Kitchen Dreams, Kitchen Nightmares

Chop ChopChop Chop by Simon Wroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a dark comedy, but it’s a family story. It’s about a restaurant, but it’s also about finding one’s place in the world. It’s about that most concrete of human needs — food — but there are interludes almost fanciful in their detail. It takes place at the beginning of a young man’s adult life, but it’s really about our pasts and how we can’t ever truly leave them behind.

Simon Wroe draws upon his experience working in kitchens to tell the story of Monocle, a recent university graduate knocking around London, who takes a job as a commis in the kitchen of The Swan, a neighborhood restaurant in Camden Town. As the low man on the cooks’ totem pole, he does the scut work and bears the brutality of boss Bob, along with the rest of the kitchen staff. The interwoven stories of these men, Monocle’s father, and the dreaded patron named The Fat Man lead us to three downfalls, all terrible and different from each other.

It’s hard to believe that Wroe is a first-time novelist, given the surehandedness of his prose and the tight storytelling. He’s written a funny, touching, snarky, and very realistic story. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

*Since I get to edit this, I have to add “gleefully obscene” to this review. The kitchen staff is perfectly rendered and their constant chatter fits them to a T.

View all my reviews

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