From the celebrated French writer Marie NDiaye--Prix Goncourt-winning author of Three Strong Women--comes the story of the Cheffe: a woman who lives in the single-minded pursuit of creating incomparable culinary delights.
Born into poverty in southwestern France, as a teenager the Cheffe takes a job working for a wealthy couple in a neighboring town. It does not take long before it becomes clear that she has an unusual, remarkable talent for cooking. She dreams in recipes; she's always imagining food combinations; she hunts down elusive flavors . . . and soon her sheer talent and ambition put her in charge of their kitchen.
Though she revels in the culinary spotlight, the Cheffe remains very secretive about the rest of her life. She shares nothing of her feelings or emotions. She becomes pregnant but will not reveal her daughter's father. And when the demands of her work become too great, she leaves her baby in the care of her family and sets out to open her own restaurant, which will soon win rave reviews.
As time goes on, the Cheffe's relationship with her daughter remains fraught, and eventually it threatens to destroy everything the Cheffe has spent her life perfecting. Told from the perspective of the Cheffe's former assistant (and unrequited lover), this stunning new novel by Marie NDiaye is a gustatory tour de force.
About the Author
MARIE NDIAYE was born in Pithiviers, France, in 1967; spent her childhood with her French mother (her father was Senegalese); and studied linguistics at the Sorbonne. She was only eighteen when her first work was published. In 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Prix Femina for her novel Rosie Carpe; in 2009, the Prix Goncourt for Three Strong Women; and in 2015, the Gold Medal in the Arts from the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts. She lives in Berlin.
“Marie NDiaye is so intelligent, so composed, so good, that any description of her work feels like an understatement . . . . There’s the evenness of her prose, eminently polished, deliciously rhythmic, that seems to glide over the violence underneath . . . . Who is this writer? And how did she get to be so good? . . . . The Cheffe is a powerful reminder that any act of creation requires an act of patronage; there is no pure creation without the audience that consumes it.” —Madeleine Schwartz, The New York Review of Books
“A sensual portrayal of the indispensable place of talented cooks in the world of the French bourgeoisie. NDiaye’s heroine doesn’t wield overt power over this class, but instead commits herself to delivering savory before sugar, invention and technique before pleasure.” —Ankita Chakraborty, The New York Times Book Review
“An arresting portrait of a self-effacing genius.” —The New Yorker (Briefly Noted)
“NDiaye utilizes the relationships between characters to observe the wide scope of love in our lives, how it drives us, and where…a story about impressions, ideas, and the extreme subtleties of human relationships.” —Megan Otto, Chicago Review of Books
“Luminous…Any woman who has ever allowed her career to take precedence, even for an hour, over her offspring, will cringe in understanding.” —Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post “The Cheffe is so gracefully reserved that her story is equal parts alluring and infuriating. Not knowing usually is…Cooking, serving, and enjoying food is its own method of communication.” —Francesca Giacco, Guernica
“Like a great meal, The Cheffe leaves us pleasantly sated but still wanting more.” —Thane Tierney, BookPage
“[A] portrait of a woman comfortable in her own skin, in…hypnotic prose that stalks and surrounds its subject as though hypnotizing it.” —Eric Chevillard, Music & Literature no.8