$29.95 – Paperback / Text Publishing Co / Australia
Power through service, says Head Chef. It's one of the first lessons taught at Cook School, where troubled youths learn to be master chefs by bowing to decadence and whim, by offering up a part of themselves on every plate.
It's a motto Zac takes to heart. A teenage boy with a difficult past, he throws himself into the world and work of haute cuisine. He has dreams of a future, of escaping the dead-end, no-hope lot of his fellow cooks. He wants to be the greatest chef the world has seen.
He thinks he's taken his first steps when he becomes House Cook for a wealthy family. Never mind that the family may seem less than appreciative. Or refined. Or deserving. Power through service.
But as the facade crumbles and his promised future looks unlikely to eventuate, Zac the Cook is forced to reassess everything. Sweet turns sour and ends in bitter revenge.
Blackly funny and deliciously satirical, The Cook feeds our hunger to know what goes on in the kitchen, while skewering our culture of food worship.
‘Irresistible—The Cook reminds us just how exciting it is to
read a wonderful and original novel.’
‘The Cook is a confident and potent piece of work. ￼With its claustrophobic first-person narration and its appealing combination of black humour and broad comedy…Macauley has crafted an unmistakably unmistakably Australian voice for Zac. There are no commas in The Cook. Zac’s sentences tumble forth, run into each other, only to be bluntly terminated. Each enacts a small tussle between his observant nature and his laconic demeanour. One of the novel’s most impressive achievements is its creation of a droll, readable, vernacular prose, which is not only rhythmically insistent but able to hint at the tension and the instability beneath its apparently detached and affectless surface.’ Weekend Australian
‘In the past few years, Wayne Macauley has published some of the
most memorable fiction going in this country. His books and stories
are satirical fables in which the properties are recognisably
contemporary and Australian, indeed Melburnian, but his use of them
is carefully distanced from realism and he has a prose style of
remarkable poise and control that can allow his narratives to take
off into the bizarre without ever losing their cool. Beneath that
cool is a steady anger at the depredations of late capitalism, at
the attempts of laissez-faire to turn us all into Homo economicus
or addicted consumers… This is Macauley’s longest novel so far and
marks a brilliant development in his dark vision of the way we
‘A riot of a book! Gripping and subversive…’
Reviews by members of our Uncorrected Proof Book Club
Review #1 by Kim Gordon, Balwyn, VIC
Who would have thought that reading a novel would leave the reader pondering the uses of the simple comma? The words of The Cook, by Wayne Macauley, tumble out of the narrator so swiftly that there is only time for the author to insert a few full stops and the occasional question mark. At first this was distracting – how many times do you want to read a sentence to get the meaning? – but Zac’s obsessive nature and the desire to learn whether his big dreams come to fruition keeps the pages turning.
Zac is one of a group of young men in what at first seems to be a Jamie Oliver-Fifteen situation – people who have fallen foul of the law are taken to a remote farm to learn to be chefs and make a new future for themselves. He proves to be a star pupil, and takes as his maxim a favourite saying of the Head Chef, ‘Power through service’. But Zac’s obsession blinds him to the reality of his situation, and as everything begins to fall apart Zac’s dreams become more and more outrageous, and he takes a blackly poetic revenge. Not a book for punctuation fanatics, or vegetarians.
Review #2 by Marina Herriman, Carlton, VIC
This book starts off as a “poor boy made good” story – or so you think. .…. Zac, a troubled youth is sent off to a cooking farm school for nine months. It’s a bit of a “paddock to plate” set up to get boys back on track. It’s Masterchef for underprivileged kids.
It’s tough going – they learn everything from slaughtering to butchering and then the delicate work of a chef. Not a book for vegetarians – some bits are quite gory.
The boys are taught by Fabian, the assistant chef who’s favourite saying is “Power through service”.
Zac has a dream to open his own restaurant one day. Zac is handpicked to go work for a wealthy family. He is given a car, credit cards to buy the groceries and a beautiful room. He sets up a vegetable garden and cooks amazing meals for the family. It’s a great learning experience for him but all isn’t as it seems.
Just when I was starting to get a bit bored and wondering where all this was going then it comes up with an amazing surprising ending. This book would make a great movie. Good read – would recommend it.
Review #3 by Jill Wilson, Footscray, VIC
What’s your reaction to the sight of a pudgy man in a cravat making a little moue of distaste as he nibbles on an amuse bouche? Are you thrilled by the rise of the celebrity chef and the avalanche of food porn or has this genre become a new purveyor of misogyny?
The Cook, Wayne Macauley’s latest novel, is about excess; both in the kitchen and more broadly in society. Main character Zac yearns to be a famous cook; he single-mindedly chops and stirs his way towards this dream through a series of unconventional work placements. We experience the world through his slightly strange eyes and via Macauley’s confident lively vernacular.
“Your grain-fed food is wanker food for wankers said Hunna. You’re right I said I’m here at Kook School to learn how to become a wanker I don’t want to plate up bold and honest flavours grow apples and peaches with grubs I want to plate slivers of hand-reared flesh with garnishes of baby vegetables.”
His is a singular, idiosyncratic voice. Can we trust it? What is Zac really like? What has he done prior to becoming a chef? We linger in Zac’s claustrophobic and enigmatic world with a sense of growing tension.
Class and social power are rarely central to contemporary novels – the only recent examples I can think of include The Slap, Three Dollars and Indelible Ink*. Shed-fed lamb force-fed wine (sorry, Pinot Noir) and (organic) barley may be simply a satire on the latest obsession with food or a deeper more profound commentary on where we are at as a society.
Macauley won The Age short story competition in 1995, and his second novel, Caravan Story, was nominated a 2007 Readings Book of the Year.
Where Can I Get It?
|St Kilda||In stock|
|State Library||Not in stock|
|The Brain Centre||Not in stock|
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