She was told, ‘Girls belong in the kitchen’, but her destiny was to rule it as a chef.
London-based restaurateur Arun and his assistant Ben are on a business trip. They stop at a roadside café in Himachal Pradesh and are astonished with its European looks and Italian menu. A cynical Arun samples a dish and is blown away by its authenticity.
His astonishment turns into disbelief when he learns that the cook is Sita, a simple mountain girl who has never in her life stepped outside her village. Ever since her mother passed away, Sita started helping her deaf-mute father run their small tea stall. Sita loves cooking and when a travelling Italian chef gifts her a cookbook, the passion becomes an obsession. Aided by YouTube videos, Sita soon revamps the tea stall and turns it into an elfin café.
Arun recognizes Sita’s extraordinary talents and convinces her to move to London and become a chef at his restaurant. However, Sita’s lack of professional training is soon apparent. Help comes in the form of Anwar Khan, a veteran butcher, who takes a floundering Sita under his wings.
She embarks on a journey, navigating the cut-throat and often ugly world of gourmet chefs where gender conventions and racial undercurrents can make or break careers. As she strives to carve a niche for herself, Arun starts feeling differently towards Sita.
Just when Sita starts believing in her special destiny, one incident alters her inside out and leads her to rediscovering herself.
‘Sita’s Kitchen’ is a very well-crafted and subtle, feel-good story. The reader is introduced to Sita’s journey and her struggles from being a ten-year-old girl losing her mother, to renovating her deaf-dumb father’s tapri shop into a European style café to learning to make Italian cuisine with the help of YouTube, to reaching and fighting for her place in a top restaurant in London.
The author has a good knowledge of food and its ingredients, which can be seen in the work. He is able to make you fall in love with the art of creating food. The scenic view of Himachal Pradesh and later the charm of London is aptly captured. Even on the cover, one can see the beautiful hills of Himachal in one window and the London Eye and the Big Ben on the other window, as Sita plates a beautiful Italian dish, perfectly providing a gist of the story.
The story progresses from two narrator’s perspectives—Sita and Arun’s assistant, Ben. Though Ben doesn’t provide any additional plot to the story, he presents Arun’s life from an assistant’s point of view.
What I love about this book is how simply it deals with a physical disability, gay relationship, divorce, and women empowerment. These subplots are not enlarged beyond necessity and the focus is maintained on Sita and her passion for cooking.
Sky is the limit when you are working towards your passion—is the message you get from this story.
If you are a passionate person, particularly about food, this is a book for you.
PS: I found the blurb revealing and misleading to some extent.