copertina The Burns’ Night Chef

Roberto Agostini

Food and fiction in shades of noir...

Alessandro is a “hands-on” chef instructor at a catering college, a man who’s always played it safe in life. Until now. Unsatisfied with his life, he starts to suffer from psychological disorders so out of control that he confuses dreams with reality. One day, in the grip of a psychotic episode, a Hispanic voice on the phone and an unexpected encounter with a Nicaraguan woman convince him to give everything up to go and look for Pappy, a Mexican chef who’s been missing for about 20 years, the inventor of the world famous “red soup”. Alessandro turns his life upside down, leaves his house, his job and sets off in pursuit of the Mexican cocinero, convinced he can find him and learn something important that will heal his troubled psyche. He embarks on a wild journey which sees him travel from Italy to South America via the esoteric and mystic world of food and into the alchemical, masonic realms of ancient Scotland, where a dinner has been held every 25 January since the 17th century to commemorate the country’s greatest poet, Robert Burns. At these Burns’ Nights, strange societies, obsessed with the supernatural powers of Burns’ poetic verse, try to bend reality to their will. Alessandro discovers things he could never have imagined, helped by Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings. In the meantime, though, where can old chef Antonino-Manzanera-Mendoza, aka Pappy, have gone?


“It’s a strange novel: beautiful, meandering and liquid to begin with then suddenly violent, full of action, mysteriously philosophical and a crime drama in the second half.”
Dacia Maraini (author of Dialogue of a Prostitute and her Client and The Silent Duchess)

“It’s a thriller that’s not really a thriller, captivating the reader all the same with an unconventional narrative technique which successfully combines the syncopated rhythms that only someone with a background in cinema/theatre/television could have (it’s all in his biography), with a hypnotic narrative, indispensable for anyone wishing to venture into the mystical, magical world of food and esotericism.  ...This novel has everything it needs to be taken seriously, with which all we mean is it has “something new to say and something new to show the reader.
So, it’s a great story, but the telling is even better.”
Francesco Colò (Thrillercafé)

“What makes Il cuoco di Burns Night different from the many similar plots out there is the weaving of both food and literature into the narrative, and the beauty of (re)introducing the reader to a poet and a legend that are not widely known: as the novel advances hauntingly, Agostini very cleverly accompanies the reader to the experience of a Burns Night, also known as Burns Supper, the birthday celebration held in Scotland every year on 25 January, in celebration of the poet Robert Burns.” 

“Roberto Agostini’s first novel has a very original format. Rich, colourful minestrone soups are often summoned: essentially, aren’t we all desperately seeking ingredients to swap for the perfect final dish? We’re born as broths without flavour and die as tasty soups to be bequeathed.” Elisabetta Colla (Noi Donne)


Roberto Agostini was born in Rome, and is an actor and theatrical director. His productions include: Romana - a tribute to Gabriella Ferri, Scarti Nobili - Beatrice Cenci, Jezabel (based on the book by I. Némirovsky), Lettere d’amore by Dacia Maraini, also played in Boston (USA) and Seoul (Korea). Il cuoco di Burns night is his first novel.

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