot down cooking tips I didn't want to forget. And the wild and wonderful path this young man took on his journey kept me up late trying to finish. The stories about famous chefs and how Michelen stars are earned---and what happens when they aren't---were enthralling. The story of this young man's family, their hopes and dreams for him, and their encouragement and pride added depth to the fast-paced plot. I told a chef friend about the book and he asked me to "donate" it to him. Then he "donated" it to a fellow chef. Even experienced chefs found it a great read.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji, a young Indian boy who grows up above his grandfather's restaurant in Mumbai. A tragic incident prompts his family to flee to France were Hassan shows an unexpected talent and taste for haute cuisine. The novel follows his ensuing career as a chef and the fate of his family in France. The first part of the book centers on Hassan's family, his history and the importance of food in his life. The writing is lush, very descriptive of the tastes, smells, and sights. The characters are interesting and the plot is fast-paced. However, after Hassan becomes a chef the thread of the story changes. The second half of the book is mostly about the politics of the restaurant world in France. The star system of ranking, the changes in haute cuisine, and the hierarchy among chefs. I didn't like this part nearly as well and I felt like Hassan's progress was stagnant. He seems to stop developing much as a person after a certain point. Still, a pleasant, easy read and not bad at all for a first novel. I'll be interested to see what Richard Morais writes next.
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I couldn't put it down!
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Charming, witty, poignant, heartwarming and thoroughly enjoyable. Story read, not as a novel, but as real life with fully realized characters and situations. Enjoyable read with some laugh out loud scenes.
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Highly recommend this descriptive memoir. The author effortlessly takes your imagination to India, England and France by telling of the scenery as well as the cuisine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me an appreciation for differences in cultures and the ability of humans to adapt under difficult circumstances.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is almost a rags to riches story set in France. The characters were interesting and the book went fast . I hope the movie is as good
RCCnLA More than 1 year ago
I read this before I saw the movie, and I'm glad I did. The book covered details of the different recipes a bit more than I needed, but it didn't overwhelm the "people story", which was changed a bit to fit a two hour film.I would call this a "nice read" as a warm up for a " great film" !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story was a little slow at the beginning, but then couldn't put it down! Wanted to read it prior to seeing the movie.
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
The Hundred Foot Journey is a wonderful read. I love all the travel in this book and the characters. I love when a book combines travel, good characters, food, and love. I can't wait to see the movie. Also, I will recommend this book for book club.