Tag: food

November 9, 2015

Review | Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Review | Sous Chef by Michael GibneySous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney
Publisher: Ballantine Books, March 2014
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.
Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.
In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

In my experience, there are three types of food books. The brilliant, the okay, and the horrible. It comes down to the strength and integrity of the narrative voice: how much do they make us believe/invest in them, their stories, and their lives? 

Michael Gibney’s Sous Chef is falls into the second category. The decision to make the entire story in second person is a brave one, and I applaud him trying to bring the reader into the world of the kitchen. It felt too disjointed and odd – I would have been more comfortable with the first person persona, seeing the based-upon-true-events day in the life through his eyes instead of his/my own. 

I became really irritated with the narrative about halfway through the book as he’s/I’m organizing the speech for the wait staff’s preservice with the kitchen. Gibney uses the phrase “You need to know” 24 times in two and a half pages (beginning on the bottom of page 67 to the very last sentence of page 69). This repetition drove me insane, draining away from Gibney’s very obvious love of food and the job. It wasn’t engaging; it was tiresome. 

The shining light is that love of food. Gibney, your second person narrator, appreciates food in a completely different realm than the majority of us. His narrative as he describes his knifes, their balances, and lull and noise of the kitchen…it’s breathtaking, but overwhelmed by the second person narration. 

Sous Chef is okay. It’s a strong book in the love of food, but the narration drops its power quite a bit. But for a quick read, it’ll do.

3 Stars

Posted November 9, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 3, 2015

Review | Slices of Life by Leah Eskin

Title: Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum
Author: Leah Eskin
Publication Date: April 2014
Publisher: Running Press

Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Bad Haircut Kale Chips. Post-ER Roast Chicken. New Baby Risotto. Frantic Dinner-Party Calming Soup. These are some of the dishes that food writer Leah Eskin has turned out during her years of raising two children, enduring one dog, and tending her marriage. She’s also nurtured her ten-year-old food column, “Home on the Range,” providing a recipe and accompanying vignette in the Chicago Tribune every week. Slices of Lifetransforms those columns into a memoir that readers can savor in small or large bites. It’s a compilation of more than 200 recipes, with a generous helping of the life stories that happened along the way: moving-day potatoes, summer-vacation apricot pie, dead-microwave ratatouille, sullen-child oatmeal squares. Whether preparing recipes for disaster or delight, Leah Eskin has made it all delicious! 


There are two things I love: books and food. When these two are combined, I’m a happy camper. Leah Eskin’s book of essays and recipes caught my eye on the library’s new shelf. Food is the spice of life and it’s amazing to see how it fits in other people’s worlds. 


Eskin has a snappy, direct writing style that caught my attention immediately. Her writing is short, to the point, and powerful – good qualities for a longtime columnist with the Chicago Tribune. I loved the narrative voice in her essays. Her personality shone through from the first page. I knew we’d get along great when I read how she became a journalist  – I followed a similar path when picking my degree in college. 


I loved the pairing of recipes and essays – I will rarely see chocolate chip cookies the same way again. Eskin’s collection of essays opened the connection between life, emotion and food in a way I didn’t expect. Sometimes I forget food is more than just, well, food. Food brings people together, soothes, opens doors, brings joy and laughter.


I have two more weeks on my library rental of Slices of Life. After reading Eskin’s essays, I can’t wait to try some of her recipes, to see if I can find that same connection with food again. 


Posted January 3, 2015 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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September 8, 2014

Review | All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

Title: All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes
Author: Betsy St. Amant {website}
Publication Date: September 2014
Publisher: Zondervan Books
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kats best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself her is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kats senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.



I rarely read Christian/religious books, especially the romances. I don’t have anything against the subgenre, but it throws me off when the characters start quoting the Bible. (Again, I have nothing against quoting the Bible, but it just don’t work for me, personally, in novels.) When I requested St. Amant’s All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, I had no idea I was requesting a Christian romance novel. I will admit there was a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I read the first pages and found the cited Bible verses. 


