There’s nothing new you might say about chefs writing a book. Of all writers who don’t actually have to perforce write for a living, chefs arguably are the most prolific. You might say they have a subject ready at hand – recipes, sundry food related matters, even advice on how to open a restaurant. This is quite a cliché-filled beginning, but Christopher Christie’s (Executive Chef, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore) book turns these usual clichés on their head and more.
His book, The Broken Path is yes about a chef, and his struggle to set up a restaurant but Richard Stratton’s efforts to begin anew are always haunted by his past. He is an ambitious man, beset by a strange restlessness. He moves from Canada to France, where he opens his own restaurant that has the much coveted Michelin star rating but he gives it up, and a marriage to a French actor, to return to Ottawa to set up his own restaurant.
And that is where the complications begin or perhaps these had always been there. Richard Stratton it seemed wanted to return home but he had never forgotten the young girl he had once a tempestuous summer affair with, NIkki Barnum. As is perhaps inevitable, once back in Ottawa, their paths do cross, and Nikki, already a mother of two and working for the city’s mayor, even helps Richard plan an opening night when Le Marche finally throws its doors open.
Living in the same city as Nikki and seeing her almost every day is not the least of what Richard has to cope with. The restaurant is located in the prized heritage quarter of Ottawa and he knows developers have been eying it. He also knows sooner or later that he has to replace the old and dated wiring systems in the kitchen. He never quite realises the significance of these threats till it becomes a life-threatening matter. Nikki’s life takes equally complex turns, and Richard’s return perhaps adds momentum to these. There is a secret she has managed to hide in her marriage, her husband’s strange dealings with the real estate mafia too have remained hidden from her but not for long. As Richard hovers between life and death, all these matters come to a pulsating head, and resolutions do happen and in a near perfect manner too.
Christopher Christie’s book thus has every element of a racy, intriguing, read; it has romance and also suspense. And it would be too pat to say that his wonderful chef’s ability to mix myriad ingredients together to magically conjure up a very readable, engaging novel, worked here too. In some places, one might venture that it looked unevenly plotted, and the parts involving the real estate mafia could have appeared a bit earlier in the novel but these do not in any way retract from the book’s pace and tone.
Christie is working on a second novel. What he has for the moment only let on is that it will feature Richard Stratton, who is an alter ego, but not quite. As he said, in the course of writing, characters begin speaking up for themselves and so it was Richard who told his story in this book and will go on to tell hopefully more stories. Christie meanwhile juggles a job as executive chef in one of Singapore’s most famous landmarks, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It’s the hotel clearly recognizable with the ship floating on top. Christie manages several restaurants, and has more than 400 people working for him, which leaves him only Sunday to write, and this is an inspiring tale in itself.
Read The Broken Path because of its story but it’s also about a man who braved several odds to start his own restaurant. As Christie says, this is every good chef’s dream and Christie should know but then The Broken Path is not just another story by a chef who has an equally great way with words.
To find out more about Christopher Christie and his book, do visit : http://www.thebrokenpathbook.com/
Anu Kumar’s most recent novel for older readers, ’It Takes a Murder’ ( http://www.hachetteindia.com/TitleDetails.aspx?titleId=32055) releases this month and is published by Hachette India. More details of this book and her other books and writings are at anukumar.org