For food writer Maggie McElroy, it's been a year of trying to get her equilibrium back in the wake of her husband's premature death. Now comes a shock: a paternity claim has been filed against her husband's estate. Could he, while working in his firm's Beijing office, have fathered a child? As Maggie plans her difficult trip to China, she is offered a chance to profile chef and rising star Sam Liang. What begins as a hoped-for distraction while in Beijing, however, turns into a life-changing event. As Maggie watches three generations of Liangs prepare sumptuous feasts together, she is moved by the Chinese belief that food must always be eaten in a circle of family and friends. As she reads Sam's grandfather's account of life as a cook in the Emperor's kitchen, Maggie discovers the centrality of food in Chinese history. And as Sam cooks a chicken as-soft-as-velvet -- spiced along centuries' old notions of what heals the heart -- Maggie begins to fall in love.
In the end, Maggie unravels the truth about her husband. But most profoundly, The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman coming home to herself in the most unexpected of places.
Visit KQED's Bay Area Bites for recipes and additional excerpts from The Last Chinese Chef.