THE LAST SUPER CHEF, by Chris Negron, HarperCollins, July 6, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A boy gets the chance of a lifetime when he’s selected to compete on a TV cooking show in Chris Negron’s The Last Super Chef.
For as long as he can remember, Curtis Pith has been obsessed with becoming a chef like Lucas Taylor, host of Super Chef. And Curtis has a secret: Taylor is actually his long-absent father.
So, when Taylor announces a kids-only season of Super Chef, Curtis finally sees his chance to meet his dad. But after Curtis wins a spot in the competition and arrives in New York to film the show, nothing goes as smoothly as he expected.
It’s all riding on the last challenge. If Curtis cooks his heart out like he knows he can, he just might go home with the top prize — and the truth. —Synopsis provided by HarperCollins
The Last Super Chef reads like a behind-the-scenes expose of MasterChef/MasterChef Junior. Lucas Taylor is an easy stand-in for multi-Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay, and Curtis could be any of the contestants that have participated over the years.
Obviously, there are some differences — the main one being the long-lost father storyline — but the overall passion, competition concept and cookery are not only similar, but feel true to the circumstances.
The Last Super Chef can be divided into two parts — the cooking competition and everything else. And that’s to the book’s benefit.
When the kids are competing, that’s where all the action is. It’s tense, and it’s tunnel vision. It’s all about getting through the next hour (or less) with the best outcome possible. These are the parts of the book that get the readers’ heart racing and the pages flipping.
It’s in the quieter, noncompetition moments where the creativity comes through. This is where Curtis and the other kids become the characters you care about. It’s where they discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses and learn to work together.
If The Last Super Chef’s strength is in these two contrasting parts. They create a push-pull balance that makes it enjoyable for readers who are fans of cooking, and those who aren’t.
And on the topic of cooking, it’s clear author Chris Negron has done his research. He gives readers enough information to understand the concept of what’s being made without spoon feeding it. There’s a lot of nuance here that’s to be appreciated.
The Last Super Chef is an engrossing read that should appeal to a wide cross-section of readers.
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