Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mountain Chef

Mountain Chef

Annette Bay Pimentel
Illustrator:  Richard Lo 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Charlesbridge, 2016   ISBN: 978-1580897112

Tie Sing was born in Virginia City in Nevada. Many of the Chinese people living in the city at that time toiled in laundries and restaurants, but Tie Sing was not content to accept such a life. He wanted more, and he dared to dream, he dared to have “big plans”

Tie Sing got a job cooking for mapmakers who were mapping the mountains, and though the conditions that he worked in were rough - to say the least - he still managed to create delicious meals for his clients. His meals were so memorable that he became known as “the best trail cook in California.”

Then Tie Sing was hired by a millionaire called Stephen Mather who wanted to convince people that America’s wilderness areas needed to be protected. He wanted Congress to create national parks, and he thought that the best way to do this was to take influential people, including writers and members of Congress, into the wilderness to see its beauty for themselves. Mather understood that his novice campers would not appreciate roughing it, so he got the “best camping gear” that was available and he hired the best trail cook, who was Tie Sing.

Keeping thirty campers happy for ten days while they traveled from place to place was not easy and the work was hard, but Tie Sing succeeded, providing Mather’s guests with excellent meals and service.

Tie Sing was successful because he planned very carefully, but one day his careful planning went awry. A mule, carrying the choicest cooking ingredients on its back, went missing and in one fell swoop Tie Sing’s menus were no longer possible. He had to rethink what he was going to do and this is exactly what he did. This was only one of the problems that Tie Sing solved by being creative, the most important of which was to help convince the guests that the wildness he and Mather loved was worth protecting for future generations.

This remarkable true story shows young readers how even a humble, though very gifted, cook had an impact on bringing about change. Thanks to Stephen Mather, and Tie Sing, the National Park Service was created one year, one month, and one day after Tie Sing gave the guests on that momentous trip a special gift.

At the back of the book readers will find further information about Tie Sing, the trip that Mather sponsored, the guests who were taken on the trip, and more.