What a delightful book! Richard C. Morais' tale
spans two continents and three generations of a
family of foodmakers from the poor streets of West
Bombay (seen through the eyes of Hassan Haji, a boy
with the finest gatronomic and culinary sensibilities)
who, following the sectarian murder of "Mummy" Haji,
translocates briefly to Southall as a stepping stone to
their final resting place in a small town in the Jura
mountains of eastern France.
The story is both funny, moving and uplifting in equal
measure. Mr Morais breathes life into all his characters.
Even the small parts are beautifully drawn. His sense of
place is also admirably acute. The description of Lumiere's
market and its fickle traders is particularly enjoyable.
At the heart of the story we find a conflict between two
worlds vividly concentrated in the relationship between
Madame Mallory, Michelin-starred chef-proprietress of
Le Saule Pleureur, a local shrine to haute-cuisine and
the Hajis' mission to bring the delights of Indian cuisine
and culture to Lumiere in the gloriously unrestrained form
of their own restaurant, 'Maison Mumbai'.
The battle culminates in tragedy but moves on through
reconciliation, forgiveness and eventual redemption.
A bright future beckons and Hassan is a worthy hero throughout.
'The Hundred Foot Journey' will be loved by food and book
lovers of all persuasions. The sights and smells Mr Morais
conjures into being had me salivating on more than one occasion!
A cracking read!
I really enjoyed the beginning of this book as our hero has a rather amusing way of describing events and his family - he being Hassan a Muslim in India when that was not the ideal thing to be. His family are ultimately ''encouraged'' to leave their successful restaurant business and originally land in England. Another failure ensues, so their father decides on a tour around Europe sampling cuisine until their Mercedes dies and they setup camp in the Jura region of France - in a house just opposite a Michelin star restaurant. Their chaotic lifestyle, noise, color and cultural difference cause consternation to the locals in particular the rather stuffy middle aged snob who runs the restaurant. This part of the book works very well, its amusing, engaging and keeps the interest and even draws a few giggles. All the characters are believable if not like-able, human and flawed - I particularly like the bumbling father and our uptight French chef - her indignation at the foreigners and their food is well described and whitty.
The flaw in the book is that after all this fun the story itself does not keep the interest as our hero persues his culinary career, food rather than his emotional life take precedence. I found all the descriptions of food and the story that evolves in the later half of the book much less interesting, less coherent, and ultimately less enjoyable - and wished our author had finished his story 60 or so pages earlier. Having said that perhaps if you are a foodie maybe you will enjoy this part even more.
In summary, good in parts, very readable but a tale of two halves - a good holiday read especially for foodies but not a total success or consistent as an end to end story.
I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of Hassan - a boy from Mumbai, who discovers he has the equivalent of perfect pitch when it comes to food and cooking. The story documents his early, happy years in Mumbai, where his family run a restaurant business and the tragedies and adventures that lead him and his family through London, Lumiere and Paris on his journey to become a Michelin starred chef. The author clearly knows his food and what ensues is a touching story about triumph in adversity and about family, ambition and friendship.
A really good read.
My passions in life are books and food, so foodie-lit is a great favourite of mine. I'm pleased to say that Richard C Morais' novel is a joy to read, a story to savour and lose yourself in.
The Haji family of Mumbai are a large, boisterous clan who come from a line of restauranteurs - back in the 1930s their grandparents started their business by delivering tiffin boxes (or lunchboxes here in the UK) to the office workers of Mumbai. Their business grew until they became well-respected members of the culinary scene.
The story revolves around Hassan - the gifted and talented chef of the family, but his extended family, especially his father are all wonderfully portrayed. Larger than life characters with an authentic voice and some laugh out loud funny antics. When Hassan's mother is tragically killed, his father decides that he will pack up his family and move to Europe. And so begins their hectic journey, first to London and then to a small village in France. It is in the village of Lumiere that Hassan fulfils his potential. When the highly respected Michelin starred chef Madame Mallory first realises that this rag-tag Indian family intend to open a restaurant opposite her own, she is mortified, and the battles between her and Papa are fierce - yet so funny at the same time. Eventually though, after some painful times, Madame Mallory realises that Hassan has the potential to be a world-class chef and so she sets him on his journey to his own Michelin star.
This really is a wonderful read - it will appeal to fans of Joanne Harris' 'Chocolat' and Anthony Capella's 'The Food of Love'. With vivid descriptions, not just of the delicious food, but of the characters too and a charming story, the reader is captured and transported into the world of haute-cuisine.
