Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
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!
Great review, Michelle. Lynn is a new-to-me writer as well, and the book sounds interesting enough but … maybe she’s got to work a bit more on her narrative pace? A bit more rhythm and action to balance description? That’s what I infer from your review. Anyhow, I’ll add Chef’s Table to my Maybe list. Besides, I have a problem with books which deal with cooks, restaurants or people who enjoy cooking and spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So much food description makes me hungry all the time! And I keep interrupting my reading to go in search of cookies… 😀
Thanks Susana! This book has an incredible amount of food description which was an area I really enjoyed but sounds like it could be a real distraction for you. I enjoyed the book as a whole just thought some areas could have been tightened.
When I’m in the right mood a story that’s all about the journey or progress of the characters getting some place can be enough even if it has a lot of detail and not so much external conflict. I do like a slower paced story every now and then, it reminds me of older times’ story telling when authors took five chapters to establish setting and character presentations before ever so slowly introduce us to the conflict(s). I think modern readers are more impatient and more readily stops reading in favor of something new. That being said, I’m still not sure this is for me. I understand a lot of readers like reading about food, since I have seen more than a few books in such settings, but I’m not a foodie of any kind. I prefer other settings to the novels I chose to read. I will keep Lynn Charles’ name in my mind though for future use.
The author did set a descriptive scene with this one and I was not impatient at all. Much of the book takes place over several kitchens so if that is not your preference it may not complement you well. Thanks for your comment.
Sounds like an interesting read.
I’ll put this one in a solid maybe box. Thanks for the review.
You’re welcome, Lisa.
This sounds interesting. I grew up in the hotel business and had a chef as a brother-in-law, so I have some insights into the restaurant business. (I wonder that the main characters find time to date since my recollection is of long hours and no weekends off!) The relationship between the two men sounds appealing; I would definitely read this. Thanks for a thoughtful review.
The long hours is definitely one of their issues. There were a lot of pivotal (and realistic) cooking scenes between the men and one of the areas I enjoyed most.
Thanks for the honest review. I have a short attention span especially if there isn’t action or angst in a book. I also don’t like to cook. This may not be the book for me.
Well, you don’t have to like to cook but just have an interest in it here as cooking is highly featured. Most of their conflict/angst is internal. Thanks for your comment.
Reading and cooking are two things I love. So a M/M romance about cooking…nice combination. Thanks for the review. I’m not very familiar with this author so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more. Thanks for the review.
Lots of cooking and romance here!
I own this one but have not read it. So, I appreciate the review. While we are only amateurs, we love to cook in my household so the cooking/foodie aspects sound interesting. It is good to know, going in, though, that it encompasses so much and may not be a quick read.
Thanks Jen. Definitely give it a try if you already have it.
I am addicted to Food Network shows, so this is right up my alley. Sounds very interesting with the two different paths the chefs have taken. Thanks for the introduction to a new-to-author.
Their cooking styles are different but they complement each other until-you know-it gets too hot in the kitchen for the both of them.
I love books with chefs. I’m in the middle of a re-read of one of ZA Maxfields’s chef romances. I watch cooking shows on PBS and enjoy cooking a lot, so even though some may not like it, it sounds like a book I would probably really enjoy. Thanks for the review. 🙂
This book is all about them being chefs. It’s truly the focal point. Thanks for your comment.
Thanks for the review! I love cooking and food so this sounds interesting.
Thanks for checking out the review.
Nice review, Michelle. I really felt like I knew what I could and could not enjoy with this one. I’m going to take a look at the preview and see if I like the writing. I wonder, since you mention it’s your first with Ms. Charles work, if you’d read others from Interlude Press. I just read my first one of theirs recently, and it was excellent. If I may, I’d recommend Definitely, Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed (also a debut) that centers a bit around cooking, too. It has a bakery as one of the central locations for the story, and the manager/head baker is one the MCs.
Thanks so much, Carolyn. I reviewed Definitely, Maybe, Yours not that long ago and enjoyed it-there were some great baking scenes. I have read many of the books offered by Interlude and really enjoy the style that they put out. They also work with many debut authors.
Normally I would’ve have checked before asking, but I knew I had to jet off soon. (I may have read your review already.) It’s nice to hear that about them because that’s what my impression has been. I recently bought several to try out (at sale time, yay!) so I felt like I got off on the right foot with them. With any new relationship, you hope your initial impression is the right one. 😉 I’m going to check out your reviews of others of theirs. I’m sure I’ve read some of them already, but so many reviews pass by my eyes every day. Thanks!
I love watching food network and tv shows with cooking in it and it’s the same for books. Thank you for the review =)
I enjoy foodcentric stories. Some for just a particular food or regional flavor. I have read a couple of books with the main characters as Chefs. This sounds interesting and I will consider it as a maybe. Thanks for the review. 🙂
I haven’t read a really great food/cooking book in a while, and it’s something I haven’t seen very often in m/m romance. So, this might be a good one for me to try!
Thank you for the thoughtful, thorough review!
I read a book recently with two chefs as the main characters, and the descriptions of the food bored me a bit. This probably isn’t for me.
Books with any type of cook can go either way, either too much in the kitchen and food description, or you really get nothing about their job and all about the relationship they are having. Still, this sounds like it might be a book to think about reading.
While I don’t cook a lot, I love the *idea* of cooking and love watching cooking shows and looking at recipes, so I’m a sucker for stories that incorporate that sort of thing. This wasn’t on my radar before, but it is now!
I am open to reading most anything and the few books about chefs that I’ve read I have enjoyed so I would have to read a little more about it before making a decision. Thank you very much for your review and I will keep it in mind.
Thanks for the review! This is also a new author to me and I got the book when it was released. I’m not much of a cook myself so I don’t want to read much about it either. Maybe if the story were more about the MCs and less about the food/cook descriptions… Anyway, I plan to read it and hopefully it will turn out to be a enjoyable read.