The Hundred-Foot Journey Summary
Hassan Haji is born in West Bombay (the city which is now known as Mumbai). The first things he remembers from childhood? The smells coming from his grandfather's restaurant downstairs. So before he tells us his own story, he gives us the low down on his family history—starting with his grandfather, who kicked off the whole food thing.
Here's how it goes: Hassan's grandfather lives a poor life in Bombay, sleeping in the streets and delivering lunch boxes to workers. He eventually starts making a profit by cooking for American and English soldiers based in the city, and when that goes well, he buys some property and sets up shop by opening an official restaurant.
Papa takes over the business when the time comes and, as it turns out, he's more ambitious than good old grandfather. One example? He moves the location slightly uptown to be closer to the hustle and bustle of wealthy Mumbai. The place does well, but his actions cause tension between the upper and lower classes, and eventually the lower class riots, breaking into Papa's restaurant, destroying the place, and killing Hassan's mother. Yikes.
One thing's for sure: They can't stay in Mumbai. Papa sells the property, the family moves to England to live with relatives, and he tries to start a new business—but fails. The straw that breaks the camel's back is that they find Hassan making out with his cousin. The family has a fall-out and Papa packs them up to travel across Europe, sampling food and searching for a new home.
They settle in a tiny French town in the Alps called Lumière and buy a huge property across from an inn called Le Saule Pleureur. On it, they open the Maison Mumbai, which is the first Indian restaurant in the area.
There's instant trouble afoot in paradise. They immediately encounter the neurotic, competitive and high-and-mighty Madame Gertrude Mallory, who owns the inn across the street. Why does she care? She's disgusted with this invasion from the East that disrupts her elegant vibe across the street. Not to mention the competition. Papa and Mallory sabotage each other many times until one fateful tussle results in Hassan being pushed into a stove by accident.
Mallory sort of comes around, and in recompense, she offers to teach Hassan to become a chef because, by the way, she's discovered that he's got major talent in the kitchen. Papa grudgingly agrees and Hassan moves into Le Saule Pleureur.
Hassan spends a few exhausting years as Mallory's apprentice, learning everything there is to know about a French kitchen. He also has an affair with the lovely and sweet-as-sugar sous chef, Margaret Bonnier—ooh la la—but eventually it's time for him to strike out on his own and leave Lumière. He accepts a position working in a kitchen in Paris, leaves his family and Margaret behind, and heads to the city.
Hassan climbs the French restaurant ladder without too much trouble, which he always kind of secretly suspects is due to Mallory's background help, though she denies it. After working in a couple different places he opens up his own place—which he calls Le Chien Méchant—and impressively earns his first restaurant star in no time flat.
Because of his success, he meets the legendary restaurant and food mogul, Paul Verdun, who hears about Hassan and his work; it's pretty much friendship at first sight. Paul acts as a mentor and pal to Hassan, and they're both totally on the same page when it comes to classical old world cooking methods. See, the old ways are starting to be threatened by trendy new methods that don't value tradition. Ugh—what nonsense.
But then disaster strikes. Within a short period of time Hassan is hit by the death of Papa, Mallory, and Paul Verdun. Talk about feeling alone on the world, right? Hassan struggles to keep up with his own life but seems to have lost the people that kept him going.
Insert period of depression.
Eventually Hassan has a eureka moment and realizes that all the petty details of the world he's a part of is driving him crazy. He gives his restaurant a total makeover, and starting from scratch, he decides to go back to basic ingredients and methods.
This change earns him his third star, thus establishing his continued success in the restaurant world. At this time, Margaret also comes back into his life. Though they aren't officially together when the books ends, we're lead to believe that they have a happily ever after.
Part 1, Mumbai: Chapter 1
- Hassan Haji introduces himself, the star of his own show, and tells us that he was born above a restaurant in Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay. Take note: The First thing we hear about him relates to food.
- He comes from a poor Muslim family, whose history he relates to us starting with his grandfather. Bapaji's (Grandfather's) "great hunger" (double meaning here) drives him from the streets where he hustles as a lunch delivery boy all the way up to becoming a popular cook for soldiers in a U.S. Army base during World War II.
- Bapaji takes advantage of an opportune moment in real estate to buy his own property and officially set up shop. Hassan's father and aunt are born, and when hard times come to India after WWII, the family goes into hiding.
- Papa then meets Tahira, Hassan's mother, and falls in love with her because she smells of chapatis, which is Indian flatbread. Yum.
- Hassan begins to relate his own memories, the earliest of which is holding his father's hand in from of the Hyderabad Restaurant, which is located on the rich end of Mumbai. While they're standing there, they watch the celebrity restaurant owner, Uday Joshi, step out of the restaurant and immediately get swarmed by cameramen. Papa stomps off in a jealous huff, challenged by his money and success.
- We get to know Papa. He is large, he is old school—"always dressed in the old way, a kurta, over trousers" (1.35)—and he is kind of gross, particularly after large meals. Despite the rather unappetizing description, Hassan admires his dad for his incredible determination and "charisma" (1.38). He now runs the family business and is the man of the house.
- Sensations of Hassan's childhood: Indian spices, buzzing flies, sweat, and family crowded together cooking and eating. These memories are idealized in his mind to the point where fish scales are "jewels" and fish blood is "ruby red" (1.41).
- Once a month, Papa and Hassan travel to Malabar Hill, the fancy side of town. Papa keeps a judging eye on the comings and goings of the upper class and his polished nemesis, Uday Joshi.
- When Hassan is twelve, Papa goes all out to set up Bollywood Nights, a huge and glittering lower-side sensation right on the edge of Mumbai high society.
