Trend Alert! Chefs Behaving Badly

I don’t want to disparage the good name of celebrity chefs, but if current fiction is anything to go by, they’re all cheating scoundrels. Or they’re victims of cheating scoundrels. Or they’re just generally getting too salty, if you know what I mean.

There must be something in the ratatouille that’s making all these fictional chefs behave badly, because it’s a dadgum trend—and authors serve the angst up hot! The characters wait it out and get their revenge, which they serve cold! Dig in to these delicious stories! And other food-related reading puns! (Links to Booklist reviews where available.)

In Emily Belden’s Hot Mess, Allie Simon is smitten with hard-partying Chicago chef Benji Zane, but she’s conflicted when he asks her to invest in his new restaurant. He’s getting clean and making an effort, but $30,000 is a lot of money. Full of heart, heat, and passion, this restaurant romcom combines the wit and insight of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter with the drama of Jessica Tom’s Food Whore.

Infidelity is just the start of the drama in Suellen Dainty’s The Housekeeper. When Anne’s head-chef boyfriend is caught cheating, she swears off restaurants and finagles a housekeeping job at the home of celebrity household guru Emma Helmsley and her writer husband, Rob. Rob is working on a book about a strange psychologist-turned-cult leader, and the more she learns about his research, the more Anne feels triggered by memories of her secretive childhood. Mmm hmm.

Those looking for some lighter fare (I can’t stop!) should try The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano. Denver chef Rachel mucks up on social media and loses her job. Writer Alex accidentally caused the muck, so he suggests that he and Rachel get in on the fine-dining trend by hosting a pop-up dinner party. Sparks fly—and it ain’t just the flambé—in this faith-based story.

In The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green, a cheating chef counts among actress Ronni Sunshine’s brood of dysfunctional daughters. Ronni is sick, and she needs to reunite her family before ALS takes over. The sisters are not thrilled to be back in Connecticut, but coping with their mother’s mortality helps them re-prioritize.

It’s always nice to end a meal with something sweet. (I had to get one more food joke in! I saved room for it! OK, two!) Hows about Paige Roberts’ Virtually Perfect? Lizzie, a celebrity chef, falls from grace and finds herself working in a food truck—until she fails even at that. She sucks it up and moves home to New Jersey, where she takes a job literally catering to a wealthy family in their lavish guest house. Then the twenty-something daughter of the family “borrows” some of Lizzie’s recipes for her wellness website, and oh, it’s on.

Bon appetit! (#notsorry)

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