(origninal German title: Der Koch
) in Martin Suter’s novel is the Tamil refugee Maravan who works as badly paid kitchen help in a posh restaurant in Zurich. He’s a trained cook and a genius in his profession, but as an asylum seeker he is limited by Swiss law to doing unskilled work. One night he cooks a traditional Indian dinner for his Swiss colleague Andrea who more or less invited herself to teach the other cooks and waiters in the restaurant a lesson. She spends the night with Maravan, but being a lesbian she doesn’t understand why. Later she figures out that it had to do with the dishes that the Tamil cook served her. She asks him to prepare the same aphrodisiac meal again for her and a friend who so far resisted all her advances. He agrees and Andrea is delighted with the success. Meanwhile Maravan lost his job in the restaurant and struggles to make ends meet with the unemployment benefits. Then Andrea suggests that they team up and start their own business, a catering company called Love Food. Hesitatingly Maravan plunges into the adventure because he needs more money to support his family in Sri Lanka. The special qualities of his cooking get round and attract new customers. Love Food slowly slips into the abyss of politics and dirty business. Before soon Maravan and Andrea are confronted with questions of moral and responsibility that are closely associated not just with their business, but also with their private and family lives.
The language of The Chef
is simple and humorous. At first glance it seems to be a light story about two people who start a love business of an innocent kind, but in reality Martin Suter touches on many serious topics in his novel and he starts with it right on the first page.