- Meanwhile, trouble is on the horizon. Hassan remembers vultures that come from the nearby burial ground and circle overhead.
Part 1, Mumbai: Chapter 2
- Hassan gives us a slideshow of "happy thoughts" (2.1). His memories continue to be a mix of vibrant food smells and images (pink mass of lamb brains, anyone?), along with life in Mumbai, which is compared to cockroaches scampering across shellfish.
- Bappu is one of the head cooks in the restaurant and he acts as Hassan's first culinary mentor. He takes the boy through Bombay's Crawford Market for supplies, where Hassan's senses are overloaded with the color, smell, sound, and texture of food.
- Hassan especially remembers the ravens that flap and crow from the rafters over the market and the droppings that fall on the stalls and even on the fresh meat (gross). He makes his first reference to his future life, stating that these birds remind him to stay "close to the earth" (2.11). Yeah, no kidding.
- Hassan's favorite stop is the fish market. Anwar, the mystical fishmonger who spends his days peeling fish surrounded by his cats, has a sixth sense for telling the quality of his fish, and gives the young boy lessons.
- Hassan's makes his first mark in the cooking world when he steps into a family argument over an old chicken recipe, and the result of his contribution is that the dish becomes a bestseller; it gets renamed Hassan's Dry Chicken, which doesn't exactly sound like a compliment to us, but we're figuring is supposed to.
- Hassan now tells us about spending time with his mother, who has so far stayed out of the story. Mummy is shy and smart, the counterpart to Papa's boisterous ways; although Papa is the man of the house, Hassan credits the smooth running of things to his mother's quiet influence.
- Mummy takes Hassan with her into town to shop from time to time. She likes to shop for scarves and look at pretty things, and one day, they try a foreign restaurant named La Fourchette. (Yes, it's French). They ooh and aah over "exotic-sounding dishes like bouillabaisse and coq a vin" (2.61), and Hassan's mother encourages him to try something new.
- Flash-forward: Hassan is now fourteen. There is trouble on the horizon, and it is inching toward the family, who are overstepping their class-boundaries. Papa starts hiring "clean waiters" (2.71), as opposed to workers from the slum, to cater to their middle class customers; he turns away poor workers desperate for work.
- Papa's character as a businessman is shown more as he feeds the workers he turns away as "insurance for the afterlife" (2.71). He's a man who is going to do what he needs to do for business (which usually results in making enemies), but wants to keep everyone happy as well. Not good.
- A newspaper features a cartoon of Papa feeding on cow's blood and accuses them of causing the suffering of the poor. The cartoons keep showing up and Hassan describes that at this point they "were not of the shantytown, or of the upper classes […] but lived on the exposed fault line between [the] two worlds" (2.75).
- Hassan gives us a picturesque memory of a family trip to the beach. He recalls that his mother never looking more beautiful, and his siblings running up and down the sand with Papa while his mother and auntie sit on a blanket in the sun.
- Disaster strikes before long, though, when Bapaji, the patriarch of the family, dies on a hot summer afternoon. Along with him dies the family's safety, and a mob comes to attack the Bollywood Nights two weeks later. They storm in and torch the restaurant, killing Hassan's mother; Hassan recalls smelling her body burning. It's beyond rough.
- Hassan's journey through food continues as he tells us that the only thing he remembers after his mother's death is a "ravenous hunger" (2.86). She is buried hours after passing, and Papa bellows loudly as she is put into the ground.
- Papa vows on his wife's grave that he will take his children to a new place; for their part, the children hide from Papa's overwhelming emotions. The smells and sensations Hassan associates with this time are all disgusting—vultures, body odor, cigarettes, and more.
- Papa loses his patience with Mama's snooty relatives; when he kicks Ammi (Grandmother) out of the house, she responds by shrieking and clawing at her own face.
- Bappu, the trusty cook, resurfaces in the story as Hassan's quiet guardian and puts his arms around the teenager to protect him from the scene.
- Flash forward a few days:The stretch of land Bappu had bought back in Chapter 1 is now worth a ton of money. A man arrives at the door offering them a lot for the property, so Papa weighs the option heavily for a few days and then accepts. The old world they knew is sold and gone, and the family becomes homeless millionaires.
- Papa, the six kids, Auntie, Uncle Mayur, and the grandmother get on a plane for England. Hassan's first impression of this new life is as a spongy and tasteless piece of white bread—no flavor, not substance.
Part 2, London: Chapter 3
- The experience of leaving India for England is described in a long analogy. Hassan says the family's uprooting is like fishing an octopus. When a fisherman catches an octopus, he spears it in the water while it clings to a rock, and when he pulls out his spear, he rips the animal's body inside out. This death kills the octopus quickly but leaves all of its guts out in the open.
- Translation: Hassan and his family have no time to get used to change, but instead are ripped from their home, left feeling exposed and cold in this new world.
- Uncle Sami picks them up from the airport with their cousin Aziza. Aziza is immediately a point of not-so-cousinly interest for Hassan, who is now a full-fledged teenager; she isn't anything like the girls from Mumbai, and instead wears black leather, chews bubblegum, and listens to headphones.
- Auntie reads Hassan's mind and warns him to stay away from his westernized cousin, whom she says is dirty like a toilet seat (3.7). We're hoping our aunties have never described us this way to anyone in our families…
- Southall is the melting pot of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi populations, and there are the same strong and spicy smells from home, but under the gray English sky. Papa calls the second generation Indians "Anglo Peacocks" (3.11).
