The Chef's Secret: A Novel

· Sold by Simon and Schuster
1 review

About this ebook

A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.

Ratings and reviews

1 review
Gaele Hi
February 14, 2019
Giovanni is the nephew of Bartolomeo Scappi, a chef to popes and a man of many secrets. So many secrets that he had two chests of journals, many written with insets of cipher that contained the most ‘delicate’ matters, all left to the nephew Giovanni, along with a house, a small fortune, recipes and a knife, with instructions that he burn all of the journals before curiosity encourages him to read them. An apprentice to his uncle since the age of 19, the now thirty-year-old Giovanni is unable to simply ‘burn’ the journals, and starts to read and uncover secrets that still hold danger for those he knows and loves. King has created a story that is rich in two separate times: Giovanni is describing the now in the year of 1577 after his uncle’s death, while the journals lead us back in time as the first was penned some fifty years earlier, explaining the days and highlights of Barto’s life as a younger man on his way to making a mark on the world. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this story would unfold or read, and to my delight it was wholly captivating and full of the intrigue, gossip, machinations and maneuvers that one would expect, particularly knowing, if in brief, the history of the popes and the ‘nobility’ of Italy. Remember, Bartolomeo’s story is happening just after the Borgia pope Alexander VI, father of Lucretia. Now can you see the ‘dangers’ and jostling that was needed for survival as a chef, and to thrive – it required even more. Most interesting is Giovanni’s relationships that have changed with both the inheritance and his uncovering secrets of his own birth, the lengths to which his uncle Bartolomeo went to protect his own love and secrets, and the unmasking of secrets on the way to finding a new and perhaps more secure and bright future. As little is known factually about Bartolomeo, King’s use of imagination and some clearly well-researched materials brought a story that feels plausible, is studded with many references to real people, places and situations, and ends in ways that feel both possible and affirmative for the resolutions and decisions that Giovanni comes to throughout his discovery of the uncle he thought he knew. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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About the author

Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

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