by Monica Ali - £9.99 Transworld Publishers Ltd (Black Swan) (2010)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780552774864 | ISBN 10: 0552774863
'Who ends up in the kitchen, Gabe?'
'Misfits,' he said, 'psychos, exiles, culinary artists, and people who just need a job.'
At the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, executive chef Gabriel Lightfoot is trying to run a tight kitchen. But his integrity, to say nothing of his sanity, is under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own. Despite the pressures, all his hard work looks set to pay off.
Until the discovery of a porter's dead body in the kitchen appears to tip the scales. It is a small death, a lonely death - but it is enough to disturb the tenuous balance of Gabe's life.
Elsewhere there are already complications: Gabriel's father is dying of cancer, his girlfriend wants more from their relationship, and the restaurant manager appears to be running an illegal business under his nose.
Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman mysteriously tied to the death of the porter. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision the consequences of which strip him bare, changing the course of the life he knows - and the future he thought he wanted.
In the Kitchen is Monica Ali's stunning follow-up to Brick Lane. It is both the portrait of a man pushed to the edge, and a wry and telling look into the melting pot which is our contemporary existence. It confirms Monica Ali not only as a great storyteller but also as an acute observer of the dramas of modern life.
"In the Kitchen shows Ali returning to the tensions, problems and promises of multicultural Britain...The portrayal of the battle-stations camaraderie and the banter of a top-flight kitchen is the great strength of this novel and the source of much of its humour and interest."
"In the Kitchen works best as a novel about work. Ali has done her homework on restaurant kitchens and weaving, and uses both as sustained metaphors for contrasting visions of society: the cohesive social fabric nostalgically remembered by Gabe's father and his peers, and the melting pot of Gabe's kitchen in the contemporary world of deregulated labour. "
(Price & availability last checked: September 2018)