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3.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  588 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years. Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, nestled in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier. At twenty thousand ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published April 2008)
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May 04, 2010 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the reason we readers read, for books such as this. There seems to be a trend for inward books recently and this falls into that category. There is plot but mostly to hang thoughts and feelings on. Kip, is a Sikh working in Srinagar as an Army Chef attached to a powerful General’s house. The world outside their house is at war. He’s a quiet, contemplative man and the attention he receives is second hand, mostly associated with the heroic deeds of his soldier father. When people meet Kip ...more
Jun 19, 2010 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Finished: This book is good all the way through. One should read it to experience this author's writing style. It is original, very moving, sometimes disjointed, but always more is said than the simple words. The quote given below is not harsh, other portions of this book are. Don't think you will be served a syrupy treat. Much is said about countries in conflict and how the people of the conflicting sides react towards ach other. It wasn't until the very end that I realised how well
Aug 21, 2010 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the themes and ideas behind this novel are quite important, it ended up just being an okay read for me. Perhaps I'm missing something (and I say that sincerely) but I didn't find the writing poetical or lyrical (as it was 'advertised') for the most part. And while the style is purposely informal and conversational, to me, much of it was either underwritten or overwritten, with the metaphors feeling forced. I do give lots of credit, though, to a passage about 'movies' being made in hotels t ...more
Sep 10, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Starting with the cover, this book is wonderful! The cover is breathtakingly beautiful and just transports you to northern India. The story, told by Kip, is simple in its telling, but at the same time shows the complexity of human relationships.

I loved this book and highly recommend it. If you liked "Buddha's Orphans" by S. Upadhyay or "A Fine Balance" by R. Mistry, then this book is for you!
Mar 15, 2010 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could barely get through this book. It's written in a style that some would call lyrical, but for me it's too slow-paced and convoluted.
I just couldn't plod my way through and it felt like a chore to read through 250 pages.

I never got a good feel for the narrator's personality as we skipped through perspective and time. He doesn't engage me and I can't relate to him in any way. In the end, I didn't care about him, his dying, his relationships, his food, nothing at all.

At the end of the book
Mar 20, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, war
Singh's first novel is told by the protagonist Kirpal in flash-backs on a train trip back to Kashmir. Kirpal has agreed to prepare the wedding feast for his former General's daughter. This is a story India; of the conflict between India and Pakistan. Listen to Singh description of Beethoven's 9th:"...but I have heard the music. My fear, my fury, my joy, my melancholy-everything is embedded in this piece. The Ninth is real. It penetrates my body like smells, like food. And yet: is is solid and ma ...more
I thought this book, told in a spare style with that subtly rhythmic langauge one finds in books by Indian writers, to be quite good. There is a distance between the reader and the characters, as others have noted, but I thought the effect was deliberate: Kip as the narrator was himself distanced from everyone else, and we see them through his eyes.

Chef is about the devastation left by war and its effects on people and on the environment. It's a sad commentary on all those trumpenting "war aims
Catherine  Mustread
Mar 18, 2010 Catherine Mustread rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Telegraph top 10 first novelists 2010
[I received this Advanced Reading Copy from Bloomsbury via Goodreads First-Reads program.:]
Award-winning Indian-Canadian author Jaspreet Singh has written an intensely compelling story of Kip, a Sikh, who becomes an apprentice chef to military chef, Kishen, a mentor obsessed with food and women in the Kashmir area, site of the border wars between Pakistan and India. Full of the delight of good cooking and food, Kip must also deal with unpleasant things: unstable governments, military might, pris
Apr 27, 2010 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 05, 2010 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Giveaway program
Full disclosure for purposes of this review: I won this on the Goodreads giveaways, which was very cool because I really wanted to read this after hearing an interview with Jaspreet Singh on BBC's The Strand.

I have never been to India. I've watched Michael Wood's series about it, but never actually set foot there. I also know nothing about Indian literature (outside of legends), so I have no idea how this book compares with current Indian literary product.

It is an affecting and moving book. The
Apr 26, 2010 Sharyl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jaspreet Singh's novel Chef is a moving story centered around needless fighting, suffering, and deprivation. Deprivation of more than comfort; the deprivation of love and open expression that comes with violent conflict, in this case, between India and Pakistan.