I’m so glad I decided to read on. 


This is a Christian romance like none I’ve ever read before. I tend to feel a little uncomfortable with Bible verses in romances, but St. Amant wove the characters so seamlessly that their religious references made perfect sense. It was practical use of Bible quotes and Christian teachings, instead of the hidden sermons within the text that make me feel awkward. 


I enjoyed both Kat and Lucas and loved how St. Amant used the dual narration to show each character’s full personality. Using a dual first person limited narration can backfire in a romance, but I loved how it built up the tension between the two of them. It helped me learn their passions, their motives…them. 


All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes isn’t only a romantic journey; it’s a personal one, especially for Kat. She’s stuck in that post-grad zone, with big dreams but no idea how to make them happen. Her predicament struck a chord with me personally, and I felt all the more invested in her. 


The plot itself was good, but didn’t provide enough to keep the pacing up. When Lucas and Kat are in L.A., too often the pages were logged down with their thoughts and inner monologues, which slowed down the novel’s pace dramatically. I would have liked some more of the show to be featured, or maybe Kat’s recipes…a call from home…something to break up the inner monologue between the two torn lovers. 


I’m a goner for a good romance, and All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes is created on one. I loved the friends-turned-more aspect of the novel, and especially the cupcakes. Who doesn’t love cupcakes?


THE RATING:


Posted September 8, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 19, 2014

Review: Waiting by Debra Ginsberg

Title: Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress
Author: Debra Ginsberg
Publication Date: July 2001
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A veteran waitress dishes up a spicy and robust account of life as it really exists behind kitchen doors.

Part memoir, part social commentary, part guide to how to behave when dining out, Debra Ginsberg’s book takes readers on her twentyyear journey as a waitress at a soap-operatic Italian restaurant, an exclusive five-star dining club, the dingiest of diners, and more. While chronicling her evolution as a writer, Ginsberg takes a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant life-revealing that yes, when pushed, a server will spit in food, and, no, that’s not really decaf you’re getting-and how most people in this business are in a constant state of waiting to do something else.

As a worker bee in the food/hospitality industry, I love to read memoirs about the business. When I was researching my review on a previous food book, I found so many good reviews online for Debra Ginsberg’s Waiting that I couldn’t stand it: I had to read it. 


Unfortunately, I fell victim to the GoodReads recommendation; I did not like Ginsberg’s Waiting. The writing was flawless, but occasionally leaning towards boring as Ginsberg wavers away from her stated premise of a memoir of her life’s work and instead begins a commentary on her own life. Plainly, instead of writing about waiting tables, Ginsberg begins to write about simply waiting: waiting for her life to start, waiting to make a change, waiting for heaven knows what. 


While I can identify with her struggle in waiting for her life to begin, I picked up this book to read about her ups and downs as a server, not her life story as she traveled across the country with a guy she didn’t really like or her decision to move from Portland to California. The claim that “a veteran waitress dishes up spicy and robust account of life as it really exists behind kitchen doors” is stretching it…well, quite a bit. More than half of Ginsberg’s work is her personal business, which is fine and dandy, but not the reason I picked up this book. The beginning of the book tells a bit of her ‘confessions’, but quickly her memoirs move into her struggle in becoming a writer – again, a story I can identify with, but not the one I picked up this book for. 


As I researched Ms. Ginsberg this morning, I realized that Waiting is, in fact, her launching pad for her memoirs in general. The book ends in a sort of limbo, with Ginsberg beginning a new life for herself and appears to continue in her next books. If you were interested in reading how a woman transition from a server to a writer, Ginsberg’s books are right up your alley. Unfortunately, for me, I was looking for a guilty-pleasure book along the lines of Dublancia’s Waiter Rant to sink into after a hard day of waiting. 