- Papa being himself, he immediately starts looking for business opportunities. He gets the idea to dabble in hot sauces, but trying to battle the Southall market scene and its lack of Indian ingredients and integrity, he gives up and sinks into a depression.
Part 2, London: Chapter 4
- To switch things up when they're homesick, Hassan and his big brother Umar take the subway to London, where they are mesmerized by the loud rock music, the tattooed and tee-shirt wearing British, and, of course, the international food market.
- While wandering through the scarf stalls which remind him of his mother, Hassan meets Abhidha, a girl working in one of the stands; he tells us right off that her name means "longing" (4.7). He pretends to be interested in the shawls as an excuse to talk to her, and before he leaves he manages to get himself a date. Not bad, Hassan.
- He describes her as "by no means a classic beauty" (4.11), but says that he feels a connection to her. She is smart and ambitious, so maybe he feels that she has the Haji streak of motivation. Oh, and another small detail: She's twenty-three and he's seventeen.
- On their first date, they go to see a play from the Soviet-era about prisoners in Siberia (her choice). Hassan ends up surprisingly moved by it, and Abhidha calls a cab under the guise of dragging him to a party.
- The party, however, turns out to be an empty apartment, and the two spend the night together (another experience which Hassan relates to food).
- More dates follow, and Hassan is pulled into her university world of art museums and poetry readings, which he doesn't totally relate to. In his defense, the kid's not even eighteen yet.
- Hassan is haunted by his mother's murder, and he says that discovering girls while recovering from his mother's death is confusing; he is left with scars that he can't get rid of.
- Confusion about girls continues when he goes to hang out and smoke (ahem, not cigarettes) with his friend Deepak, rather than go to Abhidha's party. Things get hazy and he ends up in bed with an English girl for a weekend; when he calls Abhidha to apologize for the no-show, she has the wisdom to suggest that he finds someone his own age to date.
- Hassan takes the opportunity to tell us that this becomes his lifelong pattern with women. We're starting to suspect his biggest love affair is with food anyway, instead of with ladies.
- Meanwhile, at home the family is still struggling. Ammi is slowly suffering more and more from dementia, and Mehtab (Hassan's sister) is becoming restless and vain.
- Hassan gets his first job at the Jalebi Junction, a sweets stand that makes some of his favorite treats from back in India. He says that he is grateful to England for this job, which helps him realize that he belongs in the kitchen. Yay for figuring things out.
- Quick setting change time: The family moves from England. Apparently Hassan was found making out with his "toilet seat" cousin, which prompts quite the family feud. Relatives blow up at relatives, Papa invests in three Mercedes, and the family begins to caravan across Europe for a new home.
- Papa starts experimenting (and by experimenting we mean 'eating') all different types of European foods in an effort to expand his culinary knowledge. Hassan describes this new adventure as "crème brûlée" (4.75) compared to life in England.
- In Tuscany, they run into a local mushroom festival. They eat to their hearts' content in the sunlight and visit the beach, and in general, the experience is an oasis in the middle of their tough times.
- In October they arrive in the French Jura, in the Alps. It's like reaching the Promised Land, where the air is clean and the town is like something out of a postcard.
- The car dies on the road. The kids run in the fresh air, and after battling the broken car Papa stands up and breathes clearly for what Hassan describes as the first time in years.
- In a twist of fate, the family has stopped in front of a large estate with a "For-sale" sign; Hassan credits destiny, though we're inclined to credit the author.
- Papa and Uncle Mayur walk into the town of Lumière and come back with an agent. He approves the idea of an Indian restaurant and encourages Papa, so Papa decides to buy it.
- Hassan tells us that the Period of Mourning officially ends here—call it the end of an era, if you will—and the family is now free to start over in the fresh mountain air.
- Hassan notices an inn across the street, called Le Saule Pleureur, or The Weeping Willow, and he is struck by how perfect, orderly, and European it looks. As he looks at it, he could swear that he sees a pale face looking at him from one of the windows.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 5
- The woman in the window is Madame Gertrude Mallory, the owner of the inn across the street. We get a brief history lesson on this lady's life: She's a descendent of a huge hotel family, was educated to become the best, and was left a huge inheritance to set up shop in Lumière. But make no mistake. This lady's made her way through hard work, not her familial connections—the connections just mean that she's got old European traditions running through her veins.
- Madame Mallory is described as "a classicist by education and instinct" (4.5), and her favorite possession is a cookbook dating back to ancient Rome. Yep, this lady goes by the oldest book on the European shelf. So in other words, she's basically the antithesis of her new neighbors.
- The day that the Haji family arrives is Mallory's birthday. Her cooks surprise her with a cake and sing "Happy Birthday" to her… and she responds by throwing a tantrum and stomping off, saying that they're ridiculous and wasting their time.
- In her bedroom, she looks in the mirror and realizes that she's not going to get younger or more famous; suddenly, she feels like her life is worthless. Why at this moment? We're not totally sure, but birthdays can do that to a person.
- The next day Le Saule Pleureur is closed for lunch. She looks out the window and sees the Haji's topsy-turvy world being unpacked from the caravan.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 6
- Meanwhile, the Hajis are starting their new adventure. The huge house is a ton of fun to explore and Papa is renovating it in true Bombay style.
- Hassan first runs into Madame Mallory, who is calmly pulling weeds in her front yard when Papa and some roofers disturb her peace and quiet. She silently gets up from her work and goes inside, slamming the door behind her. Hassan clearly remembers her ice-cold look that oozes superiority before she disappears. This lady's a real treat so far, right? Yeah, not so much.
