The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Hundred-Foot Journey by by Richard C. Morais has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Hassan Haji, the second of six children, lives in Bombay, India. He learns the art of Indian cooking from his Papa, a restaurant owner. When an angry mob from the nearby slums breaks into the Haji compound and murders Hassan's mother, Papa vows to take the children from the country that killed her. He sells the family real estate for a large sum and takes the kids, along with Hassan's aunt, uncle and grandmother, to London.
The family loathes London. They live in a home reminiscent of an old prison. Papa's moneymaking culinary efforts are futile, and he becomes depressed. Hassan experiments with women and hashish and runs a food cart on the street. When relatives in London catch Hassan making out with a cousin, they cut off their relationship with the Hajis. Papa buys three cars, packs their belongings and takes his clan on a tour of Europe. They enjoy the sites and eateries of Europe for 10 weeks, until everyone becomes restless. As they drive through a quaint French village called Lumiere, one of the cars breaks down in front of an old mansion. When Papa sees a for sale sign on the property, he believes it is destiny and buys the place.
Once settled in Lumiere, the family shakes off its funk and gets back to work opening an Indian restaurant. The mansion across the street, Le Saule Pleureur, is a fancy French establishment run by a famous, award-winning chef named Madame Gertrude Mallory. Madame Mallory becomes enraged that foreigners are living next door and does everything she can to destroy their business. She secretly realizes Hassan has a rare and amazing culinary gift. In the heat of an argument with Papa, Madame Mallory accidentally pushes Hassan into the stove. His hands are burned, and he is hospitalized. Madame Mallory begins to feel remorse for the type of person she has become, one who has done more harm than good in the world. She examines the balance sheet of her life, realizing the credits for goodness have stopped coming, but she has continued to rack up debits for vanity and selfishness. She tries to visit Hassan at the hospital, but his family forces her to leave. Once Hassan is home, Madame Mallory begs the family not to leave town. She plants herself in their front yard for several days, saying she won't leave until they promise to let Hassan move to Le Saule Pleureur and be her apprentice. Papa finally gives in, allowing Hassan the opportunity to be trained by one of the finest chefs in France.
Although Hassan only moves across the street, 100 feet away, his world changes drastically. His days are long and filled with lessons on every aspect of running a French restaurant. Initially, he's not even allowed to cook. Though he visits his family one day each week in the beginning, he becomes involved with a co-worker, Margaret, and starts seeing them less. After three years as Madame Mallory's apprentice, he accepts a sous chef position in Paris. He asks Margaret to go with him, but she refuses to leave her home.
Over the next 20 years, Hassan works as a French chef in Paris and earns two of the same prestigious Michelin awards Madame Mallory had won. He opens his own restaurant, with his sister's assistance, and strikes up a friendship with illustrious two-time Michelin chef Paul Verdun. Hassan faces the financial struggles of being a restaurant owner. Through his ups and downs, unforeseen opportunities raise him to new heights in the culinary world. He's convinced that Madame Mallory has used her connections on his behalf, but she'll never admit it. Some years later, Madame Mallory dies of pneumonia.
Twenty years after Hassan's arrival in Paris, he learns his friend Paul has also died. He and Paul had shared a love for classic French cuisine that many chefs of the day had traded for more gimmicky French fare. As details come out, Hassan discovers that Paul was having financial troubles and was about to lose one of his Michelin stars due to critical reviews. His death was most likely a suicide. Paul's widow tells Hassan that Paul's final wish was to hold a lavish dinner and invite the finest French chefs to partake in a farewell meal. She asks Hassan to plan the menu and organize the event. As Hassan watches the finest chefs in France eat his creations and compliment his work, he realizes that Paul orchestrated this dinner to help Hassan showcase his culinary skills for the crème de la crème of Paris.
Hassan later wins a third Michelin award, something neither Madame Mallory nor Paul ever accomplished. He remembers Madame Mallory's words about good taste being found in the most unlikely places, and he pauses for a moment to savor the atmosphere in a run-down Indian restaurant similar to those found in his youth. When he returns to his home, his former lover Margaret and her son, who have fallen on hard times and have moved to Paris, greet him. As Margaret and Hassan's sister start planning a party to celebrate the Michelin, Hassan goes to hang his award on his wall.
One of Hassan's girlfriends talks about a painter named Chardin who believed God could be found in the mundane. This is why he painted the same scene of his kitchen again and again. A desperate Madame Mallory drops to her knees and prays, asking what is the reason for her life. Later, after having caused Hassan to be hospitalized, she visits a church in anguish. She cries out for mercy, realizing her cruel acts over the years have far outweighed her kindness. Madame Mallory says Hassan has made her understand that good taste is not the birthright of snobs. It is, instead, a gift from God, often found in unlikely places and people.
Other Belief Systems
Hassan comes from a Muslim family. He says his Papa could hardly be called a devout Muslim, but he tried to stay on Allah's good side by feeding the poor once a week. Hassan's uncle often told him it is Allah who gives and takes away, and his will is only revealed at the right time. At Hassan's mother's funeral, a particularly religious uncle says Mummy's death is a punishment from Allah. A local fishmonger prays five times a day on his prayer rug. As Hassan rises to success, he says it's as though some unseen spirit is clearing away obstacles so he can follow the path of his destiny.
Madame Mallory has a priest read from the Bible and sprinkle holy water over a pig before they kill it so it can be used in her restaurant. Witnessing this, Hassan's uncle makes a contemptuous remark about Christians. Hassan is overwhelmed by how Catholic his room in Madame Mallory's house feels. A food critic likens a pompous, joyless French restaurant to a Calvinist church on Sunday.
S---, b--tard, b--ch, d--n, h---, the f-word and the Lord's name taken in vain appear a number of times. Hassan says squid on a platter has skin that glistens like the tip of a penis. A slum boy flaps his genitals at Hassan while the boy's sister defecates in the street and pokes at her wormy feces with a stick.
Hassan's grandparents sell snacks to soldiers on the beach who ogle prostitutes. Hassan and a girlfriend see a play about three homosexuals imprisoned in Siberia. He is taken by the play, including the way the men embraced their homosexual destiny, which was an undeniable force. Later that evening, Hassan and the girl fondle each other and have sex. Another time, a girl in a miniskirt swings her legs seductively open and shut, showing off her blue cotton panties. Hassan ends up spending two days in bed with her. Just before leaving London, he gropes and makes out with a cousin. Hassan goes to a bonfire where men are drinking cognac and joking about large-breasted women. Sexual tension between Hassan and a co-worker named Margaret leads to an ongoing sexual relationship. A chef named Mafitte is a notorious womanizer. He fondles several females. A male food critic, who is eating with Hassan, has an Egyptian boyfriend.
Racism: Madame Mallory is initially prejudiced against foreigners such as Hassan's family. She calls them names and treats them disrespectfully. She even throws guests out of her own restaurant if they have visited the Hajis' restaurant.
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Readability Age Range
13 and up
Richard C. Morais
Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
New York Times Editor's Choice, 2010; New York Times Bestseller List, 2014, American Booksellers Association Indie Next Award, 2010