Whatever you do it is advisable not to start reading Richard C Morais' hugely enjoyable debut novel on an empty stomach. To call it the ultimate in foodie literature does it an injustice even though food and the pleasure to be gained from preparing and eating it is a common theme throughout its two hundred and seventy plus pages. Morais succeeds in setting just the right stage for his characters to develop on - whether it be a restaurant on the border between the Hindus and the Muslims in Mumbai, a Shang-ri-las town in the Jura or the top eateries of Paris the Haji family and in particular Hassan, the story's narrator and central character become a larger than life advertisement for everything that is good and wholesome about Indian cuisine.
Morais has researched fairly exhaustively and his efforts are enough to make the reader actively salivate as he describes the multitude of meals that are cooked and consumed by the Haji's, their rival restaurants and their companions. This is definitely a book which activates most of the senses and leaves the reader hungry for more. My main gripe with this kind of fiction is that it doesn't quite cross that border into practical guidance - a few relatively easy recipes scattered throughout would have whetted the appetite a little and given the narrative a big shift above the sea of food inspired fiction which seems to keep more than one popular author permanently afloat these days. This, however is a minor criticism and Morais' understanding and, indeed, empathy with his subject matter makes this one of the warmest, light hearted and thoroughly enjoyable books I have read this year.
It has been a while since my taste buds have been tempted by a good foodie story but the starvation diet is officially over with the consumption of this delicious read.
Hassan Haji, the second of a a family of six from Mumbai, knows from an early age that his destiny lies in the realm of food. In this simultaneously comic and poignant tale, we trace Hasssan's culinary development from the tiffin business established by his grandparents, their roadside restaurant for servicemen to the present day prestige of the world of haute cuisine and much sought after Michelin stars.
After a winding trek across Europe in a caravan of 3 old Mercedes cars, the Hajis eventually settle in the isolated French village of Lumiere. It's a case of Bollywood versus Cordon Bleu as Hasssan's father competes with Madame Mallory, an acclaimed French chef whose refined restaurant is situated opposite their ever so slightly more lurid establishment.
This is a delightful tale peopled with a medley of vivid characters, from Hassan's larger than life, outspoken father who contrasts sharply with the polished, elegant Madame Mallory, defender of classic haute cuisine. You can hear, smell and taste the ambiance of the Indian and French kitchens - it's probably advisable to eat before reading! It's fascinating to read about French cuisine's own internal rival factions -
"Chef Verdun was a master of that lard-heavy school of French cuisine that was just starting, at that time, to fall from favour, overtaken by the molecular cooking established by the fast-rising Chef Matiffe down in Aix-en-Provence."
As Hassan scales the echelons of French Haute Cuisine, battling the inherent racism and snobbery en route, he also has to figure out a way to steer his enterprise through the impending recession and tax hikes which are decimating so many successful French restaurants. Thus, the author manages to creates a story which draws on both olde worlde charm and the harsh reality of modern economics. I would be surprised if we didn't soon see this story being adapted for the movie screen (perhaps with "odorama"??) - highly recommended for all foodies who enjoy good storytelling and multi-cultural settings.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of the journey of a young Indian boy from his parents restaurant in Mumbai to becoming a renowned chef in pursuit of the coveted Michelin stars. The book is often funny and at times moving, but the overall impression is of colour, from the vibrant streets of Mumbai to the calm mellow shades of top European restaurants.
Hassan's childhood was rich with family and food - his grandfather's restaurant was a successful enterprise and cooking was in Hassan's blood from early childhood. His father, Big Abbas, had developed the restaurant into a flourishing business with Hassan's mother doing the books and various relatives working hard to help the business thrive. The early chapters of the books give a flavoursome picture of life in a successful restaurant, with early morning visits to the markets (a riot of noise and smells), and the ordered chaos of the kitchens as the evening meals are prepared.
Tragedy hits the family however, and they leave India for good, setting up home firstly in Southall, London, where Hassan starts to experience what it is like to be a Westernised teenager. Before long they realise that London is not for them and the family embark on an eccentric journey in three Mercedes cars across Europe so that Hassan's father can explore the national menus of the Continent. Returning from Tuscany, the convoy suffers mechanical failure somewhere in the Jura region just north of the Alps in the (fictional?) town of Lumière, grinding to a halt outside a large mansion which just happens to be for sale. The mystically-inclined Papa sees the hand of destiny in the break-down and promptly buys the mansion, with plans to turn it into an Indian restaurant - on a grand-scale unseen before in a small French town.