Posted May 19, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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March 30, 2014

Five Reasons You Should Read Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

Title: Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip – Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
Author: Steve Dublanica “The Waiter” {website}
Publication Date: July 2008
Publisher: Ecco | Harper Collins
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


According to The Waiter, eighty percent of customers are nice people just looking for something to eat. The remaining twenty percent, however, are socially maladjusted psychopaths. Waiter Rant offers the server’s unique point of view, replete with tales of customer stupidity, arrogant misbehavior, and unseen bits of human grace transpiring in the most unlikely places. Through outrageous stories, The Waiter reveals the secrets to getting good service, proper tipping etiquette, and how to keep him from spitting in your food. The Waiter also shares his ongoing struggle, at age thirty-eight, to figure out if he can finally leave the first job at which he’s truly thrived.



This book has my dad’s name written all over it.


We both love memoirs, sarcastic narrators, and a good story. Waiter Rant was right up our alley. 

1. You might have been one of his customers.

The vivid descriptions of every type of customer is so entertaining. What the book blurb so lovingly calls “socially maladjusted psychopaths” make up the meat and potatoes of this book. Dublanica’s interactions with the customers range from entertainingly funny to extraordinarily extreme. 

2. Waiter Rant has a unique voice with a different perspective.

Dublanica began waiting tables at age thirty-one when he was in between jobs. Before his life-changing experience as a waiter, he was previously in the seminary and worked in psychology. Who better to provide commentary on an upscale New York bistro?

Some reviews have commented that Dublanica is condescending to his customers and, to be honest, with a few of the stories, I can see their point. Over the years, that particular thought has never struck me; I felt that Dublanica might have been condescending in his inner voice occasionally, but, to me, his waiter face was smart, eloquent, and just ever-so-slightly sarcastic. In this interview with Food Grub, Dublanica addresses how many details he adjusted in his book. 

3. It’s funny.

There’s a quick-witted cleverness about Waiter Rant: it’s snappy and quick. I love reading this book simply because I am never bored. It’s like watching a favorite TV series over and over, even though I know how it ends. I just love the journey.

4. It’s biased.

Waiter Rant is biased. It’s biased in the same way that Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is biased. It’s biased in the way that all memoirs are biased: we are seeing the world through his eyes. The journey Dublanica takes from being a newbie waiter to veteran to manager changes his perspective quite a bit, making for interesting storytelling. 

5. It’s not just about restaurants. 

There’s a lot of restaurant behind-the-scenes in Waiter Rant that especially resonated with me, but I found there was more than the surface showed. Maybe that’s why I go back to this book again and again.




Have you read this book? What did you think? 

Posted March 30, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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February 8, 2014

Review: Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear

Title: Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture
Author: Dana Goodyear
Publication Date: November 2014
Publisher: Riverstone 
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

A new American cuisine is forming. Animals never before considered or long since forgotten are emerging as delicacies. Parts that used to be for scrap are centerpieces. Ash and hay are fashionable ingredients, and you pay handsomely to breathe flavored air. Going out to a nice dinner now often precipitates a confrontation with a fundamental question: Is that food?

Dana Goodyear’s anticipated debut, Anything That Moves, is simultaneously a humorous adventure, a behind-the-scenes look at, and an attempt to understand the implications of the way we eat. This is a universe populated by insect-eaters and blood drinkers, avant-garde chefs who make food out of roadside leaves and wood, and others who serve endangered species and Schedule I drugs—a cast of characters, in other words, who flirt with danger, taboo, and disgust in pursuit of the sublime. Behind them is an intricate network of scavengers, dealers, and pitchmen responsible for introducing the rare and exotic into the marketplace. This is the fringe of the modern American meal, but to judge from history, it will not be long before it reaches the family table. Anything That Moves is a highly entertaining, revelatory look into the raucous, strange, fascinatingly complex world of contemporary American food culture, and the places where the extreme is bleeding into the mainstream.