- The food journey continues. The Hajis are amazed by the French loaves of bread, which are 'rough and gnarled' (6.9) compared to the Indian flat bread.
- Hassan witnesses a revolutionary scene across the street that rocks his food world a step further. Mallory is sitting outside with another cook cutting up an artichoke. The meticulous way in which she cuts it up just so represents her by-the-book technique, and he is fascinated.
- The artichoke isn't the only thing that catches his eye. He sees Margaret Bonnier, the inn's sous chef, for the first time. (Fun fact: A sous chef is the second-in-command to the head chef, like a captain's first mate.) He finds her short blonde hair and pale skin kind of pretty.
- As Marcel and Jean-Pierre, the restaurant's chef-de-cuisine (like the captain), join the other two and serve lunch, Hassan turns away. He is sad because the steaks and frites (fries) served remind him of his French lunch with Mummy in India.
- As suddenly as a gust of wind, in fact in a gust of wind, his memories of old times are swept away and replaced with curiosity about his new life. And by his new life we mean French food and women.
- Papa finally establishes his new restaurant in large blazing letters—the Maison Mumbai—much to Mallory's horror. Maison is French for home, and Mumbai is the family's home back in India.
- Mallory and Papa are equal matches, though, so when Mallory goes to the Town Hall to demand the restaurant be closed, Papa has already covered his bases and made sure that the two restaurants share the same zone so that one cannot be shut down without the other. Well played.
- Their next battle takes place in the market where both restaurants are supplied daily with ingredients. The best ingredients, to be precise. Much to Mallory's horror, Papa has beaten her to the pick of the day at the fish market; when she moves on to the produce market, it's the same deal.
- She confronts him in the market for a showdown. In typical Mallory style she is contained in her manner and rude in her choice of words, while Papa, in turn, stays true to his loud and demonstrative tactics.
- She crosses the limit. She calls him "un chien méchant" (6.120)—meaning a mad dog—and she gets what's coming to her. In a moment that Hassan says is burned into his memory, Papa chases after her barking (yes, barking) in her ear.
- Mallory runs away from the market, her hands over her ears. The crowd roars with laughter, probably quite glad that someone has finally fought back.
- The day of Maison Mumbai's opening arrives, and the family works day and night to prepare. Hassan officially begins his work in a proper restaurant kitchen.
- Remember those vibrant smells from the beginning of the book? Cardamom, lamb brains, all that good stuff? Well, they're back as the kitchen swirls to life.
- Ammi is becoming increasingly mentally unstable in her old age, and drifts into the kitchen badgering Hassan about how he should be cooking. It's kind of a bummer.
- In a break, on a trip to town for some supplies, Hassan witnesses a Western pig-slaying ceremony at Le Saule Pleureur. The priest, butcher, and chef are all present, and after the priest blesses the scene, the pig is decapitated. The scene is kind of gory and gross overall, yet so foreign that Hassan is weirdly drawn to it. Especially since as a Muslim, he is not allowed to eat pork.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 7
- Pre-opening chaos is intensified when Mallory books a table at the Maison Mumbai. Because of course she does.
- It turns out that the restaurant is totally booked for opening night, and everyone who's anyone has booked a seat as well.
- While the Hajis are in a mad rush across the street, Mallory is presiding over her own dinnertime oysters and duckling with intense care, as always. She makes sure that everything is ship-shape before she goes across the street to "get it over with" (7.32)… but come on, we know she's dying of curiosity.
- Papa's large figure is welcoming everyone at the front door with warm hospitality, and Mallory and her right-hand man, Leblanc, are no exceptions. He greets them warmly and they are led to their table.
- The crowd is having a great time, getting drunk off the house wine and marveling at the food coming to their tables. This is a treat for the town of Lumière, since they don't get Indian food much.
- Hassan, mid rush, spills butter on the counter, and rather than tossing it he throws it back into the pan. Although he turns to the door and sees nothing, he felt the burning and hotly judging eyes of Mallory, who had poked her head in to see what's up.
- The food arrives at Mallory's table, and she takes a bite and freaks out mid-sentence. Is she sick? She keeps moaning and starts making a scene, until finally, she starts to cry. Really, for all of her together-ness, she's kind of a basket case sometimes.
- Finally the truth comes out. In that single bite, Mallory detects true genius, and she declares that Hassan is "an artist, a great artist" (7.87).
- Mallory goes home and cries herself to sleep. The next morning she is up far before the break of dawn to beat the Maison Mumbai to the market.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 8
- Sure enough, Papa arrives to an empty market at the regular time. No seriously—it's completely empty.
- In case you hadn't noticed yet, Papa is a fighter, so dude isn't going to let Mallory rain on his parade. "'Don't worry,'" Papa says. "'This time we fight'" (8.33).
- They drive to the next town over, hire a refrigeration truck and driver, and stock up. Hassan says that he has never seen Papa "so charming and so ruthless" (8.35). As true a businessman as ever, he carries on as if nothing had happened at all.
- Mallory peers out of her window and realizes her efforts to sabotage her competition have been thwarted when she sees the gaudy Indian food truck pull up in front of the house. She takes out her anger on her restaurant staff, holding them to the fire in a very reality-cooking-show kind of way. Stay classy, Mallory.
- She also takes her anger out on the town mayor (ouch) who is on his way across the street for lunch. Her argument: He's encouraging the foreigners that threaten their way of life. His comeback: He likes the change.
- Mallory begins to really freak out, and her staff is thrown into a state of panic and terror as she explodes. She also starts harassing her guests about visiting the Maison, which, um, isn't good for business, either. Pro tip: Don't give your customers a hard time about where they like to eat.
