The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King
Published February 2019 – Atria Books
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Description: When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.
As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.
With luscious prose that captures the full-scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion. (publisher)
My take: It’s been a while since I visited 16th century Italy in a historical fiction novel so when I had the opportunity to read The Chef’s Secret I was excited to begin the adventure. Author Crystal King’s novel is replete with opulent settings, rich and detailed food descriptions, and the passion of her characters.
I liked the dual-storylines of Italy’s most famous chef (he served Popes, Kings and other notables of the time) and the heir he hoped would follow in his culinary footsteps. Upon the death of his uncle, Giovanni received boxes that contained journals. The mostly encoded journals of Bartolomeo Scappi not only developed the characters but also unleashed long-held secrets that would put Gio in certain danger. All combined for an entertaining read that I can recommend to fans of historical fiction and the Renaissance era.