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In the Kitchen

2.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,828 ratings  ·  413 reviews
Amid the fading glory of the Imperial Hotel, embattled Executive Chef Gabriel Lightfoot tries to maintain his culinary integrity in the hotel's restaurant, while managing an unruly but talented group of immigrant cooks.

Gabriel Lightfoot is an enterprising man from a northern England mill town, making good in London. As executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, he
Hardcover, 552 pages
Published June 16th 2009 by Scribner (first published 2009)
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Average rating 2.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,828 ratings  ·  413 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I would never want to get all that pally
With Miss Monica Ali

We’d be dining on oysters on the left bank of the Seine
Or we’d be flying over Bali in her own private plane
And she’d say “Hey, what did you think of In The Kitchen?”
And I’d go hot and cold and my skin would be itchin’
I’d say “Brick Lane was great! Such characterisation!”
She’d say “That smacks of something like tergiversation –
Come, come, what did you think of In The Kitchen?”
And my mouth would go dry and my nerves would be twitchin’
May 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, i-own
Goodreads win!

It is official...I give up. I tried. I kept reading, but I can't go on. I feel bad...I won this. I am a "first reader" and am starting the reviews. But, sadly, I can't give it resounding applause as a book. It felt like it was going nowhere and I got nowhere VERY slowly.

It should be a telling sign for me (who fancies herself a fast reader) that it took 4 days to get only 77 pages in. I just didn't care...I didn't know what I was supposed to care about.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I found this story to be at times absolutely excruciating -- and I couldn't put it down.

I got the book on the strength of my great admiration for "Brick Lane," and as a writer and storyteller, Monica Ali continues to be impressive. In this case, her main character goes through a midlife crisis to end all midlife crises, and the critical moments in the book are most likely the manifestations of bipolar disease, from which his mother also suffered.

If tha
May 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
The author called it herself when she said, "All plot, no story. Nothing unfolds, everything is forced." which so accurately describes this work.

It started well, with a brilliant character description, "His eyes were pale blue and disreputably alert. His hair, by contrast, he wore with a sharp side part and a fervid rectitude, as if all his phony honor depended on it." I had hoped to see more of this character and his eely slither in the novel. But, as it happened, this was a secondary characte
Carole LoConte Tedesco
I read this with great anticipation, having heard great things about Monica Ali, and having an interest in cooking and what goes on in a professional kitchen. I found the novel brutally disappointing, however, and actually struggled to finish it.

I didn't like Chef Gabriel, and couldn't understand the motivations behind his actions and desires. The characters seemed under-developed and generally unlikable on the whole. Ali's frequent addition of long-winded sociological philosophizing on the par
May 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Megan by: Goodreads
Shelves: own, first-reads
*Whew* I feel better after reading some of the other reviews. I, too, won this from Godoreads and I really wanted to like it. I like cooking, I like chefs, I like mysteries...wait a second, it's not a mystery? For some reason I thought it was a mystery. Ok, that's ok, it's not a mystery, so it's who are bipolar? Restaurant kitchens? Cancer? The illegal trade of people in London? Prostitutes? Childhood memories? The mills closing in England? I mean, there are so many stories g ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I did not, unfortunately, love "Brick Lane" but after enjoying a small slice of kitchen life in Anna Gavalda's "Hunting and Gathering", I was tempted by the title of this book when I found it at a church book sale and thought I should give Ali another try. What I found was a compelling novel about...hmm, how to describe this, contemporary labour in a multicultural commonwealth country, perhaps? Immigration, racist ideologies, the end of industry (textile mills - my next topic for workplace ficti ...more
Rainer F
The 500plus pages of "In the Kitchen" leave me pretty confused. What did Monica Ali want with this novel? I picked it up a couple of years ago at Foyle's on Charing Cross Street in London wanting to read a Londonish book that dealt with the fast changes this metropolis had gone through, but read it first now in the times of Corona.
The central figure is Gabriel Lightfoot, the chef of the kitchen of the old Imperial Hotel in central London. A Ukrainian employee dies, a Belorussian woman called Le
Aug 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Oh, what a snooze. The main character is a reprehensible bore, and really, for a book entitled In the Kitchen, shouldn't there be more scenes in the kitchen? Instead of in this guy's apartment where he molests a teenage sex slave's feet? Instead of wandering the streets on London with a member of Parliament, droning on & on about politics? Instead of in this guy's head, witnessing his creepy & plot-pointless dream? I think I was expecting some sort of mystery-tinged Kitchen Confidential, but thi ...more
i found Brick Lane breathtaking, and if anyone is deciding whether or not to read Brick Lane based on this book, i really think they should reconsider, if for no other reason that they are so different, they could be written by different authors. they really should be judged independently.