- Leblanc is the only person who can cross Mallory without getting his head bitten off; he calls her a "'madwoman'" (8.96) and tells her she's got to pull her stuff together.
- His advice works a second, until the radio cranks up across the street. She sees this as ammo, and calls the town authorities about the noise level.
- Mallory has managed to scare people away from the Maison, and the huge crowd that showed up for opening night shrinks to maybe five tables a night. Thing's aren't looking the best for the Haji family.
- Marcus, the son of the mayor, invites Hassan to go boar hunting in an effort to show his support of the family; they drive up into the mountains. There are two hunting rules: (1) Only shoot the adult boar, and (2) they all split up the meat that's caught.
- Hassan finds himself surrounded by loud, rugged, hunting men… and one woman. And who might this lady be? You got it: Mallory.
- She seems to fit in just fine with the hunters, and she completely ignores Hassan.
- Mallory is the one with the kill this time (go figure). Except she violates the rules, and kills a baby boar; the hunters are super angry about it.
- Her response is that the flesh of the young is "'so tasty to eat'" (8.146). Gulp.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 9
- Papa receives the noise complaint letter, stating that they have to shut down the patio because of the noise.
- In return for his lost patio, landscapers show up at Le Saule Pleureur to cut down the ancient willow tree that is the trademark and namesake of the inn. The large tree is in violation of "code 234bh" (9.18) because it hangs over the pavement. You know, it's the old eye for an eye mantra.
- Outraged, Mallory runs over to the Maison. Is anyone else feeling like this needs to come to some sort of climax?
- Insult is exchanged with raging insult, until finally Mallory gives Papa a big push and Papa knocks Hassan against the stove. There is a scream as the flames rise up.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 10
- A flash of memories: a siren, Papa's worried face, crying women, pain, food, and anesthesia.
- Hassan wakes up in the hospital to Papa telling him that they are moving back to London. Hassan looks out his window at the snow covered mountains and begins to tear up.
- There is a knock at the door and Leblanc and Mallory appear in the room with a basket and bouquet of roses; Papa slams the door in their faces.
- Naturally, Mallory is insulted, but after one self-righteous comment in the car on the way back Leblanc kicks her out onto the snowy road in disgust.
- Mallory finds a tiny chapel on the trek home and stops inside for a rest.
- She sits in this chapel all alone; this freezing abandoned shack has long since been empty and useless.
- The longer she sits there, the more she freaks out and feels like she's going mad. She lights a match and looks up at the Last Supper, which is transformed because of the light. Naturally it isn't Christ or the others that she notices—nope, it's the food on the table.
- She is "converted" by the head of the boar on the table. Who knows if the boar is actually in the picture, or if she's hallucinating in the cold, but the boar stares at her and reminds her of all the horrible things she's done. Anyone else thinking of that baby boar she killed back in the woods? We sure are.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 11
- Mallory re-appears in the hospital room. She seems mainly concerned with Hassan's bandaged hands and leaves shortly afterward; Hassan understandably can't really forgive her yet, and is glad when she's gone.
- Mallory returns to Le Saule Pleureur and sees her own restaurant in a new light. A good light.
- She goes to a foie gras farm with Leblanc to collect Christmas dinner.
- Mallory sits with Madame Degeneret, the owner of the farm, while she force-feeds her ducks.
- While they talk, Degeneret sets a duck free because it raised a group of motherless ducklings as its own, in an act that she describes as "'showing more kindness than a human being'" (11.41). It's certainly kinder than we've seen Mallory be…
- Hassan comes home from the hospital to Mallory waiting for them, asking forgiveness. Papa is—of course—angry.
- Mallory refuses to let Papa have the last word, though, and she takes a chair and a blanket and parks herself outside their house, refusing to move until Papa agrees to let Hassan come and work for her.
- Hassan retires to his room to get away from the scene outside. He watches Mallory through the window with his little sister, Zainab.
- Mallory has caused a sensation. Townspeople gather outside the property to watch her, and they're rallying against Papa for keeping her out there.
- Her protest begins to work on Hassan, and several days later Zainab plays the winning card when she tells Papa "'Mummy would want us to stop running'" (11.140).
- At these words, Papa's heart melts, like melting fat in a pan. Yes, the food analogies just keep on coming.
- Hassan responds to this decision with enthusiasm, and the freezing Mallory is hoisted from her seat; it is settled that Hassan will join her.
- Title alert:This small journey across the street seems to Hassan to be as long as the universe. It is, ahem, his hundred-foot journey.
Part 3, Lumiere: Chapter 12
- Hassan makes his new home in a tiny attic room at Le Saule Pleureur.
- He is a little creeped out by the attic room, which is empty except for a crucifix over his bed; he promptly hides this in a dresser drawer. There's also a butchering book on his bedside table, with a note from Mallory.
- He describes a recurring dream that he has during this phase of life, in which he is literally a fish out of water.
- Hassan begins his rigorous training which involves everything… except cooking. Huh.
- He goes home on Mondays, his days off, and his family bombards him with questions as he crashes on the couch. All except Papa, who stays to the shadows, but listens.
- One day Hassan is frustrated and asks Mallory when he will start cooking; she simply says that he will when the time comes.
- Hassan proves himself to Mallory with his good memory of oyster varieties, and she reaches out and pats his cheek with a dry and hard hand. He is turned off by this gesture, along with the fact that Jean-Pierre is red faced with jealousy from across the room.
- Hassan remembers that this in-between phase of leaving home and living across the street is personified by the time that he goes to town with Mallory to learn how to shop the market.