This is Kirpal Singh's story, which he tells us close to the end of his life, so the narrative jumps around in time to good effect. Kirpal, or Kip, as he is known, was General Kumar's chef, up until some fourteen years ago, and now he is
Colleen Turner
Jaspreet Singh's "Chef: A Novel" is haunting, lyrical and beautiful to read. It is the story of a man on his way back to Kashmir to be the chef for his old general's daughter's wedding. But. The main character, Kip, first travels to Kashmir after his father's death on the strange battlefield of Siachen Glacier. He travels to Kashmir, this beautiful place filled with sadness, to find out more regarding this resting place of his fathers and to apprentice with General Kumar's chef, Chef Kishen. He ...more
Through food, we learn the stories of two military cooks. The first Chef is proud Kishen, Kip's mentor, whose strength lies in international haute cuisine. His unorthodox way of asking vegetables and fruit what they wish to become, results in extraordinary dishes. But when he makes a careless mistake, even his wonderful cooking cannot save him from reassignment to the Siachen icefields. Chef's misfortune results in a promotion for Kip. Although he has learned his kitchen skills and recipes from ...more
Apr 05, 2011 Ken-ichi rated it it was ok
Shelves: india, xmas2010
Is there anything more insufferable than someone else's nostalgia? Yes: someone else's fictional nostalgia, occasionally exacerbated by outbreaks of self-pity and blunt, ineffectual criticism of government hypocrisy. I enjoyed imagining the food they ate, and I would very much like to try rogan josh in both Kashmiri and Hindu styles, but I think the only reason I ended up finishing this was because it always seemed like it was almost done. Not recommended.

This book further illuminated the fact t
Apr 27, 2010 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Singh's award-winning novel is a poem of a book reminiscent of Ondaatje'sThe English Patient. Set in Kashmir, on the border between India and Pakistan, Chef tells the story in retrospect of a young man's enlistment into the Indian Army and his training and early career as chef to one of the army's generals. Exploring several themes simultaneously - the nature of love, the Kashmiri conflict, racism, the relationship between fathers and children - Singh keeps the reader's head spinning with rich l ...more
Mar 15, 2010 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is a really good book. The themes and plot are very well done and utterly believable, the plot twists taking you by surprise as you slowly work your way through the pivotal moments of the protagonist's life. While I'm not a fan of the style of writing (which isn't to say it's bad, just entirely unprosaic, which works really, really well for the story,) I was impressed with the way Mr Singh refused to give clean endings or answers to certain subjects, leaving them up to the reader, almost, t ...more
Mar 20, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Whenever an author is able to transport me somewhere and feel like I'm really there I feel they have done a good job writing. When Kip was on the train and describing it I could hear the old thing clacking away down the tracks. When he was talking about the icefield and how cold and awful it was I just felt so sad for the men there. I like that the book was believable. Nothing far out there. The only thing I would have liked was a little bit of explanation of all the ...more
Nasim Marie
Jul 06, 2014 Nasim Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just discovered Jaspreet Singh. 'Chef' is a quirky read and reminds me a bit - in tone - of Mohammed Hanif's, A Case of Exploding Mangoes. However, the points of view change and merge in a way that I found, at times, confusing, all first person, you have to focus hard to follow. But there are some beautiful observations like:'When does a painter know that the painting of a horse is done? I asked myself'. I also learned some interesting facts, I love that Siachen means 'place where wild roses gro ...more
Mar 15, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This beautifully written book is about a young man in India, who joins the army fighting at the Pakistan border. The story is told in flash backs as Kip travels on a train through India back to the border of Pakistan. The story has many themes on life, death, maturing, love, and war. The setting is also particularly interesting and Singh does a beautiful job describing the cultural clashes through his descriptions of food. Overall the book has a poetic quality to it, is thought provoking, and re ...more
Jeff Clay
Jun 29, 2016 Jeff Clay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Described on the inner flap as "Mesmeric, mournful, and intensely lyrical" Mr. Singh's first novel comes close to fulfilling this expectation. There are sections in the text that are as close to poetry as prose can be. Descriptions -- especially of food and spices and the land of Kashmir -- are often sumptuous, scent-inducing and mouth-watering, both exotic and commonplace, at the same time. Mr. Singh does have a way with words. The overall tone is one of melancholy, perhaps even distant doom. I ...more
Full Stop