i would finish this book if i were reading it at another time. but this is not a good time for me to slog through a writer's experiment with a genre she -- it seems to me -- doesn't quite inhabit. what monica a
Kathleen Dixon
Jul 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book has been on my to-read list for 7 years and had nearly made it to the oldest 10, but then I needed a book beginning with the letter I. Unfortunately I haven't been able to read beyond the first 40 pages - I find nothing about Gabe, the main character, to interest me. A browse of several pages throughout the rest of the book has given me nothing to draw me in, so that's it. And sadly, I can't allow myself to add this title to the challenge requiring the I - I'll just have to find anothe ...more
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Executive chef Gabriel Lightfoot runs the kitchen of the Imperial Hotel in London. He is under constant pressure to juggle the demands of the hotel management whilst secretly attempting to set up in business on his own. His kitchen staff consists of weird and wonderful characters from all over the world, he also has the added pressure of worrying about his Dad, back up north and dying from cancer.

When one of the hotel porters is found dead in the basement, Gabe's world starts to unravel drastica
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsty by: another freebie from Waterstones!!
I wanted to like this book, I really did. After all the hype over Brick Lane A Novel (which incidentally I own but haven't read yet - that'll be moved down my TBR list!) I was expecting great things from this book. It was not as I had expected.

So what was good about it? Well the characterisation was top notch. Of the main character anyway. We don't really get to learn much about the supporting cast. Gabe was a very complex character, and Ali managed to capture this well. I did feel like I knew h
Jan 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read Monica Ali’s Brick Lane a few years ago, didn’t feel it lived up to its hype. Therefore when I saw this book on the New Books shelf at the library, I almost didn’t pick it up. I’m glad curiosity got the better of me.

This was one of those I-can’t-put-it-downers. Gabriel is a chef, making good in his first high-rent restaurant in a fancy hotel. It’s a high stress job, what with all the various nationalities and personalities represented in his kitchen, some of them legal immigrants, some no
Richard Forsythe
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
The book was beautifully written. The author creates an absorbing decline into madness as the chef loses his grip on reality. Monica Ali cleverly gets the reader to invest in the protagonist's blossoming future, his own restaurant, his forthcoming marriage and the reader then shares his inexorable decline into helplessness. From a personal point of view I did not entirely buy into his obsession with Lena. men are simple creatures and when given a way out (the payment of money for the sin of illi ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sept-oct-2009
"In the Kitchen, Ali's third novel, received mixed reviews from critics who couldn't help but compare it to the brilliant Brick Lane. Interestingly, although American critics found much to reprove -- including an exasperatingly slow start, stereotypical characters, and a surfeit of moralizing that drains the narrative of momentum -- they also praised Ali's crackling, vibrant prose and her meticulous research into the inner workings of restaurant kitchens. British critics, on the other hand, unif ...more
Cristina  Berenguer Millanes
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was an inbetween of a really difficult to read book and an amazing masterpiece. I don’t know where to start. Especially in the beginning, it was impossible to read it but at the same time impossible to put down. It took ages until I started understanding the story, and when I finally understood where it was going, everything was so well connected that it was impossible to explain the line in a fast, simple way to my friends.
As a wrap-up, it’s a beautifully written book that you’ll love once y
Shayla McBride
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful writing, highly researched background with authentic kitchen and mill town settings, and the slow descent of a person into an unforeseen, inherited nightmare. Spoiler! Lightfoot is complex, selfish, driven, at times pathetic. The sexual relationship with Lena is weird and sad. Like a good meal, this book has layers and nuances. Writing is suoerb. Overall, very tasty! Loved the last paragraph.
May 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara floerke
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it
The more I read the more uncomfortable I became.

I picked up this book because this author is featured by Talking Volumes, Minnesota Public Radio's literature spot. It traces the downfall of a chef in modern London. Learning about the multicultural flavor of London was an eye opener. I knew a little bit about it, but I enjoyed stepping into it via someone else's shoes.