I devour books about food like there’s no tomorrow. It might be my kryptonite – along with J.D. Robb books, Mad Men, and coffee. I couldn’t wait to read Goodyear’s Anything That Moves

THE STORY

I suppose it’s a fair disclaimer to state that this book is definitely not for the squeamish, something I found out after the first few pages. So…if you are ever so slightly squeamish, don’t read this book while eating, hungry, thinking about food…anything.

America’s new obsession with food is going in directions that we have never experienced before. More often than not, people are exploring the slightly (and not so slightly) dangerous, the unusual, the extreme (my personal favorite was the Weed Dinner). Goodyear follows food bloggers, Las Vegas suppliers, and the more unusual of the food world. 

The people she meets and interacts were so interesting. I especially enjoyed the food bloggers and their reverence toward Johnathan Gold – it was a culture that I had been completely unaware of before this book. 

THE WRITING

Goodyear’s writing was clear, concise, and painted a fascinating image of the world she had immersed herself in. Occasionally I had to put the book aside, due to the subject (again, not for the squeamish), but more often than not, the writing could get a little dry for me. There were a few info dumps that overwhelmed me; don’t worry, those moments are few and far between. 

Strangely, this was a very unbiased, nonjudgmental narration of the history of the new American food culture. To be honest, I actually expected Goodyear to give her own opinion about it all, but the lack of her influence made the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good read about the changes in the American food world. This book was slightly too much for me, but it was fascinating.  

Posted February 8, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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February 6, 2014

Review: Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Story of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes On in the Kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen

Title: Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Story of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes On in the Kitchen
Author: Dalia Jurgensen
Publication Date: March 2009
Publisher: Putnam Adult 
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential, a revealing and entertaining insider’s tour through top restaurant kitchens, told from the unique perspective of a critically acclaimed pastry chef.

Spiced is Dalia Jurgensen’s memoir of leaving her office job and pursuing her dream of becoming a chef. Eventually landing the job of pastry chef for a three-star New York restaurant, she recounts with endearing candor the dry cakes and burned pots of her early internships, and the sweat, sheer determination, and finely tuned taste buds—as well as resilient ego and sense of humor-that won her spots in world-class restaurant kitchens. With wit and an appreciation for raunchy insults, she reveals the secrets to holding your own in male-dominated kitchens, surviving after-hours staff parties, and turning out perfect plates when you know you’re cooking for a poorly disguised restaurant critic. She even confesses to a clandestine romance with her chef and boss—not to mention what it’s like to work in Martha Stewart’s TV kitchen—and the ugly truth behind the much-mythologized “family meal.”

Following Dalia’s personal trajectory from nervous newbie to unflappable professional, Spiced is a clever, surprisingly frank, and affectionate glimpse at the sweet and sour of following your passion.



I love food. It’s really that simple.
And that’s the reason I snagged Jurgensen’s Spiced off the shelf when I was checking out the cookbooks the last time I went to the library. Jurgensen’s story is one of the unique successful career change stories that I love to read. In this particular point in my life when I’m searching for my career, it’s wonderful to find the story of someone who took a chance on a career and fell in love with it. 


THE CHARACTERS

Jurgensen made the huge life change from an office drone to a pastry chef, a leap that I would be terrified of making. Strangely, even after finishing her nearly three hundred page memoir, I feel like I don’t know her all that well. I guess in the end, it doesn’t really matter; she wants to tell us about her exploits in the kitchen, not her life. Fair enough. 

What I really admired about Jurgensen was her absolute passion for food and cooking. To be in her position (occasionally with an all-male staff), she had to be in love with what she was doing. There were points in her narration as she told us about the flavors she was concocting that I could hear the passion in her voice. It was inspiring. 

The quick, concise portraits of her co-workers and industry friends were funny and engaging, making her world come alive for the reader. I particularly liked the portrayals of those she worked with in her last restaurant. 

