I'd like some help identifying a short story. Here's what I remember of the plot:

The protagonist is a chef, working at a very out-of-the-way establishment (I think it was maybe a kind of mountain lodge that she also owned). She is very highly trained, and used to work at very fancy restaurants, but has left that life behind her. One day a strange figure comes into her restaurant and asks her to cook a very special recipe, offering to provide all the ingredients and pay her handsomely. She agrees, but soon discovers that the ingredients are otherworldly and the recipe nonsensical. She persists through the recipe nonetheless, deviating from it in places as her experience and culinary instincts tell her to. Eventually her customer returns and is pleased with the way she pulled off the dish, despite her deviations from the recipe. The customer then gives her another recipe and set of ingredients, explaining that the recipe is for a dish that will make you immortal (or maybe just prolong your life, I don't remember); our chef's reward for making this incredibly complicated and involved dish will be that she gets to partake of it also. I don't remember how the story ends, but I think she successfully makes the final dish.

I read this story between 2 and 6 years ago. From what I remember of the style and subject matter it probably wasn't published before the 1980s. I don't remember where I read it, though I suspect it was online or in a multi-author anthology; I'm fairly confident that it was not in a single-author short story collection.

Any thoughts on the name/author of this story would be much appreciated!

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    Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year (or range of years) did you read this, and when do you think it might've been published? Also, did you read it in an anthology, a magazine, or online? Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 23:58
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    @LogicDictates Thanks for asking me to clarify, I've updated the question with that information! Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 0:13
  • Thanks for doing that. If anyone correctly identifies this, you can mark their answer as accepted by clicking on the check mark beneath the voting buttons, as per the tour. Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 0:20
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    It might be a longshot, but a lot of points sound similar to the Elder Scroll novel The Infernal City. MC is a cook forced to use supernatural ingredients, and uses her intuition to make dishes superior to the recipes laid out by her boss/captor. elderscrolls.fandom.com/wiki/… Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 19:21
  • @Vanguard3000 Oh wow that is weirdly similar! I'm confident that it's not that; if nothing else the story I read was definitely self-contained and wasn't in an Elder Scrolls setting. Thanks for the suggestion though! Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


I think this might be L'Alchimista from N.K. Jemisin's collection How Long 'Til Black Future Month!

A chef is challenged by a stranger to prepare a recipe he provides.

You can find a podcast reading of it here.

  • Hi, welcome to the site. You could improve this answer by editing it to explain why you think this might be the correct story, i.e. the ways in which it matches the one described in the question. It'd help the rest of us to decide how likely this answer is to be correct, and whether we should therefore upvote it or not. Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 4:08
  • That's the one for sure, thanks! Guess I was wrong about it being a single author collection, I've definitely read How Long 'Til Black Future Month and must have missed it when going back to look for this story. Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 12:11
  • Yay! Glad we found it!
    – hllowrld
    Commented Jul 1, 2022 at 13:39

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