85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2010
Through the highly imaginative and captivating unfolding of the life story of the novel's main character, Hassan Haji, Richard Morais has given us a timeless, magical story that from the first page lovingly and romantically embraces the reader around the unfolding of a universal theme. That theme is Hassan's unrelenting, heroic pursuit of his destiny, overcoming some very heavy odds. Quite a journey - his roots were those of a pre-WW11 Indian family of poor Muslim subsistence farmers. His journey culminated many decades later when the restaurant he created in rural France achieved the recognition and honor of earning 3 Stars. We are given a front row seat to his process of both life-discovery, and of his personal self-discovery, emergence and crystalization as a very wise and compete person and a premier chef.
In telling Hassan's story, Morais weaves us through multiple continents, countries, fascinating cultures and characters and unforgettable cuisine. The authenticity, graphic description and feel of Hassan's experiences speaks to the many years of expat living of the author. As Hassan's life narrative unfolds, and because Marais excels at communicating experiences, we get to virtually smell and taste the emergence of his artistry as a chef. The author's obvious love of food is passionately sprinkled, chopped and poured throughout.
Among the many things Hassan's journey reveals, one that stands out to me is how he ultimately succeeds in achieving his destiny and simultaneously learns the importance of trusting and believing in himself and his craft. I highly recommend The Hundred-Foot Journey.
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2010
My husband gave me a copy of The Hundred-Foot Journey for our first (paper) wedding anniversary, and from the moment I opened it, I was captivated. In my many (many!) years of reading about food and cooking, I have never been so entranced - I smelled every marvelous aroma, tasted every delicious mouthful, and heard every exclamation in every accent. I was transported around the world with the Haji family - from India, to London, to the French Jura, to Paris and the South of France - and I shared in their celebrations as well as their tears. This is a book to be savored, embraced, and cherished. Pick up this book and read the blurbs on the back cover - for once, they are not overblown raves, they are dead on. If you love food, do not miss this wonderful book!
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2014
It started out very well. As an older Indian American, some of the references were quite authentic in terms of the expressions, the songs, and the types of food. The trip to London, the ride through the Jura in France is interesting and creates great atmosphere. The competition between Hassan's family and Madame Mallory is fun to read. Once the tide turns and Madame Mallory takes an interest in Hassan's cooking education and for all intents and purposes, he leaves his Indian cooking behind, the perspective pulls out and the reader becomes more of a window viewer rather than being in the same room with Hassan. The sense of being removed while the action happens gets stronger as the book moves on. Transitions from the cooking lessons with Madame Mallory to his move to Paris and so on are abrupt and clumsy. The characters seem to appear from nowhere and were friends with our main character but we don't see how those friendships started. His relationship with Paul Verdun, the chef that he looks up to, seems to come out of nowhere. The problematic waiter Claude seems like an journalistic anecdote and doesn't really fit in with the plot in any way. At this point, the story is editorialized like an old man's hazy memoir and you feel like someone else finished the book. There is no more suspense or conflict, he just goes along talking about his cooking and his daily life. Near the end, it feels more like an epilogue and you are told what is to befall some of the main characters who are still alive.
The descriptions of food, cooking, gourmet recipes are incredibly well done, and even a bit gruesome. the detail of the advanced industrialized chicken slaughterhouse near the end of the book also is quite involved and didn't seem to help the flow of the story in any way. again, I felt as if the narrator left the story to read us an article about an interesting but unrelated fact outside of the story. by the end of the story, when Hassan achieves his great accomplishments, I forgot that it was so important to him. So overall, the plot started out quite exciting, meandered and then got a flat tire somewhere in the last quarter of the book. the themes seemed to do the same because ultimately, I wasn't sure why Hassan's story was important.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2010
Like other reviewers, I absolutely adore this book. It captivated me immediately and kept it's hold to the very end, and I still wanted more. My husband and his family are Indian, and I felt like this book gave me a secret insight into their family history by proxy, and inspired me to dive into their culinary history head on. It inspired me to really open a relationship with my mother in law and get down to the nitty gritty of learning their recipes to keep that tradition alive for our daughter. After one day of reading, my husband came home to biryani and ras malai. It's impossible not to be hungry, both spiritually and physically, while reading this book.
I laughed, cried, took breaks to cook, and kept reading. This book taught me that it is indeed possible to both devour and savor something you love, and will be on my regular list for years to come. For foodies, this is the penultimate read, and a triumph for a first novel.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2010
A wonderful change of pace from all the food novels that are strictly about French or Italian food. The descriptions of Indian food and culture are vivid and enticing. The plot moves along smoothly, and the characters are well developed. Highly recommended for all who enjoy books entwined with the delights of cooking and eating.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2013
I was encouraged to read this for a program this year. The colorful possibilities covering four cultures, a variety of foods, music and tastes was intriguing. Unfortunately the book falls short on several points.
This is a very easy read, with good character development, easy to follow story and simple relationships. The author uses excellent descriptive language to draw you into the story, and it's not hard to place yourself in the various colorful locales he uses in the story.
Without completely giving the ending away, I will say that while Hassan has his ups and downs during his coming of age period and while establishing his career, it finishes on a very high note. For those who like happy endings, this is a very good thing.
