Today I am so pleased to welcome Nikki Woolfolk to Joyfully Jay. Nikki has come to talk to us about her release, Mise en Death. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Family Meal: How my Steampunk Culinary Cozy Came to Be

Many cozy mysteries nowadays are filled with food and amateur sleuthing characters, but it’s rare to find it set in a traditional school. You’re harder pressed to find it in historical fiction, but being who I am I set, MISE EN DEATH, my Steampunk Cozy Mystery, in a culinary school.

Minus any demises, many of the technical details in MISE EN DEATH are from my own experience working in a culinary school that often saw Food Network hosts and their camera crew filming segments.

Prior to my arrival to the Flatiron district building, the irony was I had never cooked. Despite being in my thirties and a new parent I did not know how to cook. To be frank, I was terrified of cooking.

Though I knew between me and a toddler, one of us was gonna need to learn how to cook. Only one of us had access to a Metro card and vocabulary beyond the word no.

Spoiler alert!

It was me.

By the end of my first of many days of ‘trailing’ I fell in love. I loved my job and I loved the people…well, except for that onechef, but that’s a story best told in private company. Warning. The shade thrown during the revealing conversation would be as generous as beads thrown at Mardi Gras.

All snark aside reality cooking shows do not show chefs in their brilliant, full of food scientific knowledge and skill. Often folx see chefs represented as screaming at their staff and while it makes for great ratings, it’s not the norm. Only one chef ever tried that with me once.

Only once.

While the work is hard, non-stop physical labor you are always expected to be alert, bring your best self and know your job.

Whether it’s a commercial kitchen or culinary school you are working with people that love food. Love of the science, technique and creating edible art is palbable with the chefs, students, and the stagiaires.

Stagiaire, you say. What’s that? You think.

It’s a fancy name for ‘the chef’s b*tch’ but the polite dictionary definition states it as ‘trainee’.

In my upcoming novel the culinary school is set in a fictional coastal parish in Louisiana. Honfleur’s cooking school has a few of the traits of my own experience including separate sections for students that are looking to learn the savory side of cooking at one wing. The other side houses the pastry kitchen. In order to bring in the charm of architecture the top floors are either classrooms or staff offices. In this storied mansion turned school the bottom floor holds demo kitchens with commercial stoves, multiple ovens, and mulitple walk-in pantries that would make a foodie swoon.

Working as a stagiaire I was expected to be the chef’s right hand person in terms of having food and equipment available. If you were a student at the school you did not notice me, but you always had the right supplies, sharp knives and ingredients that were as flawless as a food magazine photo.

I was treated with great respect by the chef you fawned over during those recreation classes. To the students that paid for a seat at the table, I, an unpaid aspiring student, commanded your instructor’s respect and received it without a word. My sixteen hour free labor was my currency. Anything the chef instructor needed or the paying attendees required I knew where to get it in the gatekeeping kitchen or could find an exotic, foreign language, hard to acquire item at a bodega and have it in your class minutes before you needed it.

Working as a stagiaire at a culinary school allowed me into a world paying cooking school students and hospitality majors never see.

The pay isn’t great if you are fortune to be paid. The people you work with are from so many different walks of life and experiences and that is a life lesson I wish for everyone. I don’t care how well traveled you are the cooks, the brigrade, are truly diverse from the inside out. People you may never think you’d have anything in common with you all bond over the common denominator-food.

In all the jobs I’ve ever held I have never felt so content and welcomed as when I worked as a stagiaire. It made family meal more than an event in name only.

The best practical jokers are those working in a kitchen brigrade. For someone raised by military parents, veterans to be specific, my father’s Navy squadron is where I honed my pranking skills. They were put to good use at the school and I added a few in my novel too.

Funny how I as a new mom, with a fear of kitchens and of cooking, I found a home with strangers at a culinary school.

The concept of MISE EN DEATH, the first novel in the Bittersweet Mystery series, arose from wanting to show readers the comradery, the friendships and the creation of food against the rarely seen cooking school. MISE EN DEATH is my love letter to that formidable time as a budding chocolatier and cook. I’d love to hear what you make of it.


mise en deathAlex LeBeau, Chocolatier and chef instructor, wants nothing more than to give her almost grown son a quiet life and a place to call home. Settling in Honfleur, Louisiana, Alex can distance herself from her chaotic romantic past and association with the clandestine group Bellicose Solanum (BelSol).

Armed with the fortune that might (or might not) favor the brave, Alex and Josephine race to find the killer before those nearest to Alex become the latest victims.

Book Name: Mise en Death: a LeBeau Chocolates Adventure (Bittersweet Mystery, #1)

List Price: $3.99

Book length: 268 pages

Publication date: October 15, 2017


Nikki Woolfolk is a Professional Chocolatier, Author and active member of Sister in Crime, Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. Nikki enjoys pulling readers into a humor-filled into a spectacular cogged and geared world.

While sought after for her informative Chocolate Tasting sessions at conventions, Nikki also uses her polymath talents to pen articles on the craft of writing, apply her computer science training to her New Adult Blerd Grrl series (Now That Your Joystick’s Broke), and her culinary and aviation knowledge to create a sleuth chef that cooks up Steampunk adventures under a digirible filled sky. (Mise en Death- a Bittersweet Mysteries series, RIVETED: a Collection of Steampunk Tall-Tales).

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