Chef A Novel

Jaspreet Singh

Bloomsbury USA




256 Pages


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Winner of the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Hugh Maclennan Prize for Ficttion, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award, and the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Book Prize
Longlisted for the 2010 International Impac Dublin Literary Award

Watching as India passes by his window on his way to Kashmir, Kirpal Singh reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years.

Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, located near a forbidding battlefield which claimed the body of Kip's father. Kip soon becomes an apprentice under the camp's chef, Kishen, and begins his culinary and cultural journey.

In this place of contradictions and erratic violence, Kip learns to prepare local dishes and delicacies from around the globe. Even as months pass, Kip, a Sikh, feels secure in his allegiance to India, firmly on the right side of this interminable conflict, until one day when a Pakistani "terrorist" is swept up on the banks of the river and changes everything.

Chef is a brave and compassionate debut about hope, love, and memory set against the devastatingly beautiful, war-scarred backdrop of occupied Kashmir.


Praise for Chef

"The Siachen exists . . . in a no man's land where India, Pakistan, and China each claim primacy . . . This is the world in which Kip finds himself in the two interwoven narratives of Chef . . . [But] he finds his true calling amid the redolent spices of the kitchen . . . [An] exotic locale and savory backdrop."—The New York Times Book Review

"A kaleidoscopic journey through one of the most beautiful besieged areas in the world. Jaspreet Singh brings out the full poetry and heartbreak of Kashmir."—Manil Suri, author of The Death of Vishnu and The Age of Shiva

"Jaspreet Singh's Chef carries the scents of cardamom, ice, and sweat; is written with such a keen sense of rhythm that you can hear the book as you read it; and is placed not only between India and Pakistan, but intriguingly between delicate cuisines and crude politics. The novel is transporting—an experience that is not easily laid to rest."—Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt

"[Singh] writes lyrically about that majestic, impossibly beautiful, and quixotic place, wedged between India and Pakistan, and doomed, it seems, to be forever caught up in their ongoing conflict, fueled by centuries-old sectarian violence . . . The rippling effects of religious and cultural prejudice infuse this whole, complex story, leaving no character in Singh's poetic, thought-provoking tale untouched."—Booklist

"The novel serves up the memories both delicious and bitter . . . Singh adroitly blends lyrical accounts of Kip's past with sensual renderings of the cold climate and piquant cuisine . . . Recommended alongside other recent powerhouse titles from younger Indian-born writers, such as Manil Suri's The Death of Vishnu or Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss."—Library Journal

"Like the people of India, the country's food varies from region to region, with no simple consensus on how to prepare anything. But in Jaspreet Singh's outstanding debut novel, as the characters learn to understand the origins of their good, they begin to understand each other . . . Quintessentially Indian, Chef is a book that eschews complex prose in favor of authenticity. Touching in its deft handling of Kip's journey into maturity, Chef helps its readers realize that true understanding comes when you recognize not only how people are alike, but also how they are different."—

"An artful and mostly beautifully poised indictment of the shameful role of India in the political and human-rights hell that is Kashmir now . . . The great strength of this brave book is its technique of indirection in imparting information to the reader. Singh comes at things aslant, seemingly casually; when their importance is revealed, it comes to the unsuspecting reader with the weight and shock of an unsuspected explosion."—Neel Mukherjee

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Jaspreet Singh

  • Jaspreet Singh is a former research scientist who holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from McGill University. His debut collection of short stories, Seventeen Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir won the 2004 McAuslan First Book Prize, and his stories have appeared in The Walrus and Zoetrope. Born in Punjab and brought up in Kashmir, Singh now lives in British Columbia.