- They run into Papa, joking around with Madame Picard. Mallory greets them in a friendly way (or, friendly for Mallory), and Hassan feels super uncomfortable stuck in the middle of them.
- Flash forward six months.Mallory is out for the day and Monsieur Iten comes to the door to sell oysters. Hassan is forced to make an executive decision about whether to accept the order, and when he catches Iten trying to sell different types of oysters under one name, he makes him change the order.
- Hassan is promoted immediately afterward, since Mallory actually arranged the oyster delivery herself as a test.
- It is now winter, and Hassan fails at making soufflés and gets snapped at. Margaret (remember the pretty sous-chef?) comes to his aid, though, and helps him correct the mistake. One accidental touch of their arms, and he's in love. Again.
- Their relationship begins a few weeks later. They have a fiery unspoken moment while reaching for pans, and she solicits him for an afternoon visit to her flat.
- His relationship with Margaret provides a break from the hard life at Le Saule Pleureur, but they rarely have time to spend together. He begins to worry that he isn't taking time for her, especially after she makes a sad comment about the situation, which reminds him of his mother and makes him feel really guilty.
- Hassan realizes that Margaret is the first woman that he doesn't want to run away from, so he decides to spend next Monday (his day at home) with her instead.
- The women in his family give him hell for the decision, but Papa understands and sends his blessing.
- Mallory and Leblanc take a day trip to run errands. The staff is suspicious about their little rendezvous, but nothing is ever confirmed.
- On this particular day, Mallory switches up everyone's kitchen duties. They all freak out as they rush to make things work; for his part, Hassan is tasked with the main meat dishes, featuring hare.
- He combines the traditional French flavors of white wine and garlic with the Indian flavors of yogurt and cucumber.
- Mallory returns for inspection and despite the criticism here and there, is pleased with Hassan's work; Jean-Pierre promptly explodes by hurling his shoe across the room. Simmer down, JP.
- Mallory has not realized until now that her treatment of Hassan has made the rest of her kitchen feel slighted. She understands jealousy—it's kind of her thing, after all—and so she steps forward and (gasp) kisses the hand of Jean-Pierre, asking forgiveness.
- Furthermore, she announces to the kitchen that his talent is far bigger than Le Saule Pleureur, and that she won't be around for much longer; she bequeaths the restaurant to Jean-Pierre once she is gone. Hold on… Is this the same woman from Chapter 5, who looked out of the window of her mansion like a ghost?
- Flash forward three years: Hassan accepts a position as sous chef of a top Paris restaurant.
- He spends one of his final days in Lumière with Margaret. They go into town to pick up some lunch, and then drive to the valley for a picnic; it's a beautiful day in early fall and they don't talk about the upcoming move.
- A pair who is picking mushrooms in the woods breaks their silence—it's Madame Picard and Papa. Hassan is horrified at first, and then realizes that his Papa has lived a long time by himself and deserves to find happiness again. He's also not used to seeing his father act so carefree and fun loving.
- Hassan is forced to wrap things up with Margaret before he leaves. While they are enjoying breakfast together in her house, he nervously asks her to come with him. She declines, and they part ways.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 13
- Hassan says that his success in Paris was strangely easy—there were no road bumps or obstacles. He suspects this is because Mallory was always pulling strings in the background to get him where he needed to go.
- Pierre Berri is Hassan's new boss at La Gavroche. He is also a distant cousin of Mallory. Convenient, no?
- Mallory denies helping Hassan in any way when he goes to Lumière on his first visit home.
- Five years after starting at La Gavroche, he becomes the chef de cuisine of La Belle Cluny, where he stays four years.
- Mark Rossier is his new boss. He is loud, bossy, and worked in the French navy before turning to cooking; he's a bit crazy, which Hassan says makes work fun.
- Hassan is now thirty, and returns to Lumière. He wants to talk to Papa about opening a restaurant of his own—as he describes it, the "Haji ambition, it was burning" (13.11).
- Papa has expected this, and willingly gives Hassan not only his own inheritance, but also the inheritance of his younger sister Mehtab, under the condition that she move with him to Paris to find a husband. Such is the Indian way, and Hassan agrees.
- Hassan names his new restaurant Le Chien Méchant—The Mad Dog—after his father. Maybe he's thinking back to Papa's stellar moment with Madame Mallory where he chased her out of the market square barking like a dog.
- He starts the search for a good restaurant space in Paris. Before long he gets a mysterious phone call from Le Comte de Nancy Seliere, who says that he met Hassan a while back in Lumière. (A comte is a count, so this guy is rich.)
- Le Comte de Nancy has managed to find the perfect space, and works out a great business deal with Hassan. The place is Parisian yet casual, and reminds Hassan of Lumière; it's also in the perfect location for customers, and near the subway and the markets.
- Hassan gets along well with his new business partner. He's a bit intimidating but a good person, and naturally, Hassan suspects Mallory's help, though she viciously denies the fact.
- Hassan hustles to get this new place up and running, interviewing tons of people in order to hire the perfect staff. His new chef de cuisine is Serge Poutron, and Jacques is the maître d'hôtel.
- Shortly after the first review of Le Chien Méchant is printed, Hassan is ushered out of his kitchen to a table in his dining room where Paul Verdun, the famous chef, is waiting to meet him.
- Chef Verdun and Hassan become acquaintances. Verdun's a mysterious person and takes Hassan on random adventures in his private jet. We can think of worse people to befriend.
