Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 29, 2011

The Cook (2011), by Wayne Macauley

The CookRemember that riveting book Under the Skin by Michael Faber?  A macabre mystery that by covenant amongst reviewers kept its dark secret quiet so that each reader could experience the shock?  I hope The Cook receives the same respect because it’s so brilliantly done, it would be a shame to have it spoiled by careless reviews.

How best, then, to review it here?  Carefully, carefully.  Enough to entice you to find a copy and read it, not enough to spoil it….

Well then, it’s the story of Zac, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks here in Melbourne, who is given a second chance by the justice system.  He goes to Cook School, a sort of boot camp for cooks, where others come and go but he learns to dream of a better life.  He aspires now not to be a mere cook, but a chef, and a cordon bleu chef at that, with his own restaurant serving the very rich.  And, as the blurb tells the reader, ‘he thinks he’s on his way when he gets a job as a house cook for a wealthy family’.

For foodies (like me) there is lots of fascinating writing about the world of haute cuisine, with occasionally disconcerting more-than-you-want-to-know detail about how the delicacy gets to the plate.  (I’m not a vegetarian, but my concerns about animal welfare (particularly intensive farming and the transport of livestock) make me choosy ‘difficult’ about what I will eat).  But that’s not all that’s disconcerting.  As I read, enjoying the tale, other elements of the plot begin to bother me.  Isn’t it a bit odd that Zac’s relationships are so disposable?  Isn’t it exploitation when the family doesn’t……?  Hasn’t ambition gone a bit far when Zac….?   What is this author up to??

The Cook is a droll satire that could only have been written in our times.  It’s a dark parable that deserves to race up international best-seller lists.

I have one of Macauley’s previous books on the TBR, Blueprints for a Barbed-wire CanoeI bought it when it was on the Year 12 reading list a few years ago because I was intrigued by the title, but hadn’t got round to reading it.  I certainly will now! (Update: see my review of Blueprints here).

Wayne Macauley blogs here.

Author: Wayne Macauley
Title: The Cook
Publisher: Text Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921758690
Source: Review copy courtesy of Text Publishing


Direct from Text Publishing Online
Fishpond: The Cook


  1. I’ve heard several people gushing about this book. I’m not sure how I’d like it with my middle-aged, middle-class squeamishness about where our food comes from. Still, I’d like to take a peek at one stage.


    • Noooo, Louise, you would love it. Demand a copy for Xmas!


  2. Great review Lisa…and your mention of Christmas (which I’ve been trying hard not to think about) has made me think I will put this on my wish list.


    • *chuckle* Sorry, Karen, it just slipped out. Xmas is always such a lot of work for women, eh?


  3. Sounds like a great book. Alas, it looks like its ANZ only at the moment. I have a few food related novels on my blog and enjoy the detail of the raw materials too


  4. […] The Cook by Wayne Macauley (Text), see ANZLitLovers (Lisa’s) review. […]


  5. […] The Cook by Wayne Macauley (Text) (see my review). […]


  6. […] the water here yet, and if so what did you make of them? You can see other reviews of the book from ANZ Lit Lovers, FarmlaneBooks, The First Tuesday Book Club and Kim of Reading Matters. Kim has recommended the […]


  7. […] eh?  This is Wayne Macauley’s fourth satire – perhaps not in the same league as The Cook (see my review) – but nonetheless an ambitious book in its intent and […]


  8. […] of ‘food porn’ into the bargain.  Unabashed by Wayne Macauley’s clever satire The Cook,  we here chez The Spouse et Moi are devoted to Masterchef Australia, and always look forward to […]


  9. […] inaugural winner The Cook by Wayne Macauley, published by Text Publishing. (see my review). […]


  10. […] read Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe (2004, satirising our obsession with home ownership); The Cook (2011, it parodies foodies); Demons (2014, which exposes the inane narcissism of middle-class […]


  11. […] The Cook by Wayne Macauley , see my review […]


  12. […] sixth novel.  Here on the blog I’ve reviewed Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe (2004); The Cook (2011); Demons (2014); Some Tests (2017); and I have Caravan Story (2007) on the TBR somewhere […]


  13. I read this over New Year and I absolutely loved it – but those poor lambs! I’m glad your review didn’t spoil it for me Lisa – I definitely didn’t see THAT end coming!

    I’d rank this as the most thoroughly enjoyable read of 2021 for me!


    • Ha ha, it made me laugh just reading your comment!
      I hope he has another book out soon, I have a feeling that he is one of the few writers who could make great satire out of the pandemic.


      • I kept laughing all the way through it Lisa – it’s an absolute gem and I’ve recommended it to friends everywhere! The satire on class was superb (on top of everything else) – and I would have hated to have that ending exposed before I read the book!

        A pure joy to read!

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s the trouble with a blog like this, I absolutely could not say anything to reveal the ending, but I love it when someone who’s read it can share the joke!


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