Alexander, T.J. Chef’s Kiss. Atria, 2022.ISBN 978-1982189082 320 pp. $16.99
This is the second cooking show themed queer romance I’ve read this year, and it’s only the third week of January! Pastry chef Simone is as proper, discerning, and uptight as her name implies–trained by the Culinary Institute of America, she has her dream job perfecting recipes for an American institution of a cooking magazine–but in a sudden attempt by the editor to change or die, is informed that video content and social media, both of which she eschews, are the wave of the future and she can get on board with tweeting and offering How to Cook Kale videos or risk losing her job. Along with a layoff of the marketing department, her kitchen has retired and in her place is tall, comparatively boisterous Kay.
Kay launches a informal homebrewing series that gets a lot of hits, but also a lot of flack from the hired guy who wants to be on trend and pay attention to SEO. It’s Ray and Simone’s show, based on Simone’s fresh takes on updating Ray’s outdated 1950’s canned and prepackaged dishes, that garners millions of hits and speculations they like one another.
When Kay reveals her gender neutral pronouns, Simone and a handful of staff immediately get on board–but management and the image rehauling team, not so much. Simone is bi but not out at work, lives with a trans person who schools her on being the best ally, and slowly wakes up to calling out transphobic behavior, and noticing that it’s only the video crew that’s made up of people of color. When Ray takes some earned vacation time to have top surgery, it’s Simone who stays the first night to help them through the post-op healing (and is challenged by Ray’s ex for doing so, until they agree to take nursing shifts).
It takes a little while for the couple to finally get together. The subplot of gender identity is strong and provides insight for cis-het readers and recognition and representation for non-binary readers. The food descriptions are salivating.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #ChefsKiss from #NetGalley.