Ben Cook, freshly graduated from college, is moving into a new apartment with three friends. Now all he needs is a job, the approval of his parents, and maybe — if he’s lucky — a boyfriend. However, finding a job isn’t as easy as he thought it would be, not when everyone wants to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, not some wet-behind-the-ears kid with no experience. It’s happenstance that Ben sees the sign in the window: Now Hiring – No Experience Necessary.
Ben’s never thought about cooking as a job. When he cooks, he does so for fun, and for food. But a job’s a job. It doesn’t help that the Liam, the chef who greeted him when he came in, is blonde, blue eyed, and absolutely gorgeous. And willing to give Ben a chance. Unfortunately, Liam’s not the boss. That would be Chef Davis, who takes an instant dislike to Ben, who never bothers to get his name right, and who won’t even taste his food.
No, Ben’s food is only good enough for the pig.
Ben isn’t lazy or entitled or unrealistic in his dreams. He’s willing to work, and work hard. He was willing to look for jobs in any field, because a job is a job, whether it’s retail, sanitation, or cooking. He just happens to be a natural cook. All of the recipes he’s shown, he improves upon. His skills in cooking are brilliant, so much so that the restaurant taste tester — Watson, who just so happens to be Chef Davis’ pet pig — adores everything Ben cooks. In no time at all, Ben has gone from being cautious to captivated with the idea of being a chef.
Liam, one of the three other chefs at the restaurant, takes Ben under his wing. The two of them fall into an easy friendship, and Liam isn’t unaware of Ben’s charms. After a drunken night of bonding with his fellow chefs has Ben spilling his guts twice (the first time bemoaning it wasn’t just he and Liam, and the second time ruining Liam’s shoes), Liam realizes that Ben feels something for him. And Liam slowly, gently, makes a few discrete moves of his own. After all, there’s no point rushing things when they have all the time in the world to get to know one another.
Chef’s Kiss is a charming graphic novel with bright colors, good character design, and good flow and pacing. Ben’s inner thoughts about Liam’s smile, his hotness, his shoulders are done with curly, pink-toned bubbles to separate them from the normal white, crisp lines of conversation. Drunk Ben’s speech bubbles have green foozles and wavy, wandering lines to indicate wavy, wandering thoughts, both of which are really cleverly done.
I have a few issues with this graphic novel, however. The first is Ben’s parents, who are such caricatures in their “disappointed parent” act that they’d be too broadly painted even for a sitcom. And then there’s Ben, himself, who goes from being a talented home cook to out performing three trained chefs in less than three weeks. In fact, he’s so beyond amazing it’s unbelievable. The author even makes a point of having Ben modestly comment how he didn’t go to culinary school, all while he’s cooking these chef’s dishes — and then improving upon them so much so that their food tasting pig either ascends to paradise, breaks into the kitchen for more, or ends up satiated with a cigarette in his hooves with a smile on his face. These are standard story beats, and there’s nothing wrong with them on their own, but owing to the medium and the limited pages of a graphic novel, there’s no nuance or depth to these relationships or situations, making them feel unsatisfying.
If you’re looking for a graphic novel, I do recommend Chef’s Kiss. This a light, sweet, and somewhat shallow — while being very pretty — story with two-dimensional characters. Enjoy it for what it is, and try not to get too hungry.