Guernica Magazine

Everything Hiding the Secret of Its Taste

Marie NDiaye’s new novel, The Cheffe, is an ode to wasted love.

Great chefs are mysterious. They work miracles behind a swinging kitchen door, saying little, piquing our curiosity. And why not? They have the skill to transform what we eat, play with our tastes, change what we think food can be. In the right hands, an artichoke or tomato becomes sweet enough for dessert. A tough cut of meat melts in the mouth.

The woman at the heart of Marie NDiaye’s new novel is known to the reader only as the , a “recently minted” French word meaning female chef. The book’s translator, Jordan Stump, notes that “no good English equivalent exists.” And maybe a new word is necessary, as few could adequately describe this woman, if she ever let anyone know her well enough to try. The closest she has to a confidante is her former kitchen assistant, our narrator, who loves her fiercely and unrequitedly. He tells

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