Papa had not noticed when he bought the mansion that it was directly opposite a restaurant owned by the famous chef Madame Mallory, with a discerning clientele and a reputation for excellence in even the foremost Parisian restaurants. The core of the book describes the battle between the two establishments. Madame Mallory is a formidable opponent, but will she be the equal of the Mumbai-toughened Papa?
The "restaurant wars" between the two establishments rage for months. While the local population greatly respect Madame Mallory's menu at Le Saule Pleureur, the variety offered by Indian cuisine has its appeal, and the panache and informality of the Asian way of eating is a refreshing change. The battle is waged in various disreputable ways and lasting harm is done by some of the skirmishes. Eventually a sort of peace prevails and Madame Mallory eventually becomes a key influence in Hassan's life, leading him to take a course in life diametrically opposed to his family's expectations.
I enjoyed reading this book. The Hundred Foot Journey is a very fine read by anybody's standards and held my attention throughout.
A pleasant read, but ultimately forgettable for this reader. I can see why Lasse Hallstrom is getting involved with the film version - there's a certain 'Chocolat' feeling to it in parts, and two very Puri/Mirren-like roles.
If you like Deborah Moggach's books (Best Exotic Marigold / Heartbreak Hotel), this will be right up your reading street.
In India, a very poor family work hard to achieve moderate culinary success and rise out of the slums. A lucky break and a family tragedy send them flying to London and travelling Europe, finally settling in France. There is talent in this family, but by chance, their neighbour is a nationally known chef and takes against the immigrants setting up a restaurant serving 'ethnic' food next door. Cue one-upmanship, petty acts and... well, have a guess where it's going.
I enjoyed it up to this point. I was reminded of Chocolat and Ratatouille, and liked seeing the two restaurants compete. When it took a more straightforward route after this with Hassan the son following his career path it lost a little spark for me, seemed more reminiscence than the telling of a story that had potential to surprise.
Most characters were underdeveloped, Hassan and his dad are the only members of their family to feel rounded, the others are mere background.
I did enjoy the read though. I won't remember it in a month's time, but there are lovely descriptions of dishes and the art of becoming a chef, and the writing does keep you reading. I read it before the film comes out, and will probably see the film, it will translate to the screen well.
This book was really fun to read, well written, and original.
I usually read action thrillers like Lee Child, but I was drawn to the interesting story of an Indian family that moves to Europe to re-establish their family restaurant. I suppose watching Master Chef has stimulated a small amount of knowledge in how difficult it is to cook top quality food, and watching Gordon Ramsey has shown how hard it can be at times to run a restaurant.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of Hassan Haji from childhood to adult chef. There are a large amount of vibrant and colourful characters that litter his life from his larger-than-life father to his surprising mentor.
Buy this now. Enjoy the read. You will not be disappointed as all the other 5 star reviews are testament to that.
on 12 September 2014
Many contributors have given a synopsis of the novel (particularly brilliant one by The Wolf) and I shall refrain from being repetitive.
The novel is very well-researched, well-written and succeeds in engaging the attention of the reader. It is light-hearted and makes for a charming read. All the characters are portrayed vividly and the memory of each one lingers....
For me, the novel struck a chord at several levels: sectarianism and inhumanity, racism as a result of ignorance/mindset and overcoming prejudices, nurturing of relationships (family and friends), ambition and soul-searching at the price success demands, insight into haute cuisine (European) and the rise and demise of chefs as determined by Michelin grading and media hype.
The novel is set in several locations (India and Europe) and travelling across these with the Hajji family arouses 'wanderlust'. At the heart of the novel is the delightful culinary journey from the Mumbai street food stalls to the inexpensive food stalls in Camden (London), to Harrods' food halls, to the bistros and restaurants in Europe to the 3 star Michelin establishments in Paris.The culinary descriptions of each dish (toooo many to list) have the taste buds rioting as the smells and sights engulf one. Culinary expressions are not limited to dishes: 'the night was as black as a boudin noir'; 'the sea outside (Marseille at night) seemed pumped full of squid ink'; 'the sun was setting, like a mango sorbet dripping over the horizon'; 'her (Madame Mallory) eyes glistened like Spanish olives'; 'the early weeks of that trip through Europe were like the first taste of a creme brulee'.. Even art work mentioned has a culinary theme: Chardin's Grey Partridge, Gaugin's The Meal, the Last Supper.
The Hundred Foot Journey will not fail to please......