- To celebrate Hassan's second star, Verdun flies them down to Marseilles for "'a good fish dinner'" (13.87). They sit on the coast of the Mediterranean and drink fine champagne and eat the best fish in France; Verdun tells Hassan about his life and he gets an up close look at this celebrity of the cooking world.
- Over dinner they talk about the innovations of modern restaurants and cooking, which is cutting edge and defies the traditions that French chefs like Verdun have cherished for generations.
- Hassan remembers this night as one of the best he has ever had.
- A year later, he goes to visit the Verdun home in Normandy. Walking down a hallway, Hassan sees a framed pamphlet signed in familiar handwriting: Mallory's.
- Hassan says at this point in the book that "we come to the key period in question" (13.106), so, you know, pay attention. He is thirty-five and can't seem to make any progress as an artist.
- Papa is found dead on his kitchen floor, and it seems that he choked to death on a piece of chicken. Too bad he couldn't have died in a non-food related way, right?
- Hassan returns home for the funeral, which is packed with people from the village who loved Papa. He says that he is so upset by his father's death that he doesn't realize that Mallory has grown very weak.
- Two months later, Mallory falls down a flight of stairs and dies a few weeks later; Hassan is unable to make it back to Lumière for her funeral.
- Shortly after this, the stock market crashes. Hassan links this to the world's loss of two great people, and enters into a deep depression.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 14
- While he's shopping in the Paris market, Hassan gets a call from his sisters saying that Paul has died in a car crash. Furthermore, he's been found in his crashed car at the bottom of a cliff, which seems suspicious.
- Hassan remembers the vivid smells and sensations of food as he walks through the market after the news; he feels like an era of French cooking has died with Verdun.
- His memory takes him back to a road trip through Alsace (where France borders Germany) with Paul. The scene is full of fresh air and happy friendship, and Hassan remembers that Paul, the legend of food, tells him "'nothing we do will ever be as good as this simple bowl of tripe'" (14.22).
- The next morning Hassan wakes up, exhausted from misery, and goes to meet up with Marc Bressier, an acquaintance of his that manages a three-star restaurant. They talk about Paul. It seems from the evidence at the scene of his death that the car was driven off the cliff.
- He leaves Marc and walks through Paris, remembering a trip that he took with Paul to the Musée D'Orsay. He had stumbled across Paul Gauguin's painting called "The Meal," which is simple and bright, and then had found Paul lost in front of a painting of a king and queen who had just been excommunicated. He was really moved by this painting, though Hassan doesn't know why.
- Hassan returns to his own place and inspects the restaurant. Jacques is freaking out about identifying a couple of possible restaurant critics, while everyone else is scurrying around preparing for the night.
- He finally gets to his own office and closes the door. And then he comes to terms with the fact that he is not well himself.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 15
- Hassan has tea with Paul's widow, Madame Verdun. He says outside is lively and fresh compared to inside, which is stuffy and a reminder of Paul's death.
- Madame Verdun reveals a theory about Paul's death: that the restaurant critics, who were about to demote his name in the next edition of Le Guide, drove him to unhappiness.
- She then gets to the real reason she invited him over. Paul left instructions to host a dinner for a hundred friends after his death. These friends are basically everyone who's anyone in the food world, and though she's confused by the request, she will honor her husband's wishes.
- And guess what? Paul also ordered Hassan to be in charge of this event. Even though Hassan only has two stars.
- Before Hassan leaves, Madame tells him that Verdun looked at Hassan like a younger version of himself. On the way home Hassan tells himself that they are nothing alike, since Paul ended his own life.
- Tons of restaurants show up at the Arc de Triomphe for a demonstration against the added taxes for restaurants. Hassan runs into Le Comte, who warns Hassan against the angry mob and looks down on the whole ordeal.
- They start the procession down the Champs Elysees, and all goes well for an hour until the riot police show up. Anarchists slowly and quietly start working their way into the crowd, and soon cars are burning and a loud and bloody fight breaks out.
- Naturally, this takes Hassan right back to the riot in India as a child, where his mother was killed.
- He takes Jean-Luc, a young boy who is an apprentice at Le Chat Méchant, and runs away from the crowd, catching a barge that is heading down the river. They glide away down the Seine, safe.
- While they're waiting for Mehtab to come pick them up, they watch an Algerian family roast lamb on a spit. Hassan is struck by the simplicity of the scene and the flavors that he smells.
- He glances behind him and swears that he sees Mallory calling and waving to him. Which doesn't make sense… because Mallory is dead. Anyway, this woman looks just like her.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 16
- Hassan is interrupted from reading in his office by Jean-Luc, who says that an order has arrived.
- Hassan says that since Paul's death he suffers from the same horrible sickness that he friend had. This sickness is basically stress, a bad temper, and restlessness; Hassan doesn't understand it, since he's always been what he describes as "quite a sunny fellow" (16.8).
- He helps Jean-Luc unpack the order of ptarmigan (a type of bird), and tells the boy to watch how he prepares the meat.
- He glances at the clock and opens his mouth to start shouting orders. But the words won't come out, and instead his head swarms with a collage of all the horrible images in his memory, from Paul's death, to the bloody demonstration, to his grandmother, and the Gauguin painting from the museum.
- Hassan holds an emergency last minute meeting. His orders: Everyone's going to throw out everything in the restaurant and start over fresh tomorrow. They're going to make simple dishes with fresh ingredients.
- Hassan's idea is that everything will be simple and the best, with the ingredients showcasing themselves. It's the total opposite of the extravagant meal that he was just preparing with his birds.
- He tells them to all return to their hometowns and bring back the best traditional meals and ingredients they can find. They're going back to basics, yo.