THE MEMOIR

Jurgensen begins her journey in the kitchens of Nobu and touches back briefly on her motivation to make this life transformation. Her brief flashbacks were enough to set the stage for her current endeavor and give the reader enough background. Jurgensen only touched lightly on how this transition affected her social life – I would have loved to have seen more of this. It must have been the easiest transition in the world or a real struggle to change from a nine-to-five world to starting your workday at two in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Jurgensen glosses over this entire portion of her life, returning only to briefly mention some side romances. 

Following her from a tentative new cook on the line to a full-fledged pastry chef was entertaining and fun to read. Jurgensen grew into her role, going from restaurants to Martha Stewart’s TV prep kitchen to consulting and back to restaurants. Although she provides only summaries for many of her jobs, it was still fascinating to read about her 
travels.

THE WRITING

Jurgensen’s passion definitely shines through in Spiced, occasionally making the writing a little obscure to a non-chef. It’s easy enough to pick up if I kept reading, but sometimes it weighed me down. 

Her narration through the book was light and quick. She kept her own life rather private, despite mentioning a few flings here and there. I was a little disappointed on how little she included on her own growth as a person and a chef. That would have been a fascinating addition that would have made the book really come alive.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A good book. I wouldn’t exactly call it an expose; she doesn’t reveal anything that isn’t already fairly well-known. I loved reading about her career, but I would have enjoyed a little more of a personal touch.

Posted February 6, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 2 Comments
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October 12, 2013

Review: Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

Title: Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously
Author: Julie Powell 
Publication Date: September 2006
Source: Owned
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Nearing 30 and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, Julie Powell reclaims her life by cooking every single recipe in Julia Child’s legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the span of one year. It’s a hysterical, inconceivable redemptive journey – life rediscovered through aspics, calves’ brains and crème brûlée. 


To be honest, I’m having a little trouble writing this review, and after some thought, I think it comes down to this: I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it. 


Julie’s character is a little rough around the edges and she isn’t (in any way) afraid to show it. Her life is at a standstill, and her husband’s offhand suggestion that she start a blog brings a new life to it. She put me off at times: although I can’t imagine the stress she went through during their attempts to become pregnant, it was a little off-putting to read about her screaming at her husband, exasperated over an ingredient that wouldn’t incorporate right into the sauce. Other times, she was a paragon of cooking advice and worldly ways that I couldn’t believe it was the same narrator. Overall, I felt her character was a little bitter, more so in the end than the beginning. 


There were moments where I adored her character: when she and her husband are standing over a sauce with bated breath and she realizes…


“…Eric stood beside me. I was Tom Cruise hovering with a bead of sweat. I was Harrison Ford in a battered fedora, weighing a bag full of sand in my hands – and Eric understood. He was my partner. It occurred to me, as I beat my rebellious sauce into submission, that my husband was doing more than just enduring this crazy thing I’d gotten myself into, doing more than being supportive. I realized this was his Project, too. Eric wasn’t a cook, and like Isabel, he only cared about JC because I did. And yet, he had become part of this thing. There would be no Project without him, and he would not be the same without the Project. I felt so married, all of a sudden, and so happy” (page 175).

There’s another scene where her friend is having a horrible time with men and brings over a bottle of vodka to talk about it. Early afternoon, when the bottle is opened, Julie takes a look at the clock, considers, then what-the-hell and throws one back with her buddy. These moments in the novel were endearing and relatable. The rest of the time, I was reading for the food.

There isn’t a comparison between the book and the movie – I think trying to do so would detract from the special qualities of each. I loved the extra details of Julie’s life in the book, and the addition of Julia Child in the movie was spectacular. However, there really wasn’t a place in Julie’s memoir for Julia: this year was more about her learning than relating to Julia Child. 

Final Thoughts: I probably sound like I hated this book, but I promise I didn’t. Julie and I didn’t get along at times, but her journey is something we all can relate to. And, after reading her book, there is no way I’m trying to cook French food. 

