The Last Chinese Chef

By Nicole Mones
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780547053738, 304pp.)

Publication Date: June 2008

Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover

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In her satisfying, sensual third novel, Nicole Mones takes readers inside the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China through the story of an American food writer in Beijing. When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husband’s estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life. Since work is all that will keep her sane, her magazine editor assigns her to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American who is the last in a line of gifted chefs tracing back to the imperial palace. As she watches Sam gear up for China’s Olympic culinary competition by planning the banquet of a lifetime, she begins to see past the cuisine’s artistry to glimpse its coherent expression of Chinese civilization. It is here, amid lessons of tradition, obligation, and human connection that she finds the secret ingredient that may yet heal her heart.

About the Author

NICOLE MONES is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light. She started a textile business in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution and ran it for eighteen years, and she brings to her fiction writing an in-depth understanding of China and its culture. Mones is a frequent contributor to Gourmet magazine, which ran an excerpt of The Last Chinese Chef—marking the first time Gourmet has ever published fiction in its pages. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Conversation Starters from


  1. In the beginning of the book, Maggie has tried to deal with her husband's death shrinking "her life to a pinpoint." She disconnects from people and seems to be trying to make her world and herself smaller and smaller. When you suffered a loss in your life, did you also feel like withdrawing from the world? If you didn't, how did you feel? And if you did, how did you find your way back?

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