Sita’s Kitchen: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Raghav Khanna | Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Food | Pages: 220

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This is a tale of self-discovery of a young girl, Sita, from the Himalayas, who forges her own path to success, with determination as a chef, starting from a small kitchen in Himachal to becoming a professional chef at a gourmet restaurant in London. This is her journey, and also of all those who meet her and help shape her dream.

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To start with, I was sold on the cover. I am a lover of illustrative works and this one just drives you home; although, the girl on the cover looks much younger than our protagonist. Sita, who’s harbored a love for cooking since a very young age, experiments dishes with the help of YouTube and serves them to her customers at the uber cool and cozy hub, The Midway Cafe, built with humble beginnings, and with her father close at heels for whatever she needs to run it. She’s grown adept at cooking; especially Italian dishes and her chance to take her dreams places arrives in the form of the sauve food connoisseur, Arun.

The main plot takes off when Arun, along with Ben (his assistant) stops at The Midway Cafe for a quick bite. That Arun is blown by Sita’s cooking would be a demeaning understatement. After having tasted like a zillion dishes, he is convinced that Sita is the missing keystone in his London-based Italian marvel – Bellissimo. Hesistant at first, Sita gradually however accepts Arun’s offer to work at Bellissimo, in the heart of London.

The book is written from multiple perspectives. Each chapter takes a different character’s POV, flitting between Arun, Ben, and Sita. This imparts the reader a deeper, better glimpse into the story making it easy to comprehend the very many mental struggles the MC and other characters go through at different points through the plot. For a young girl in a new city, Sita hardly feels outlandish, but starts to get diffident about her culinary skills owing to the burden of expectations and her cold, less kind, colleagues at Bellissimo.

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Somewhere post 120 pages, the story goes into a fast gear where we see Sita grow into a more mature, determined woman, resorted to going for her actual instincts and experience in cooking and winning the game, obviously after having paid heavy prices for her follies. And finally becoming the woman she is meant to be. We see her defy prejudices, stand rooted in her beliefs, balance hard work and personal life, beating challenges with her experience and talent, and emerge into a successful chef.

There is a lot to learn from the protagonist. Especially about how to not lose hope and remain strong in the face of adversities and afflictions. The next important thing is the writing itself which is simple, engaging, sophisticated, and entertaining, all at once. The author has a great command on the language and that is pretty evident. Now that is something that keeps me hooked to a good piece of writing. Last but not the least, the book is dripping with mentions of marvelous dishes that would have you drooling, more than just once.

In a nutshell, Sita’s Kitchen explores the power of dreams, believing in oneself, the harsh realities of life, and a manifestation of the age-old proverb,

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

This debut is nothing short of a wonder of sorts, for its writing, characters, and settings. A great entertainer and a fast-paced one at that. Try it if you’re looking for a light read or if you’re a lover of food.

P.S: I received a review copy from the publisher but the review remains unbiased.

Happy reading till we meet next. Until then, carpe diem! 

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