There have been some great middle grade books with a cooking theme in recent years. My favorites include ALL YOU KNEAD IS LOVE by Tanya Guerrero; THE THING ABOUT LEFTOVERS by C.C. Payne; and ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman.
I can now add a new favorite to my growing list with THE LAST SUPER CHEF by Chirs Negron.
Curtis Pith is obsessed with becoming a chef and never misses an episode of his favorite competition show, SUPER CHEF, hosted by world famous culinary expert, Lucas Taylor. Curtis has a secret: He knows Lucas is his father but has no memory of him before he left the family. When Lucas announces he is ending his show with one more cooking competition—this one for kid chefs—Curtis knows he must get on the show and finally face the father he idolizes but doesn’t really know.
At this point I had plotted out the obvious story line: Curtis would get on Super Chef and reconnect with this father. A happy beginning for all. Okay, not so fast. Curtis does get chosen for the show but from there the plot twists and turns with every new recipe.
The Last Super Chef includes 5 kid contestants from all over the world. The race to the top is like none you ever seen with five days of different cooking challenges while the kids are sequestered away from family in the New York City filming location. Don’t expect simple dishes to be made: Jambalaya, a soufflé, and Crème brûlée cupcakes are just a sampling of the intricate recipes. The final competition occurs on Thanksgiving.
I won’t give anything away, but each day of the show brings many surprises for readers in unexpected ways. I read the last 80 pages in one page turning session. The cooking is intense and you may wonder if this type of story would appeal to kids not into cooking.
I can only say—YES, CHEF!
BOOK BIRTHDAY: July 6, 2021 PAGE COUNT: 416
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: THE LAST SUPER CHEF by Chris Negron
- The relationship Curtis has with his mom and younger sister are special. He loves them more than his recipes and the heartfelt connection will have you smiling.
- The emotional pressure of being on a reality show competition is shown in each scene. It’s not all smiles and free gifts. Well done by the author to show this other side.
- Mr. Negron included a challenge from his own life as a trait of The Super Chef. There are hints as to what is going on but not revealed until the final chapters.
- The story goes beyond cooking. Family relationships, teamwork, and kindness toward the less fortunate are just a few of the welcome themes readers will find.
- The cooking had me wishing I could make some of these dishes. I’ve never created a soufflé in my life but if Curtis can do it, I’m willing to give it a try. This summer is about to get even more interesting…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Negron grew up outside Buffalo, New York, where he spent a huge chunk of his childhood collecting comic books and loving sports. But it was the hours of playing Dungeons and Dragons in friends’ basements that first gave him the dream of one day writing his own stories. That dream kept him company through college at Yale University and years of programming computers for big companies. DAN UNMASKED is his debut novel, and he now lives outside Atlanta with his wife, Mary. For more about Chris and his books visit him at www.chrisnegron.com
I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Comments are always welcome below. Be sure to check out other MMGM bloggers and celebrate all that is Middle Grade.
This sounds like another great book that involves cooking. I like the other themes it explores too. I’ve seen it on other blogs too. Hope I can find it at my library.
Thanks, Greg, you make this book sound so interesting. Luckily, I have it on my list of books to read this month. I have gotten hooked into cooking shows for kids thanks to a young niece who wants to be a chef, so this should be especially fun to read.
I love cooking books with young people and the competitions. Don’t forget MEASURING UP, A PLACE AT THE TABLE, and MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM. They are my favorites with cooking kids.
I’m going to love this book! I enjoy when books feature kids who bake or cook. Always makes me hungry!
I recall you recommending this author’s debut novel, Dan Unmasked, and this sounds like an excellent new story! It does seem like there are tons of books about cooking competitions being published—I read an excellent graphic novel about one called Measuring Up just a few months ago. And the other themes sound powerful as well, especially the one about Curtis trying to reconnect with his father. Thanks so much for the great review!
How cool, an MG book about a boy who wants to become a chef. The Reality Show competition sounds fun! First one I’ve seen. And, I know a lot of boys who grew up to be chefs at famous restaurants. There should be more stories out there for males. Will look for this book!
If you end up making that souffle, I hope you post a pic!
Honestly, I would have passed right by this one seeing the title and cover, but you have made me want to read it and soon! Thanks for telling me about it. Souffles can be tricky. No loud noises.
Ooh, I need to read this book! I hadn’t heard of it but I really love reading stories about cooking and competitions!! Thanks for this review.