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Chop Chop by Simon Wroe
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Chop Chop

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Chop Chop by Simon Wroe
Apr 17, 2014 | ISBN 9780698136410

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  • Apr 17, 2014 | ISBN 9780698136410

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Kirkus Reviews
[A]rch comedy… Dave Eggers channels Anthony Bourdain.

The New York Times Book Review
“At its best, food is a sensory pleasure that also fosters less tangible joys. At its worst, to paraphrase one of the many vivid characters in Simon Wroe’s first novel, Chop Chop, watching someone eat is like watching a body convert food into waste before your eyes. The character phrases it less delicately, but many of the book’s funniest moments—and they are plentiful—are also its most unprintable. That’s as it should be. Wroe depicts the literal underworld of a restaurant kitchen with wit, vigor, and gleeful, necessary profanity… Wroe adroitly contrasts the refinement of food with the coarseness of the cook, the cruelty of a leader with the miserable acceptance from his underlings, and Monocle’s highbrow diction with some truly undignified subject matter. His voice provides the second-greatest pleasure of the book after the sheer crackling energy of the setting. Monocle doesn’t revel in the mayhem but he delivers his account of it, often hilariously, with warped dignity of a man who resolutely remains his insecure, grandiloquent self, though being himself has never done him much good”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“For evidence of Simon Wroe’s talent, look no further than the first sentence of his first novel, Chop Chop: “They arrive in pairs most weeks, blushing like schoolgirls in the kitchen heat.” Perfectly constructed, both beautiful and brutal (Wroe is describing pigs’ heads arriving in a restaurant kitchen), written with great economy. Funny and dark and accurate. Teasing the reader to keep reading. All 276 pages of Chop Chop are this good… Indeed, Wroe’s kitchen scenes and their chefs jump off the page, crackling, aliveChop Chop has what Monocle attributes to Tolstoy and what all good writing aspires to: ‘It’s exactly the right side of conspiratorial: everyone feels included and everyone feels unique.'”

“Simon Wroe is a former chef, so it’s no surprise that he set his debut novel in a kitchen. What is surprising about Chop Chop, though, is how little Wroe lets this fiendish little book get bogged down in the details of its setting. It’s very much about the chaotic life of a kitchen, but this darkly comic narrative covers so much more, and the result is addictively entertaining… Everything is amplified in this cramped, sweaty little space, but Wroe still leaves plenty of room for the unexpected, the uncomfortable and the uncommonly funny. Chop Chop might be fiction, but the truth of the author’s experience shines through. The result is a compelling debut from a mischievous new voice.”
Entertainment Weekly
Kitchen Nightmares has nothing on the horrors of the Swan, the fancy London restaurant in Wroe’s darkly comic novel. In the eyes of our unnamed narrator, a student-turned-novice chef, the Swan’s kitchen is a torture chamber — but also a sanctuary for its staff of oddballs, who thrive on filthy potshots. (”You’ve got the fattest arse I’ve ever seen. We should get your arse in a pan and render it.”) Plot isn’t Wroe’s strongest suit; the story hinges on a shadowy, underdeveloped villain known only as the Fat Man and his cultlike dinner club. But brightly drawn characters and delectable writing (a frazzled chef’s head is said to look ”farther away than ever, pushed out of the top of his body like toothpaste from a tube”) make this debut a first course worth savoring. Grade: B+

The Rumpus
“Darkly comical and full of surprising moments of fierce emotion. Wroe is an uninhibited writer who doesn’t shy away from the grotesque or the rainbow of vocabulary used in the heat of a dinner service.”

The Independent (UK)
“Savagery and violence are at the heart of Chop Chop; in the kitchen, in Monocle’s past, and in the relationships between the characters, but, as in a perfectly baked molten chocolate cake, there’s also a rich, gooey pool of dark comedy hiding beneath the surface. Despite straying into the realm of sabotage, blackmail and secret dinner parties serving stomach-churning illegal fare, Wroe’s novel makes for fresh, appetizing reading.”

Daily Mail (UK)
“Brace yourself for this lively, amusing and alarmingly informative novel … the horribly plausible cast and foul-mouthed mania of the kitchen–described by a former chef who knows what he’s writing about–give this book its energy and best laughs.”

“[I]t is the kitchen that gives Chop Chop its bite. There’s a whole other story there, but The Swan’s kitchen, full of “haggard faces at the back of the gate inquiring about an ad in the classifieds or a boardinghouse window, oddballs who had come from nowhere and would go to nowhere,” is what makes Chop Chop a great kitchen novel. From describing the battle-scarred hands of a chef to the overall rhythm that goes into making every plate of food, Wroe (who has worked as a chef in London) makes this ugly world delicious.”

Fiction Writers Review
In Chop Chop (The Penguin Press, 2014), a foodie’s nightmare and a biting parody of a restaurant kitchen commanded by a sadist, Simon Wroe exposes the underbelly of a kitchen beast. The secrets George Orwell revealed in Down and Out in London and Paris (remember, the more food is handled in preparation the more it costs) pale in comparison to the practices in the Camdentown kitchen of The Swan. The author, a former chef, certainly has (forgive me) the chops to tell this story. Wroe knows his way around the batterie de cuisine as well as the literary canon, and shows off both bodies of knowledge here… Readers with a taste for kitchen confidential tales served up raw will enjoy this novel with its side order of domestic drama and literary allusions ranging from Mary Poppins to Macbeth… Compliments to Chef Wroe, but dear reader, beware. Bring your iron-clad stomach and prepare for a meal bloody as steak tartare. This smart, snide take down of culinary and literary pretension may be hazardous to your appetite for dining out. Consume at your own risk.

Publishers Weekly
“Wroe’s imaginative metaphors and gritty kitchen colloquialisms are the key ingredients in a story that will appeal to anyone with a taste for the morbid and the whimsical.”

Library Journal
“A kitchen confessional that makes Anthony Bourdain’s and Bill Buford’s memoirs pale in comparison. Foodies will like this insider account of the London gastro scene, while others will appreciate a ripping good yarn.”

“Addictively entertaining…Everything is amplified in this cramped, sweaty little space, but Wroe still leaves plenty of room for the unexpected, the uncomfortable and the uncommonly funny…A compelling debut from a mischievous new voice.”

Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
“A brutally funny look at the world of professional cooking. Sometimes the truth is so strange it needs to be sautéed in a pan of fiction.”

Anya Von Bremzen, author Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing
“Furiously funny, fast, surreal, brutal—Chop Chop puts a Dickensian supercharge into the behind-the-scenes goings-on of a restaurant kitchen. The heat and the profanity feel painfully real; the prose, masterfully stylized, definitely the stuff of fiction. The vividly drawn characters stay with you for a long time. If Chop Chop were a dish, I’d keep craving more.”

Scott Hutchins, author of A Working Theory of Love
“If like me, you’ve ever made your living from restaurant work, you’ll recognize The Swan with a comical shiver. Chop Chop captures the combustible mix of sadism, gallows humor, machismo, and surprising perfectionism that powers many a professional kitchen. And it’s all served up to us in great fun.”

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