The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King is a historical fiction novel taking place in Italy around the middle 1500s. This is Ms. King’s second novel.
- 384 pages
- Publisher: Atria Books
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 150119643X
Books about food and food preparation, especially with historical context, are some of my favorites, second only to books about books. The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King is this type of historical fiction work and the plot has much to do with food preparation. Even though I must admit that very little of the chef’s specialties sounded appetizing.
I have never heard of Bartolomeo Scappi, and it was a big part of the reason I wanted to read this book. As it turned out, Mr. Scappi was one of the first, if not “the” first, celebrity chefs. In his monumental cookbook, Opera dell’arte del cucinare (1570), Mr. Scappi published around 1,000 recipes of Renaissance meals and techniques.
I enjoyed the way the author described the era, life, extravagant meals (for the rich, of course), and even some techniques for good measures. The romance in the book worked well without slipping into the realm of romance novels (which worked fine for me).
I found it interesting that the author chose to make her protagonists somewhat bad folks, or she simply make them murder for reasons which I didn’t really believe. This is such a clever book, and the author obviously did a lot of research, I thought that she could have come up with a better way to solve those dilemmas. After all, she freely admitted that she manipulated a few facts from the era (which is fine, I expect that in my historical fiction).
This was an engaging and creative story, using crafty story-telling to weave a tale of intrigue and romance. I enjoyed learning about Bartolomeo Scappi, a man who was very influential but I knew little about.
Master chef Bartolomeo Scappi died and leaves his wealth, knowledge and even name to Giovanni, his long time apprentice. Giovanni also gets keys to Mr. Scappi’s strongboxes with explicit instructions to destroy what’s inside.
Giovanni soon stumbles on a mystery which is the chef’s past and his next of kin. Slowly Giovanni pieces together the mystery while attempting to protect the precious recipes he has been trusted with.
Zohar — Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free.
*Amazon links point to an affiliate account