“There’s a 300 pound fat man inside me waiting to come out,” joked Richard Morais ’81 after reading a passage from The Hundred Foot Journey, his recently published novel about an Indian chef’s adventures learning to cook French cuisine. Morais read at Sarah Lawrence on October 29 at an event sponsored by the Friends of the Sarah Lawrence Library, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
In the book, the Haji family moves from Mumbai to a village in the French Alps. The “hundred feet” in the title refers to the distance between the Indian restaurant they open and the French restaurant across the street. The main character crosses this cultural boundary and ultimately becomes a world-renowned chef.
The distance between cultures is a subject in which Morais, an American born in Portugal and raised in Switzerland, is well versed. He came to the United States for the first time at the age of 16 to attend Sarah Lawrence—an education that continues to inform his imagination and sensibility, he says.
He graduated in 1981, straight into a recession. With $100 in his pocket, he moved to Brooklyn (an unfashionable destination at the time), determined to pursue a career in acting, his first love. He quickly realized, however, that he needed to take the first job offered to him, which happened to be in the business world.
A few years later, he landed a job as a writer for Forbes magazine, where he stayed for 25 successful years. He traveled to many countries—including India—on assignment, which laid the groundwork for his novel.
“This book is about how to find your calling, and what to do when that calling is at odds with your family and culture,” Morais said. His advice to seekers: “Be open to the world. Let it show you the way.”