The Chef's Secret

by King, Crystal
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King, Crystal The Chef's Secret
King, Crystal - The Chef's Secret

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A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle's secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi's dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni's life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle's secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi's journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair. As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi's past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi's former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef's recipes. With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef's Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.


King, Crystal

Further information

Biography Artist:
Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.
"King's characters are drawn as lovingly, as sensually as the food and the Vatican world she describes, and the plot itself - part secret-code mystery, part love story - moves like a well-paced meal." Boston Globe
The Chef's Secret CHAPTER 1 Giovanni
Roma, April 14, 1577
Word traveled fast at the Vaticano, even during the darkness of night. Within an hour of Bartolomeo Scappi's passing, serving women from all over the palazzo had come to the chef's bedside, crying for the man they had loved and respected. They keened and wept, tearing at their hair, their skin, and clothing, their wails filling the gilded halls. Francesco Reinoso, the Vaticano scalco, ordered the staff to bring candles, and soon they filled the room with their glow, lighting up the shadows and illuminating the faces of the mourners. As papal steward, Francesco always kept things in order, even when his best friend was before him on the bier.
I sat in the corner and watched, lost and helpless, as two of the kitchen servants helped my mother, Caterina, and her maid bathe and dress my late uncle Bartolomeo. Of course, these women needed not take on this macabre task-the servants who reported to Francesco were more than capable, but they insisted, such was their love for my uncle. The heavy odor of rosewater hung in the air as they perfumed Bartolomeo's skin. It broke my heart to breathe in the scent. It was a smell he had loved, using the floral essence to flavor thousands of dishes in his kitchen.
For the last eleven of my thirty years, I had worked as an apprentice to Bartolomeo, a lion of a man who spent his days fussing over pots of boiling meats, scribbling elaborate seating arrangements on thin parchment, directing kitchen servants on which pies to bake and how many ducks to cook. Being related to Bartolomeo Scappi was a great honor. As the celebrated private chef to several popes, he was lauded in circles all over Italy, and countless cardinali, nobles, kings, and queens had fallen under the spell of his cuisine as I had. I always thought him invincible. And he had been, until five days past when sickness broke his spirit and laid him low. During his illness, I eschewed my duties in the kitchen and remained by his side, ever my uncle's braccio destro, his right hand, as he often referred to me. He was more to me than my maestro; he was also the father I never had, my own having died of plague before I was born. To see him stretched out before me, his eyes closed, his skin so pale and cold, seemed inconceivable.
"Giovanni," Francesco said, laying a hand on my shoulder. "We are ready to move him."
I nodded my assent and watched with a heavy heart as eight men lifted Bartolomeo's body onto a stretcher to carry him to the nearby Cappella Sistina, where the vigil would continue. I followed. As I entered the chapel adorned with breathtaking frescoes of the pagan sibyls and figures of the Old Testament, I thought how fitting it was for my uncle to lie beneath the magnificent paintings of Michelangelo, a man he once called friend.
Throughout the night and into the early morning, everyone the chef knew came to the chapel to pay their respects, light a candle, and share their condolences.
Relief flooded through me when Valentino arrived. He was my dearest friend and knew me better than any other. When I was nine and my mother had decided she was tired of Tivoli and moved us to Roma, I came to know Valentino Pio da Carpi and we became friends despite our difference in station. One of Valentino's great-uncles was Agostino Chigi, the famously wealthy Roman banker. Between the Chigi wealth on his mother's side and the riches of the Carpi family on his father's, Valentino was a man who would want for nothing in his life. But the money had never mattered to Valentino. He loved me like a brother. And I him.
I caught his eye as he entered the cha
Number of Pages:
Media Type:
Simon & Schuster US

Master Data

Product Type:
Paperback book
Release date:
February 12, 2019
Package Dimensions:
0.203 x 0.133 x 0.02 m; 0.264 kg
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