The Cook by Wayne Macauley

‘So here I am and no going back.’

The novel opens with sixteen kids at Cook School, an hour and a half out of Melbourne. They are being given opportunities, these boys who are mostly sixteen and seventeen, opportunities to learn and to make something of themselves. Or so it seems.

Zac is our narrator, and he tells the story in his idiosyncratic stream of consciousness way, with occasional punctuation. Zac learns to cook, to slaughter and prepare animals for whatever gastronomic treat seems to fit the occasion. And after travelling with Zac, I think I am ready to become vegetarian.

Gradually, I was drawn into a world of excess, where ‘celebrities’ have others jumping to satisfy their every whim. But not everything goes according to plan for Cook School and while Zac thinks he’s fallen on his feet as cook for a rich family, he soon learns that adaptation is the name of the game.

I have very pedestrian taste in food, and found the world described in ‘The Cook’ darkly amusing. As I read, I could envisage some of the various ‘celebrity’ cooking shows I have occasionally seen, dicing niceties and mincing feelings while savouring the moment. All of which, naturally, sounds so much more impressive in French. While I enjoyed the satire, even the dark twist at the end, I don’t think I will never look at meat the same way again.

Delicious. And now I am off to read another novel by Mr Macauley.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith