Chef Evan Stanford is an accomplished and known name among the culinary world of New York City. Having earned the distinction of the Rising Star James Beard award, he is now the executive chef at an upscale restaurant. He has always been passionate about the food, but working long hours churning out the same menu has stifled his creativity and subsequently his balance within his own life.
Patrick Sullivan never finished his degree from the French Culinary Institute, but he lives a contented life working at a diner in Brooklyn. His food is fresh and his ideas always allow for something new to pop up on the menu. When Evan comes into the diner, Patrick is struck by the man. When Evan keeps coming back, the men fall into an easy friendship, trade ideas on food, and both men wind up questioning their paths in life. Their backgrounds are vastly different, but together they may find the recipe for passion both in the kitchen and out.
Being that Chef’s Table is the debut book by Lynn Charles it fit perfectly into the New-to-Me Author Challenge. I am also well versed in the world that Charles writes about from both the professional kitchen and the culinary world of NYC and Charles writes this aspect with an authentic flair.
While the story is about Evan and Patrick, cooking, and subsequently the food that is produced, is a third character. The first quarter of this book is highly detailed with their work lives and food descriptions and that was what initially attracted me to the book. I understood their language well, but the detailed aspects about cooking and the restaurant industry are something to consider before picking this one up. Their friendship, as well as their growing attraction, is a slower build and only one area of focus in the book.
Although Evan and Patrick grew up differently, they share a lot of the same passions and qualities. Evan had a hard time coming to terms with his sexuality at first and, while he has had relationships, he has remained emotionally unavailable and has never connected with true emotional intimacy. He has reached all of his career goals and the realization of the monotony of that is both grating on him and wearing his nerves. Patrick is content cooking in the diner, but never reached for more. The men grow to realize they can be more together and just as there is a hum and a vibe to a well-run kitchen, that becomes the background of Evan and Patrick’s life together.
The book is longer and encompasses a lot of areas of both of their lives and there were many highs and lows for me while I was reading. The men become friends and I would have liked to see a bit more of their initial attraction shown as opposed to just being told about it. When they are together, Charles writes many scenes that are heated, emotional, sensual, and tender as the men find so much of themselves within each other and make each other better. The story also deals with how childhood dreams can follow us into adulthood if we remember them, which was a big part of Evan’s story. But overall, the story could have been streamlined, from the many side characters that could have been trimmed without any loss to the continuity of the story, to the various side stories that were presented all of the way throughout the book. With so much else going on, my focus was split into so many areas that I did not become overly attached to either Evan or Patrick and it was easier to put the book down.
When the guys are on, they connect to each other so well from a classic disagreement about NYC street food to how they truly complement (or at times contradict) each other’s culinary styles. The ending of the book was clearly visible very early on in the story, but it was meant to be about the journey to get there. But when so much time was spent on their professional lives throughout the entire book, the acts of them leaving their old lives behind to move forward were off page and barely mentioned.
I was continually back and forth with this book and my overall impression was that if it had been tightened up, it would have been even a more enjoyable experience for me as the writing was engaging. If you are interested in a descriptive and at times sensual story about two chefs defining their lives together you could check this one out.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize sponsored by Samhain Publishing, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-to-Me Author week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!