THE CHEF’S SECRET
BY CRYSTAL KING
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction
A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.
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.
AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | INDIEBOUND
Praise for The Chef’s Secret
“King’s characters are drawn as lovingly, as sensually as the food and the Vatican world she describes, and the plot itself — part secret-code mystery, part love story — moves like a well-paced meal.” (Boston Globe)
“A veritable feast for the senses, The Chef’s Secret is part mystery, part love story, and all sumptuous sixteenth century Italy. This tale of one of the world’s first celebrity chefs—Bartolomeo Scappi, a DaVinci of Renaissance cuisine—sent me on a quest to know more, and to my kitchen to experiment—a sign of a great historical novel. Readers will delight in a plot as juicy as Scappi’s braised beef!” (Heather Webb, international bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris)
“The Chef’s Secret is a sumptuous buffet, serving up a love story (two of them!); mystery and suspense so thick you could cut it with, well, a chef’s knife; and such a vibrant panorama of Ancient Rome you’ll feel you’ve walked its streets and inhabited its kitchens. Anyone who loves history, food, a great story—read this novel! Warning: it will make you hungry.” (Jenna Blum, New York Times and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family)
“Crystal King’s The Chef’s Secret is a fabulous immersion in the world of renaissance Italy, full of passion, intrigue, secrets, danger, and of course food. Come hungry!” (Melodie Winawer, author of The Scribe of Siena)
“King twists in romance, mystery, cultural richness, and some zesty research. Scappi’s secrets are unveiled at a pace that simmers with intrigue…Mixed together with decadent banquets and sweeping historical detail, King has a recipe that entices the senses… vibrant in both visual and flavorful detail.” (Historical Novel Review)
Bartolomeo Scappi, the cuoco secreto to the pope died suddenly in 1577. In his will Barto leaves his estate and name to his nephew and apprentice, Giovanni. When Giovanni is readying himself to take over his uncle's role, another kitchen apprentice tells him that upon his deathbed Barto gave him keys to several lock boxes and made him promise to burn the journal s inside. Giovanni can not resist the pull of his uncle's secrets and dives into Barto's life. After deciphering the code that many entries were in, Gio begins to discover that his uncle was much more than an amazing cook and mentor. Barto harbored many secrets as well as a love that could change everything. As Giovanni and his friends dive deeper into Barto's affairs they uncover the danger in what Barto was hiding as well as a connection that will change their lives forever.
With perfectly portioned parts, The Chef's Secret is a delectable mix of historical fiction, romance and mystery in Renaissance Italy. With an intimate look into the kitchens of the Renaissance, the food comes alive off the page. I could imagine the intricate sugar sculptures and smell the hearty broths and I was amazed at the level of food production for the clergy. The format of the book goes back and forth between Giovanni and Bartolomeo's points of view as Giovanni reads through Barto's journals. Through the changing points of view, the characters show their care for one another. Giovanni respected and looked up to Bartolomeo and Barto did everything he could to provide for Gio. While deciphering the journals, Gio also leans heavily on his friends that help him navigate the dangers that appear after Barto's death. I did figure out one of the larger mysteries early on, however the adventure and excitement of Barto's life as well as the suspense of Gio figuring out how Barto's past affects his present. The ending quickly ramped up in suspense, but ended on a beautiful note. I was very pleased to learn about the real Bartolomeo and Giovanni. While they may not have had such amazing adventures, their lives were still important to culinary history. Overall, a thrilling read that will delight your senses through Renaissance Italy.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Crystal King is the author of THE CHEF’S SECRET and FEAST OF SORROW. A culinary enthusiast and social media professional, her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart-nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston.
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