Monday, February 11, 2019

Guest Post with Crystal King - The Chef's Secret

Photo Credit: Wayne Earl Chinnock

Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow, which was long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.


My debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, is about someone we might consider one of the first big “foodies” of the world--Apicius, the Ancient Roman gourmand whose name graces the cover of the oldest known cookbook, Writing that book fueled my obsession with Italy, with its food, culture and history, and The Chef’s Secret continues to explore this incredible place and all of its vibrant flavors in another fascinating era—that of the Renaissance. So why should you read it? Let me suggest a few reasons to entice you...

1. It’s the story of the world’s first celebrity chef. Bartolomeo Scappi was renowned for his cooking, for his elaborate banquets and for his cookbook, L’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi was published in 1570 and contains over 1,000 recipes, including the first European recipes for turkey and now-quintessential Italian classics such as tortellini and zabaglione. L’Opera is one of the bestselling cookbooks of all times and it contines to inspire chefs after more than 500 years.

2. You can immerse yourself in the splendor of the Italian Renaissance. While Florence is often thought of as the epicenter of the Renaissance, Rome has just as much to offer. It was a place where princes and popes were wealthy beyond compare, where art and artists rose to great heights and magnificent palazzos were built to house them all.

3. Michelangelo makes an appearance. In fact, he dabbles in a medium that you might not expect, creating an unusual and elaborate sculpture for a banquet for Charles V.

4. There’s a pirate. No, he doesn’t wear an eyepatch, but his ships terrorize spice traders en route to Venice. He is engaged to the most beautiful woman in the book and let me just say that doesn’t end well.

5. There are two love stories in this book, one of which is...

6. A secret love affair. Giovanni Brioschi, the apprentice and nephew to the great Bartolomeo Scappi, discovers his uncle Bartolomeo’s journals and learns of a clandestine relationship between the famed chef and one of the wealthiest women in Italy, referred to only by the pet name “Stella.” Giovanni goes on a quest to learn more about this woman and, along the way he, too, falls in love.

7. Of course, that means there are a few steamy love scenes. One is an elaborate scheme that Bartolomeo concocts to make use of the private chambers—and the bed! —of the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, who was not known for his piety.

8. There is intrigue, mystery and murder. In seeking to unravel his uncle’s past, Giovanni faces a decades-old vendetta that puts his own life in danger, a rival who would do everything to get his hands on Scappi’s recipes, and the growing realization that no one in his family is who he grew up thinking them to be.

9. There is a secret code. A lot of secret code, in fact. Giovanni’s efforts to decipher it all and learn his uncle’s secrets lead him to the famous cryptologist, Giovan Battista Bellasso, another actual historical figure who appears in the novel.

10. There are many, many mouthwatering descriptions of food. Some of the banquets Scappi organized included thousands of dishes and hundreds of sugar sculptures. This is a book that you shouldn’t read on an empty stomach because it is guaranteed to make you hungry! It might even inspire you to try out some of Scappi’s recipes. I’ll be sharing recipes on my blog at and on my social channels. If you decide to try one out, take photos and share them on the hashtag #TheChefsSecret so I can see!

A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.


“With adventure, engaging characters, and an absorbing mystery, King expertly blends fact with fiction, intrigue, and a powerful love story. Well written and perfectly paced, The Chef's Secret is a fascinating immersion into sixteenth-century Italian life, an introduction to the world's first celebrity chef, and a reminder of the power of food to influence a civilization.” —Booklist

“A veritable feast for the senses, The Chef's Secret is part mystery, part love story, and all sumptuous sixteenth century Italy. This tale of one of the world's first celebrity chefs—Bartolomeo Scappi, a DaVinci of Renaissance cuisine—sent me on a quest to know more, and to my kitchen to experiment—a sign of a great historical novel. Readers will delight in a plot as juicy as Scappi's braised beef!” —Heather Webb, international bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris

“Crystal King’s The Chef’s Secret is a fabulous immersion in the world of Renaissance Italy, full of passion, intrigue, secrets, danger, and of course food. Come hungry!” —Melodie Winawer, author of The Scribe of Siena

“In The Chef’s Secret, Crystal King serves up a delectable read stuffed with passion, danger, and a plot worthy of Dan Brown. This fast-paced, engrossing novel brings Renaissance Rome and the Vatican to life through the eyes of a famous papal chef. You won’t be able to put it down.” —Stephanie Storey, author of Oil and Marble

“The Chef’s Secret is a sumptuous buffet, serving up a love story (two of them!); mystery and suspense so thick you could cut it with, well, a chef’s knife; and such a vibrant panorama of Ancient Rome you’ll feel you’ve walked its streets and inhabited its kitchens. Anyone who loves history, food, a great story—read this novel! Warning: it will make you hungry.” —Jenna Blum, New York Times and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family
You can purchase The Chef's Secret at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CRYSTAL KING for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Chef's Secret by Crystal King. 


  1. People should also read her earlier book A Feast of Sorrow, I found it wonderful. I have read The Chef's Secret and was once again drawn into an amazing tale. I have to admit, I was loaned an ARC of this new book, but today, on its release, I will be buying my own copy to sit beside her previous book. These are definitely 'read again' books.

  2. "What is your favorite food?" Fried shrimp. It's a lifelong addiction!

  3. My favourite food is cheesecake, I never tire of eating any kind.