Chronicles of a Culinary Poseur by Elaine Chiew - 2020
Gateway to Elaine Chiew on The Reading Life
Chronicles of a Culinary Poseur is the fourth story from Elaine Chiew's marvelous debut collection, The Heartsick Diaspora which I have featured. All of the stories center on Singaporeans but only one of the four stories is set in Singapore.
Today's story is set in Manhattan, centering on a very haute cuisine French -Asian fusion restaurant Lumiére recently started by Kara and her sisters from Singapore. A pretentious blogger over convinced of their importance (ouch..) tells Kara a review from her will make her place a great success. Kara mortgaged the family home to get start up capital. She is already in trouble, borrowing operating expenses from The Woon Leong Benevolent Chinese Association.
"Ever since then, loose-limbed, scary-looking thugs came by once every week to eat and ‘keep an eye on things’. What did Bernard know about any of it, but the gossip-monger he no doubt was, he’d probably heard that Kara couldn’t pay her seafood supplier this week and had to resort to Chinatown garoupa."
The blogger, Lenna, speaking to the executive head chef Bernard:
"Leena was saying, ‘With my clout, I’ll have you back in the black with a single good review. Watch me, Handsome. And you can kiss my hand later.’ She held out a hand bedecked with fat clusters of jewels. At least she wasn’t dressed like a tarot card reader."
Leena shows up, creating panic in the restaurant, with a friend. She is seated next to two gentlemen from "The Woon Leong Benevolent Chinese Association (benevolent, my ass)". Unexpected culinary results ensue from this proximity. I don't want to give away much more of this story, it really is tremendous fun, other than to say you will relish the ending and wish you could get a complimentary meal at Lumiére, now a rising star in the top end Manhattan dining scene. There are very fun to read scenes in the restaurant, lots of egos.
Singapore is built on diaspora, in this story Kara speaks with pride when she says her family is third generation Singaporeans
There are ten more stories in The Heartsick Diaspora. I will be posting on all of them. I only give this kind of attention to writers for whom I have great regard.
I strongly recommend this collection to all who love short stories
Elaine is a writer and a visual arts researcher, and editor of Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around the World (New Internationalist, 2015).
Twice winner of the Bridport Short Story Competition, she has published numerous stories in anthologies in the UK, US and Singapore.
Originally from Malaysia, Chiew graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a corporate securities lawyer in New York and Hong Kong before studying for an MA in Asian Art History at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore, a degree conferred by Goldsmiths, University of London.
Elaine lives in Singapore and her book, The Heartsick Diaspora, and other stories, will be published by Myriad in 2020..from epchiew.com