cover image Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, illus. by Yuko Jones. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-31387-6

Employing the 13-course structure of a traditional kaiseki meal, Michalak and Florence profile Japanese American chef Niki Nakayama, whose Los Angeles restaurant N/Naka holds two Michelin stars. In 13 “Bites,” the duo follows Nakayama through food-centered memories, including bonding moments with her grandmother, embarking on a post-high school Tokyo food tour, and trying and then studying kaiseki at a cousin’s ryokan. “There, Niki was served a meal of/ many courses. One by one,/ the dishes flowed like a stream,” much like the book’s prose. Mixed media and digital art by Jones make each vignette atmospheric, with varying angles and insets, toothsome details, and watercolor washes. This biography aptly emphasizes the sexism that trailblazer Nakayama faces, both in the male-dominated restaurant industry at large and as “perhaps the world’s only female kaiseki chef.” Back matter includes a timeline of Nakayama’s life, explanations of kuyashii and kaiseki, and a recipe for wonton pizzas. Ages 4–8. [em](Sept.) [/em]