Posted October 12, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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September 2, 2013

Review: Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

Title: Deep Dish 
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: February 2008
Source: Library
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
My Rating: Two Stars

Chef extraordinaire Gina Foxton doesn’t expect anything to be handed to her on a platter. After years of hard work, the former runner-up Miss Teen Vidalia Onion is now the host of her own local Georgia public television show called Fresh Start, and she’s dating the show’s producer.

But when her show gets canceled—and she catches her boyfriend in flagrante delicto with the boss’s wife—Gina realizes that she’s meant for bigger and better things. Namely, a gig on national television.

The Cooking Channel is looking for its next big star, and Gina is certain that she fits the bill. Trouble is, the execs also have their eyes on Mr. “Kill It and Grill It” Tate Moody, the star of a hunting, fishing, and cooking show named Vittles. Tate is the ultimate man’s man, with a dog named Moonpie and a penchant for flannel shirts. He’s also a tasty side of beef with a swooning female fan base. All Gina has on her side are a free-spirited, college-dropout sister and a mother who calls every single day.

Little does Gina know, though, that she and Tate are soon to embark on the cook-off of their lives, spiced up by a little ingredient called love.


Regina Foxton has it all: a great boyfriend, a wacky little sister and a great job she hard-earned, doing what she loves. Everything quickly turns upside down when Gina discovers her show is being canceled, due to her boyfriend/producer’s sneaky business. There’s one chance left: to win The Cooking Channel’s new show slot in the fall lineup. If Gina can score this position with the famous cooking network, she might be able to rebuild her life. The only thing that stands in the way is rugged outdoorsman and chef Tate Moody.

I found the characters themselves a little typical, to be honest. Tate Moody is the rugged outdoorsman whom all the girls swoon over, but Gina can’t admit that she finds him attractive. His producer, the ever-smoking Val, is another stereotypical character from Hollywood. Gina is the goody-two shoes from the South who can’t stand up for herself until the very end of the book (literally one of the last scenes). Scott, Gina’s producer, is slimy and selfish, but we’re supposed to dislike him. In the end, I wasn’t impressed by these characters. I felt the story had so much promise (it’s such an entertaining premise!), but the characters themselves didn’t have a lot of oomph to keep me engaged.

It felt forced. The whole romance, the sparks, even some of the competition was forced. Was so excited about this novel because the premise was so exciting. It fell flat for me.

I did enjoy some of the competition scenes. We watch a lot of Chopped, Kitchen Nightmares and the like around here, so those scenes I found particularly fun. I wish that same energy and flow was consistent throughout the rest of the novel.

Final Thoughts: I think I might try another Andrews’ novel (Hissy Fit seems to have gotten good reviews – has anyone read that?) She has such an extensive collection of work that maybe I picked up the odd one of the bunch. In the end, I really wish the book had lived up to the premise; instead, it was flat. 

Posted September 2, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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August 23, 2013

Review: Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

Title: Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat
Author: Bee Wilson 
Publication Date: October 2012
Source: Library
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 
My Rating: Four Stars

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.



I love books about food.


I’ve read books about Chinese food, about French food, about working in Keller’s kitchens, and around the world. I have never come across a book that talked about the utensils.


Immediately, Wilson’s upbeat, humorous narrative drew me in. Her obvious passion about the topic made me excited (and hungry…all that talk about Chinese stir-fry…). She organizes the book by utensil instead of by time period (which I expected). Personally, I loved the knife chapter. Did you know that during the Renaissance people carried their eating knives on them like we wear wristwatches today? 


Little tidbits like that, interesting and humorous culinary exploits create a fascinating book. However, this book is for the ultimate foodie/nerd. Otherwise, I’d pick and choose which chapters tickle your fancy – it’d be food overload.


Final Thoughts: This book made me hungry. 

Posted August 23, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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