The Cook by Wayne Macauley
|The Cook by Wayne Macauley
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw
|Summary: Sent to Cook School rather than a young offenders' institute, 17-year-old Zac appears to have found his path to life on the straight and narrow. Talented and ambitious he has his eyes on the top and will do anything to get there. As they say on Masterchef, cooking doesn't get any tougher than this.
|Date: October 2012
|External links: Author's website
Frasier's Law states that if you flick through the TV channels long enough, no matter what time of day or night you will eventually stumble across Kelsey Grammar enjoying a cappuccino in Café Nervosa in the greatest sitcom spin off of them all.
It looks like the Seattle shrink has a new challenger to his ubiquitous TV crown though. Hollyoaks? The Big Bang Theory? Midsomer Murders? Worthy challengers all but they just don’t rack up the hours quite like Masterchef.
There’s common or garden Masterchef, Celebrity Masterchef, Junior Masterchef, Masterchef: The Professionals. For the real hardcore foodies there’s even an Australian version of the show that makes Greg Wallace and John Torode’s ‘cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this’ mantra seem positively quaint. If you thought the UK version took an age to find a winner you could probably sit through the Rio Olympics in 2016 before the Aussies crown their champ. A seemingly endless procession of contestants battles it out in a series of pressure tests and elimination challenges wetting their knickers at the sight of Heston Blumenthal’s dry ice or Marco Pierre White’s stock cubes.
This alpha male contest came to mind while reading Wayne Macauley’s rather excellent new novel The Cook which is set in the world of Australian cuisine.
The story centres on Zac, a 17-year-old who has been convicted of some unmentioned crime. Rather than being sent to a young offenders’ institute Zac is enrolled in a juvenile chef school and showing a natural flair for all things culinary appears to have found his true vocation. While the rest of the students try their best to do as little as possible, he learns how to grow and source the best ingredients, how to butcher a lamb perfectly and how to cook all the classics of French cuisine by intensively studying the Larousse Gastronomique. As Zac himself said, Cook School was my university and I was learning the things I never learned while I was pissing my future up against the wall.
The boss of Cook School, a famous celebrity chef in the mould of Gordon Ramsey, is impressed and gets his most promising apprentice a job as an in-house cook for a rich family. It seems an ideal match, the hugely talented cook with ambition to match and a backer with the wherewithal to fund those mighty aspirations. Needless to say, things don’t quite go to script.
Written in the first person, complete with the deliberately clumsy grammar you may expect to see from an uneducated youngster from the Western Suburbs, Macauley has created an authentic and compelling central voice. The talk of rondelles, quenelles, purees and jus ring true, as do the somewhat gruesome descriptions of slaughter on the farm.
Blackly comic in the style of Magnus Mills, Macauley picks apart the current food-worshipping culture with great wit and provides a suitably stunning conclusion to what is a work of great originality. Watching Masterchef will never be the same again.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Breakfast in Bed by Eleanor Moran.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Cook by Wayne Macauley at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Cook by Wayne Macauley at Amazon.com.
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