When Hassan Haji enters a dusky French restaurant in Mumbai, his mother soothes, “Never be afraid of trying something new, Hassan . . . . It is the spice of life.” With these words she provides her son with the mantra of a lifetime and the pair share an unforgettable feast, the first of many that novelist Richard Morais serves up in his warm and winning debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey.
Now a noted chef, Hassan recalls his path to acclaim, which took him from the gritty streets of Mumbai to the celebrated kitchens of Paris. After a chilling tragedy, Hassan’s father is forced to close the family restaurant and uproot his family from the pungent bustle of India for a frigid sojourn in London, only to finally settle in the remote and provincial French village of Lumière. As the family settles into its strange new life, they clash with their new neighbor, esteemed chef and innkeeper Madame Gertrude Mallory. Much to Mallory’s chagrin, an evening of epicurean espionage at the Hajis’ Indian bistro, Maison Mumbai, reveals that young Hassan has a rare talent for creating otherworldly culinary delights. With this discovery, Hassan’s life is forever changed and his journey in the wondrous world of food truly begins.
Brimming with mouthwatering description and endearing characters, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an appealing and ambitious first novel. With its publication, Morais (a longtime Forbes correspondent and editor) finally fulfills a promise to his good friend and fellow foodie, the late film producer Ismail Merchant. Morais has honored his friend’s memory well with this sumptuous story of a globe-trotting family and the means by which food nourishes both the body and the soul. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a buzzing banquet that will linger in your memory long after the last page is turned.