nonfiction nuggets…an unconventional cook!


I think I have never read a picture book about a chef before, have you?!   The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer, written and illustrated by Ann Arnold, is a feast for the mind and eye.

Alexis Soyer was born in France in 1809, became a chef by age 17, and then sailed for England where he began working as head chef at an exclusive club in London.  Over the next 20 years, he led an extraordinary life, packing in such an enormous volume of work and innovation and service to mankind it makes my head spin!

Not only did he create culinary masterpieces for London’s upper crust,  he revolutionized kitchen design, invented many items from kitchen timers to better coffeepots and published cookbooks for both the wealthy and the homemaker.  Soyer was definitely both an artist and a scientist when it came to cooking.

But that was not all. 

He also saw the myriads of desperately poor and hungry people around him and determined to feed them as well.  He set about teaching nutritious cooking to ladies of charity, opened soup kitchens in England and Ireland, and invented systems to feed up to 9,000 people a day.  During the Crimean War, he was sent to assist Florence Nightingale in the field hospitals where men were dying of neglect, and overhauled the system of supplying healthy, delicious meals for the troops, once again inventing a new stove to meet the needs of  the soldiers. 

Ann Arnold has written an account of Alexis Soyer that is truly fascinating, and then generously filled it with her brilliant, colorful, engaging illustrations.  From cover to cover, it delights.  Towering tiers of elegant foods, detailed drawings of Soyer’s new-fangled kitchen design and clever inventions, scenes from his work among the rich and the poor, decorate the pages.

The amount of text in this book makes it best for kids 8 and up; adults will enjoy it as much as the kids.  Bon appetit!