Monica Ali’s third novel is described by her publishers as a follow-up to Brick Lane, which is a puzzle in that it is quite different in tone, setting and scope. Thankfully, there is no sign of Nazneen, one of the most low-energy heroines of recent years. After her second novel, Portugal-set Alentejo Blue, In the Kitchen shows Ali returning to the tensions, problems and promises of multicultural Britain.
Gabriel Lightfoot is the head chef of a classy London hotel, leading a motley and polyglot crew of waiters, grillers, potwashers and vegetable choppers. Some of these are given rather crude ethnic markers. There’s homely Oona, Gabriel’s annoying second-in-command, with her rumbling laugh always described as ‘cosmic’ (‘We