The protaganist suffers from bi-polar disorder and every chapter he just kept making more and more a mess of his life. I got to t
I finally finished In the Kitchen yesterday, and I have mixed feelings about it. I started off loving the descriptions of the hotel kitchen operation, but couldn't understand the main character's dislike of certain people. I didn't like him very much, which made it hard for me. I don't always have to like a character, but I want to feel the motivations, even if I don't agree with them. It was hard for me to get a handle on his choices, and his actions. Eventually, gradually, the reader understan ...more
Alex Roberts
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
There's hardly a spot where In the Kitchen is not what might be considered well written; however, despite that and a promising plot, the characters and narrative never seem to coalesce. There are moments of interesting insights, as well as top notch descriptive work, and the pace picks up in the final quarter, but a basic problem is the essentially murky nature of the lead character, Chef Gabe Lightfoot. Not charming rogue, grating blowhard or impassioned artisan, he's a confused composition of ...more

To be fair I was listening to the audioversion. The first 2 discs were fine but the third disc was blank/nonfunctional and the 4th disc badly scratched. That said, the story neither caught nor interested me in the portion I heard. Most mysteries ensnare you enough to at least wonder about the murderer. Not so this one. Gabriel is a self-centered character who I doubt will grow endearing. His self-interest over-rides everyone else's welfare. When the audiversions are scratched or damaged in somew
Gumble's Yard
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
A strange mix: I enjoyed the book initially and the kitchen scenes – particularly everything that surrounds the actual cooking; the characters in the kitchen are initially interesting but end up as either exaggerated (a depressive French pastry chef reinvigorated by Prozac and Viagra) or surprisingly unexplored (a Liberian ex child soldier); the crucial Lena part of the plot is implausible; the gradual re-writing of his own past is very good (and especially that subtlety while he is obsessed wit ...more
Had high hopes for this one. Monica Ali who wrote the amazing Brick Lane! And a book set (partly at least) in a restaurant, with a chef as the main character. Sadly it was a rather tedious read. It starts out interesting with the death of a man, one of the restaurant staff, in the kitchen cellar. And a mysterious young woman appears, needing help. The kitchen staff is a great mix of migrant workers and all the scenes set in the kitchen or restaurant are great. I guess I just didn’t really care a ...more
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
Monica Ali is, quite simply, one of those critically acclaimed authors I just don't "get." I found "Brick Lane" pretty forgettable and I felt her newest book, "In The Kitchen," was forced, uninteresting, and clunky.

In “Kitchen,” Ali layers subplot upon subplot and quirky character upon quirky character in such heavy-handed style that the novel crushes under its own weight. It tries to be and do so much that it ultimately is and does nothing. I really wanted to like this book, but found myself wa
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Let me preface this by saying I think Ms. Ali writes beautifully.

With that said, all I can say when I finished this book was "I'm so glad I'm done with that". There are so many reasons not to finish this book. Unfortunately, once I start one, I feel the need to finish it. This book was a drag, and many times I just thought "ugh". The characters are not likeable at all, and there's no reason to enjoy the reasons they aren't likeable.

I have not read "Brick Lane" but plan on it. I do hope it is be
Oct 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I must admit I did not finish this book, heck I only got about 1/3 into it, but after 129 pages I did not care about any of the characters - especially the main character - and did not have any interest in finding out what happened to them.
Heather Null
Nov 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
When I started this book, I assumed it would be a kitchen-inspired murder mystery. Instead, it focuses on the unraveling of the main character's sanity. Few books really capture the essence of mental illness, but this one brings the reader deep into the workings of a troubled mind.
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a deceptively simple plot, with a profound, encouraging & deeply humane essence ...more
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Monica Ali is a British writer of Bangladeshi origin. She is the author of Brick Lane, her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003. Ali was voted Granta's Best of Young British Novelists on the basis of the unpublished manuscript.

She lives in South London with her husband, Simon Torrance, a management consultant. They have two children, Felix (born 1999) and

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“Gabe, did you pray?'

'Sort of.'

'Me too. Do you believe?'

'No. Do you?'


'I don't believe,' said Gabriel, 'But I have faith, if you know what I mean.'

'What in?'

'I don't know, life, carrying on, I suppose.'

“Why don't you read a novel? There's more truth in fiction than in fact.” 0 likes
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