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Chef

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  732 ratings  ·  166 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
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Paperback, 248 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Bloomsbury USA (first published April 2008)
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3.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  732 ratings  ·  166 reviews


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Cynthia
May 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Chrissie
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
NO SPOILERS:

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
...more
Renita D'Silva
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
A beautiful book.
Pragya
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
*Sigh* Even though I wanted to like this book, I just didn't.

It started off well, weaving me into the story, wanting to know what had happened in the chef's past. But as the book progressed, it went downhill. I felt like there was so much need to take the book to a higher, cognitive version of itself that it ceased to make any sense, to me.

The story is of a Sikh army chef and his reminiscing about his past experience in Kashmir - the war troubled zone. The life there, the food (of course) and th
...more
Teresa
Aug 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Kathryn
May 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
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!
Heather Moll
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Gail
Aug 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
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Mary
Mar 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Tze-Wen
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
Stacy
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christine
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Christine 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
...more
Colleen Turner
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-read
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
Catherine  Mustread
Jan 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Ken-ichi
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xmas2010, india
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
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Sharyl
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Doreen
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Leslie Zampetti
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
Stephanie
Feb 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Kate
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nasim
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Rachel Hayashi
Mar 17, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Lynda
May 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. A breathtaking look at another way of life.
Agnes
Jul 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barbara
Chef is the story of Kirpal (Kip) Singh, a young fatherless Sikh looking for his late father both literally and metaphorically, as well as for himself and a lot more by joining the Indian army serving in Kashmir. Shortly after his father’s death he goes to the Himalaya to work in the kitchens of General Kumar, chief of the Northern Command and resident of the second biggest house in Srinagar.

Chef is also the story of Kirpal (Kip) Singh, a man in his 30s whose life is to be cut short by a diagnos
...more
Namitha Varma
I don't know why I didn't like this book better. It is rambling and clear in parts, it uses a simple, lucid language that is sorely lacking in books these days, it has wonderful food metaphors, and it presents Kashmir in a different perspective. All of them are brownie points for Chef. Still, something was lacking. I expected more, maybe. I expected to understand Kip. I expected to understand his obsession with Irem. I expected Rubiya and General Kumar to have deeper secrets. I expected too much ...more
Caroline
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Praveen Palakkazhi
Chef is an introspective and quietly suspenseful novel set for the most part in Kashmir and narrated by Kirpal Singh, a chef who used to be on the kitchen staff at the house of a highly respected General of the Indian Army in Kashmir. The book starts off with Kip (as he was called) traveling back after fourteen years to the conflict ridden state to prepare the wedding feast for the General’s daughter. While the train chugs past the seemingly endless stream of unknowable villages and towns dottin ...more
Peter
Jan 31, 2016 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
...more
Rona
Feb 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Rona by: Won from first-reads
Shelves: first-reads, india
I had high expectations for this book when I read the synopsis. Unfortunately, for reasons I can't quite figure out yet - it just didn't capture my interest or move me as deeply in the same way other books set in/about India/Pakistan have. While I enjoyed Kirpal's story, I just didn't feel like I was connecting with the characters as much as I have with writings by Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, or Jhumpa Lahiri.

These passages, however, stood out to me:

"Perhaps my cancer is the consequence of
...more
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Jaspreet Singh (born 1969) is a Canadian writer.
He grew up in India and moved to Canada in 1990.

(wikipedia)
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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
“Chef Kishen dazzled the table. I, on the other hand, transport people to dazzling places. But I have never been able to cook like him. His touch was precise. As if music. He appraised fruits, vegetables, meats, with astonishment, and grasped them with humility, with reverence, very carefully as if they were the most fragile objects in the world. Before cooking he would ask: Fish, what would you like to become? Basil, where did you lose your heart? Lemon: It is not who you touch, but how you touch. Learn from big elaichi. There, there. Karayla, meri jaan, why are you so prudish? ... Cinnamon was 'hot', cumin 'cold', nutmeg caused good erections. Exactly: 32 kinds of tarkas. 'Garlic is a woman, Kip. Avocado, a man. Coconut, a hijra... Chilies are South American. Coffee, Arabian. "Curry powder" is a British invention. There is no such thing as Indian food, Kip. But there are Indian methods (Punjabi-Kashmiri-Tamil-Goan-Bengali-Hyderabadi). Allow a dialogue between our methods and the ingredients from the rest of the world. Japan, Italy, Afghanistan. Make something new. Channa goes well with artichokes. Rajmah with brie and parsley. Don't get stuck inside nationalities.” 0 likes
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