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The Last Chinese Chef
by Nicole Mones
Houghton Mifflin (USA)

Judges' Citation: In this delicious novel, Nicole Mones deftly portrays the complexity and passion of a cross-cultural love affair while introducing us to a broad expanse of Chinese history and culture, both ancient and modern.  Through the eyes of an American food writer visiting China, we are introduced to the rarefied and competitive world of Chinese haute cuisine, a subtle complex art that reached its apogee in the court of the Emperor and was nearly obliterated during Mao’s cultural revolution, when great chefs were reduced to boiling dumplings in factory canteens.

Book Description: This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Mones’s captivating story also brings into focus a changing China — this time the hidden world of high culinary culture.

When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband’s estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.

In China Maggie unties the knots of her husband’s past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam’s family — a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners — and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places. (Source:

Nicole Mones is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light. She started a textile business in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution and ran it for eighteen years, and she brings to her fiction writing an in-depth understanding of China and its culture. Mones is a frequent contributor to Gourmet magazine, which ran an excerpt of The Last Chinese Chef — marking the first time Gourmet has ever published fiction in its pages. She lives in Portland, Oregon.


"Both entertaining and learned, The Last Chinese Chef just might be the perfect leisure read. It effortlessly weaves together a fast-paced romantic plot with profound precepts from ancient Chinese food culture. This delicious book will leave you with an intense craving for perfectly prepared Chinese food.” — Wall Street Journal

"It doesn't seem quite fair for a writer to be as skilled at genre hopping as Nicole Mones, author of the engrossing new novel The Last Chinese Chef." — Seattle Times

"Maybe you're not hungry. Maybe you've never considered the imperial heights of Chinese cuisine. Nicole Mones can change that with the flip of a page. The Last Chinese Chef is neither history nor cookbook; Sam and Maggie's stories are its heart. Mones knows there are many ways to sustain and nourish the people we love." — Charlotte Observer


Read an interview with Mones on the California Literary Review website.

Visit the author's website:

Read a review of The Last Chinese Chef in WaterBridge Review.

Author photo by Owen Carey




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