Susan X Meagher's 'Chef's Special'
A foodie romance with all the right ingredients.
Emily Desjardins has long had her eye on the ultimate prize of owning and running a high-end restaurant, and Chef’s Special opens as she takes her most serious step towards it yet. She’s already been a sous chef for two years, but scoring a job as sous to Blake Chadwick would let her hone her skills in a bigger, more innovative kitchen, preparing her to leap to the top of the food scene.
Working for Blake is like no other job Emily has had before. Blake is precise, demanding beyond belief, loves food at least as much as Emily, and gets her hands dirty alongside everyone else in the kitchen. Her name is on the sign out front, and yet she’s not a diva, coming up with some of the dishes every day and encouraging both of her sous chefs to get inventive as they do the same. Oh yeah, and she’s more attractive than Emily would prefer any boss to ever be and (in?)conveniently gay to boot.
If you read the blurb for Chef’s Special, it will lead you to believe the book is simply about a sous chef falling for her boss, and it’s so much more than that. Told entirely from Emily’s perspective, the story follows her as she begins working for Blake, faces the biggest challenge of her life (which I won’t spoil, but will say made me feel like I was punched in the stomach), and how her life moves forward from there. Blake is in the picture from the beginning to the end, with their chemistry crackling and their rapport building naturally and in a way that demonstrates their mutual respect. Despite never showing Blake’s side of things, we’re not left lacking because the author does such a great job of showing us how Blake feels through her words and actions.
Emily is easy to like, balancing her determination with friendliness, creativity, and an obvious heart for the people who surround her. We see her stretch and grow as adversity forces her to make difficult choices, all while she navigates feelings for Blake that have been growing from that initial blush of attraction to something deep and real. Blake straddles the line between pragmatic and sensual, which is what lets her run the business just as well as she cooks. She appears heartless at times because of decisions she makes and yet she’s really not, and cares more deeply than most would guess. My heart broke a little for her as she would try to make her feelings obvious while Emily often just didn’t get it, and I so enjoyed watching Blake change and grow throughout the book from closed off, career-driven player to career-driven person with open heart.
Topping 500 pages, Chef’s Special offers twice as much story for the same price as many other lesfic books, and none of it disappoints. The writing is as luscious as the food that Blake and Emily love and it’s a perfect book to savour when you have a whole weekend free. One word of warning, however: make sure you have your favorite food around when you’re reading, because this book will make you want to eat.