- Paul's memorial dinner arrives. The best of the best are there, and Madame Verdun is there with a new man. Reps from Le Guide are in attendance as well, and apparently added a tribute to the late celebrity in their latest issue.
- Hassan starts up a conversation with an American named James Hewitt, who makes a tacky comment about Paul's large empire and legacy being on the verge of collapse when he died. Hassan comes to Paul's defense, but Hewitt says that at his death Paul was practically bankrupt.
- Hassan watches Anna Verdun with her new guy, who in fact is Chef Mafitte, Paul's top enemy and competition. Pardon et moi? He remembers a past date with an old girlfriend, where Paul shamelessly hit on her, and he's disgusted with Madame's new taste in men.
- Conversation turns trivial again over dinner, but Paul's finances are still on Hassan's mind.
- The others at his table discuss how Paul was the story of a man who lost his way because he lost track of his goal, and how it is important to keep up with the changing times; talk turns to the old versus the new, and theories on tradition versus change.
- Hassan gets frustrated and responds that he is sick of all these labeled ideas about cooking, and reveals the new theme of his restaurant.
- The highlight course arrives, which is stuffed partridge, and a version of one of Paul's famous dishes. It gets fantastic reviews and Hassan is congratulated by many of the important guests.
- Hassan realizes that Paul intended the dinner to set him up as his personal heir in the restaurant world. Thanks, buddy.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 17
- The recession hits the French restaurant scene hard and many places close down.
- Le Chien Méchant suffers thanks to Claude, a waiter who was promising at first but gets lazy when the government changes the law for restaurant workers, giving him too much job security.
- He's working the system to get money out of the restaurant, but they eventually fire him. Unfortunately, though, he comes back with a union representative, which is exactly what they were worried about.
- The rep basically blackmails Hassan into trying to keep Claude on staff, but in the end they pay him off to never return.
- Hassan says that Paul saw these problems coming, and studied the haute fashion world, which had suffered in the same way. Basically, the world doesn't have a place for those top-notch restaurants like it used to—people can't afford them, so they're becoming outdated.
- Hassan returns home that night to a worried and nagging Mehtab. Before he goes to sleep he remembers visiting a chicken farm, and describes the process of how they are stunned in a long assembly line before they are all butchered. He sees this as a comforting metaphor of life; moving on when we don't know what's next. Not sure we quite feel the same way about this one, but to each his own.
- He then remembers something his uncle told him as a kid in Mumbai: "'It is Allah who gives and takes away'" (17.49).
- "The last pivotal event" (17.50): Hassan is greeting by a huge surprise at Le Chet Méchant. Margaret Bonnier, his old co-worker and girlfriend at Le Saule Pleureur comes to see him; she is much older (funny how time works), but still soft spoken and lovely. She had married back in Lumière and is now newly divorced, with two small children. She has moved to Paris to start over and is looking for a job.
- Hassan does not have an opening but makes a phone call and sets her up with Chef Piquot at his place.
- When he hangs up the phone she begins sobbing, and reaches her hand blindly across the table for his. Hassan realizes how much she's been suffering.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 18
- Hassan is working hard one March morning when he is interrupted by chaos around him; Jacque announces that they have earned their third star. Yippee.
- Hassan is totally thrown off, and can't even respond as he thinks back on his long hard journey and how he has finally—finally—arrived.
- He gets a call from Monsieur Barthot (who is in charge), congratulating him on being the first immigrant to ever win this honor. Hassan thanks him and gets back to work.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 19
- Hassan hustles to prepare for dinner the night of his achievement. When dinner is well on its way, he changes to a fresh apron before nervously walking into the dining room. Slowly the dining room rises to their feet and applauds him. Everyone is there from the mayor to Christian Lacroix to Johnny Depp (no, really).
- Hassan looks at the crowd and feels the warm approval of his father at his side. We haven't really heard about Papa for a long time, but at this final achievement, Hassan thinks only of him.
- The reservations flood in, but Hassan becomes sad, remembering poor Paul and how he was so important in Hassan's own success but failed himself.
- On his walk home that night he is stopped dead in his tracks by a familiar smell. Walking through the Latin Quarter he finds a tiny Indian restaurant, and looking through the window, he sees the chef alone and exhausted, eating familiar foods.
- Hassan is absolutely overwhelmed with sadness and homesickness for everything he used to know.
- He remembers Mallory's words of advice that she gave him on one of their last days together. She told him that a snob lacks good taste, and that although she has forgotten this, she believes that he was sent to her to help her remember that true talent is not a birthright, but a gift.
- In this moment, Hassan recovers a bit of his former self and settles into his identity, balancing who he was and who he's become.
Part 4, Paris: Chapter 20
- Mehtab is waiting for Hassan at home to scold him for not telling her about his success. She has heard from Margaret, who is waiting in the living room with her two sleeping children. Hassan and Margaret speak for a few minutes and she congratulates him personally; she also thanks him for the job, which is going well.
- Hassan gets a phone call from Zainab, his other sister. She is now married to the son of Uday Joshi (the snobby restaurant owner in Mumbai, who Papa was always jealous of).
- Zainab and Joshi Jr. have a booming business in Mumbai and are very popular there; they both congratulate Hassan.
- Hassan has a memory of Papa and him at Zainab's wedding; Papa wanted him to open a Parisian restaurant in India.
- Margaret and Mehtab are planning a party for Hassan and trying to get the guest list together.
- Hassan goes into his office where Margaret has placed the newspaper headlining his success. He cuts out the article and places it on his wall.