The book tells the story of Zac, a young boy from the rough end of town who has been given one last chance to straighten himself out by being sent to Cook School. This is no ordinary cooking school though. A group of boys, all with troubled backgrounds of some type or another, are sent to a farm in the country. Here they will not only learn about cooking but also where food comes from. The school is ostensibly run by a celebrity TV chef but he is only occasionally present, and all is not necessarily well in the school itself.
Zac is one of the few boys in the group who shows any real passion for food, and any ambition to use cooking as a way to get out of the bad place that he started in. He becomes almost obsessed with the process of learning to cook starting with the very raw ingredients. He quickly forms a friendship with the local farmer, and soon he is handraising the livestock that one day will be the ingredients for his increasing complex meals. Zac is soon dreaming of a future where he will be the head chef in a famous restaurant and he is prepared to put in the hard yards to attain that dream.
Eventually, Zac is given the opportunity to put his skills to the test when he is taken to a big mansion in one of the best areas of Melbourne and becomes the cook to the family. There are Master and Mistress and their two daughters, Melody and Jade. Here he gets the opportunity to learn about suppliers, from the fancy butcher and local specialty store where he can basically buy any ingredient and use it to make some amazing sounding food - not food that I would eat for dinner every day of the week but for the rich and fabulous maybe it is normal! There are several parts of this book where I wished that I was able to be able to smell and taste the food that Zac was cooking. In my imagination, it was divine!
There are a few more things that I can tell you about The Cook, but there are also at least a couple of things that I am choosing to not tell you, because this is one book where you want the surprises to be a surprise, and I am not sure that everyone will see them coming. I certainly didn't! The clever thing about the big revelation is that the clues are there, but it is much easier to see them in retrospect than it is while you are reading the book.
The first thing to mention about this book is the way it is written. It is written in Zac's voice, and there is an alarming lack of punctuation in the narrative which is jarring at first. Whilst this maybe something that might turn readers off, I would argue that it is best to keep reading because you do get used to it, and it does fit the character of Zac. It's hard to imagine that the book would be as powerful if it was written in any other way.
This is an intensely readable book, confronting and shocking at times, but also entertaining and I am glad that I gave this underrated book a go!
You have been chosen, said Head Chef. Of all the young people wasting their lives you and you only have been chosen.
At Cook School, Zac dreams about becoming the greatest chef the world has seen.
He thinks he's on his way when gets a job as house cook for a wealthy family - the Mistress and Master and their daughter's Melody and Jade.
But when things start to fall apart, Zac knows he must take control.
The Cook is funny and sad, strange and satirical, and weirdly moving. Wayne Macauley is a bewitching writer.