Now for the not so good... The author attempts to use an Indian/Arabic accent for the characters which seems contrived and forced. It doesn't sound accurate and in fact makes the characters a little less believable. He starts out with the narrator and main character in the book (Hassan Haji) describing intricate details about his grandfather in the food business in the 1950's including his cooking, ingredients, every smell, color, etc... And yet Hassan is born in 1975 and he is speaking in the first person. Ooops...
Next, Hassan's mother suffers a terrible tragedy and yet the author only spends about 1-1/2 pages covering that and moves on. For a child, this realistically should've been covered more thoroughly.
Then as Hassan moves past the age of 18, we see certain milestones in his life go by. His internship under Madame Mallory, his first serious relationship with Margaret, his acceptance as a chef at a prominent restaurant in Paris, the establishment of his own restaurant and reputation. Through this all I keep remembering that he was supposedly born in 1975 and the original copyright for this book was 2008 & 2010. By the end of the story he is 42 years old, which would make the year 2017.
The author mentions one recession around 2008, which would be historically correct, but then mentions another one around the time when Hassan is forty, which would be 2015. He also mentions a French war briefly, but adds no details. Is this a future war involving France?
He mentions Hassan's hands shaking briefly at the end of one chapter but then goes nowhere with that and it becomes a dead end in the story.
Finally the story makes numerous and detailed mention of the selection, hunting, slaughtering, preparation and consumption of numerous animals in almost every chapter. The use of blood for sauces, slit throats, automatic chicken processing, hunting juvenile boar, etc... While I'm not a vegetarian by any means, I can see how this book will clearly NOT appeal to any vegans out there.
So in summary, while the basic story is good, it has several problems which perhaps should've been worked out before publication. The contrived accents are unnecessary, the numerous and highly detailed references to slaughtering animals, the dismissal of his mother's death and the timeline problems all make the story less believable.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2010
I loved this book. It's like 'Slumdog Millionaire' meets 'Ratatouille'. That's actually a gross over-generalization, but it shares some of the best elements of both: the ambition to rise above one's circumstances, a struggle for expression through fine cuisine, and a warmth and humor in the telling, all set against the back drop of Bombay, London and France.
The characters are rich and deeply drawn. The writing is beautiful and well-paced. The originality of the prose is startling. It is told in the first person by Hassan Haji - the voice is humble, confident, and utterly believable. The author's use of language to portray the aromas, textures and tastes of the many ingredients and dishes he describes is more than convincing - it's like reading with your taste buds.
It will make a great movie some day. But the director will have a challenge on his hands trying to replicate the beauty of Morais' prose.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2010
Sadly, I lent this book to a friend, so I can't read it again and again. It ended too soon. The characters are richly entertaining and demonstrate the closeness of family intertwined with a veritable cornucopia of flavors and tastes. As the story travels from Mumbai to London to the French countryside and on to Paris, you can almost taste and smell the foods being cooked in the background. From roadside outdoor cooking in India to the tawny upscale bistros of Paris, this is the story of one chef's personal and gastronomical growth. His mentor comes from a most unexpected place, initially in an adversarial role and ultimately as the orchestrator of his huge success.
A priceless read. I want more, sir!
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This is one of those books you know you are going to love after just a few pages. The author, Richard Morais, wrote for Forbes for years and combines a great fictional narrative, full of deep characters, with the detailed observations typical of magazine reporters. I was especially impressed with how the language could go from florid and beautiful to dirty and raw in a single sentence without losing balance. Morais' ability to capture the essence of places and peoples is absolutely transfixing with such visual and aural descriptions that I remember more of a movie than a book. This cinematic quality is not surprising since the intent was to have his friend, Ismail Merchant (of the Merchant-Ivory producing team), develop the narrative into a film. Unfortunately, the producer died unexpectedly before the manuscript was complete.
This exploration of family, personal development and professional relationships, all wrapped in the evolution of various food movements is a must read for anyone who likes to travel, cook, and explore new cuisines.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2010
This is a story about how a chef is made. Hassan Haji details how his father was instrumental in bringing and developing an understanding of the Zen nature of food to Hassan. The narrator's father took the family from rags to riches in a story that uses food to serve as the colorful backdrop in every aspect of the narrator's childhood to manhood development.
The Haji family discovered that they could not hide from their destiny, and through a twist of fate, they found themselves moving from Mumbai, to London, to Lumiere a small town near the French Alps. The first half of the story centers on Hassan and his life experiences that taught him about trust, relationships, loyalty and of course, preparing and enjoying food. The second half of the story introduce the character Madame Mallory and discloses the process by which Hassan finds himself on the cusp of attaining his lifelong dreams. The narrator's father's entrepreneurial spirit is resurrected again and again to become the driving force in the new community they will call home. And the family becomes instrumental in bringing the scents and complex beautiful tastes of India to the people in their new community.
The story is one chronicling personal growth and describing the triumphs and sadness of the narrator and his family, the Haji's. Hassan's parents kept the faith in their religion and trusted that they would always be successful if they never gave up. The narrator shares many intimate details of his life and captivates the reader from the very first page. I'd recommend this book to anyone, any age and any faith. The language is so colorful, alive and uniquely descriptive. I felt as if I were right alongside the characters in the kitchens and open air markets at the stalls buying the freshest food in the entire world. The story is inspirational on many levels and it is a great book to read anytime.