Simon Wroe’s debut novel ‘Chop Chop’ has caused a bit of a stir in the culinary world, with a few high profile chefs taking an aversion to some of Wroe’s tales of life as a chef. I think what needs to be pointed out, first and foremost here, is that this is a novel. Although some of the goings on in the book may be close to events he experienced, or heard of working as a chef, it still remains that this is a novel. He may not have been or seen people purposely burnt, cut and locked in walk in fridges. He may not have had a Head Chef from hell and been embroiled in shady events from Camden’s underworld. Who knows where he’s taken influence from his chefing days, embellished or made up a load of bollocks? It’s just a novel, for fucks sake.
Aside from that, I thought it a very good read. Having worked in kitchens myself, I felt he got the feeling of a kitchen completely spot on. Not only did he get the feeling spot, he also got the comedy and drama of a kitchen in there too: ‘At this very moment there are hapless, tortured chefs in some of the best restaurants in the city trying not to get their tears in the sorbet’.
He got the kitchen characters absolutely right too. Anyone who has worked in a kitchen professionally will be able to tell you stories of their own Racist Daves, Ramilovs and occasionally the Head Chef, Bob.
Reading it took me straight back into the kitchen. The heat, the characters, the feeling that time is constantly against you: ‘Kitchen time expected half an hour of work in three minutes that felt like thirty seconds’. Spot on.
The stories pretty good, too.
‘Feast and famine. Faith and heartache. Love and violence. Dark mornings and late finishes. Savage acts and smart apologies. Death or glory every night.’