Review by David Backer

I like my promises kept, especially when they’re made by people I trust. Jaspreet Singh won my trust with 17 Tomatoes, a sharp, volatile series of short stories set in Kashmir (where Singh grew up). Those stories show the people and politics of that charged area and reach right to the infinite human experience therein. So I was overly excited for his first novel, Chef. But it let me down.

Chef promises tons in the first two pages: war,
Rachel Hayashi
This book has poetry and sensory detail of food - spices and herbs as well as dishes, kitchen fragrances and sounds, and many wonderful names. Some sentences, though, are cluttered; some transitions in time and place are awkward. Chef's foreground plot held my attention (I grew fond of Kip, the main character) more than the background did. Being a Salman Rushdie fan, I found Chef a pale cousin to Rushdie's India/Pakistan/Kashmir stories, but I wanted to continue on to the end.
Feb 07, 2016 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"There are two kinds of chefs in this world. Those who disturb the universe with their cooking, and those who do not dare to do so. "

This book is told in two interwoven threads about 15 years apart. Kirpal 'Kip' Singh joins the Indian army and is sent to Srinigar, Kashmir as an apprentice chef in the kitchen of the commanding general in the 1980s. Kip’s father, a military hero, has died in a plane crash over the nearby Siachen glacier. Kip forms a close mentor-apprentice friendship with his imme
Farhana Selamat
Jun 06, 2014 Farhana Selamat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is too great. Literally a page turner. This is by far the best, simple, understandable, and deep writing I've ever read. I love the way Jaspreet Singh described everything. The food, the Siachen Glacier, the cancer that Kirpal had, the beauty of the woman enemy, Irem, the comparison of cooking and painting and etc. Wooh so many things to say about this book. I shud give this book a 10 star rating. Man, love it so much. I was actually resisting myself from wanting the book to finish and ...more
May 10, 2012 Lynda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. A breathtaking look at another way of life.
Apr 27, 2015 Gordon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The tragedy of Kashmir could be the basis for a truly great book: Chef isn't it. But I still applaud the author for this wistful, occasionally angry story that cries out for us to value life - beauty, good food, family and love - above the collective insanity of patriotism and politics and greed. I know next to nothing about Indian cooking, so the frequent references to various dishes didn't touch me as much as they otherwise might have. Fortunately they also did nothing to undermine my enjoymen ...more
01-01-2011 - Won this on goodreads about a year ago, can't wait to start it!! I'm definitely reading it this year!

8/18/2011 Finished this book last night. It was a bit tough to get through, honestly. I was never really sure whether the main character was speaking in the present or if he was remembering things from his past. It jumped around a lot and sometimes I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and then some random line would be thrown in that would make me laugh out loud, like
Apr 10, 2010 Malissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-big-kids
I got this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers (an ARC), and I enjoyed it. It's probably not a book that I would have picked up otherwise, mostly because a lot of my reading consists of books published for young adults since that's my area of professional interest. The adult books that I read are usually ones that *really* grab my eye for some reason, and I don't know that this one would have been on my radar.

That said, I'm glad that I read this book. It's written primarily as a series of fla
Keep in mind that this book had a tough act to follow; I just finished Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, which I loved, before starting this novel. Perhaps if this wasn't the case my review would be a little more positive.

Not to say I hated the book; in fact, I'd more like to give it 2.5 stars rather than just two. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the story, but I found myself constantly distracted by the convoluted nature of the plot, and especially the voice. The narrator's voice was oddl
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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“ "Curry powder" is a British invention. There is no such thing as Indian food, Kip. But there are Indian methods... Allow a dialogue between our methods and the ingredients from the rest of the world... Make something new...Don't get stuck inside nationalities.' I would watch the movement of his hands for hours on end. Once the materials stripped themselves bare, Chef mixed them with all that he remembered, and all that he had forgotten.” 3 likes
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