Book Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey
After devouring T+L’s delectable July Food and Travel issue, I stumbled across the perfect literary accompaniment: journalist Richard C. Morais’s debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey (Scribner). The title is somewhat misleading—this “journey” is actually one of many thousands of miles, tracing the improbable rise of an Indian chef, Hassan Haji, from Mumbai to Paris, as we follow him from his humble roots at a ramshackle family-owned Indian restaurant to his enviable position as one of France’s most celebrated chefs, the acquirer of three coveted Michelin stars.
A series of unfortunate incidents and amusing cultural mishaps take our unlikely hero from Mumbai to London to a charming village in France, where his family opens the garish Maison Mumbai with complete disregard to Madame Mallory’s elegant, refined, Michelin-two-starred inn a hundred feet across the way. But after her initial dismay over her new neighbors’ audacity, she quickly sees potential in Haji and plucks him from a life of obscurity, toiling over vats of grease and spice, to give him French training.
Though the epicurean proceedings made my mouth water numerous times, I especially savored the vivid depictions of locations as far flung as Mumbai and Lumière, France, that add a rich setting to the delicious proceedings. Morais layers his narrative with enough colors, flavors, sounds, smells, and textures to tantalize all five senses. The Hundred-Foot Journey is not just about cooking, but about the clash of cultures—and how in the end, exceptional food bridges all barriers.
It’s not often a book can be described as sumptuous, but that’s precisely what this tasty morsel of a novel is. I ate it all up in a matter of hours, and, to abuse one final food cliché, I hungered for more. Dig in!
Sarah Khan is a copy editor at Travel + Leisure.