She lives in central Ohio with her husband, two adult children and a small menagerie of animals. When she’s not writing, she can be found working at her county library, riding bikes with her husband and strolling local farmer’s markets in search of ingredients for new recipes.
Chef’s Table is her debut novel.
Hi, Lynn and welcome!
If you like food, and prefer it to be good food, there are cities all over our nation, all over our world that will cater to you. But, I think most would argue that, New York City is probably one of the best locations for those who love food.
You can grab a dirty water dog from a vendor in Midtown. With a few extra turns, or a little help from your Yelp app, you can find that great bagel joint back on 35th and have the pleasure of snarfing it down while watching trucks unload their wares in all of the fabric houses in the Garment District. You can upgrade to a deli or a diner and even, if you have completely lost your mind, eat at a franchise like The Olive Garden or TGIF's—although if you do that, please don't tell me about it. You can get a bowl of noodles here and then a great spread of dim sum there. You can dress up and dine like the wealthy do, or stop into a random place in Hell's Kitchen after walking around the city all day and get treated like you are dressed up and eating with the wealthy.
If you can't find something to eat and to love to eat in New York City, you're probably just not hungry.
So, it was easy to set this story in New York: to set up two different kinds of cooks with very similar backgrounds; to show two different kinds of restaurants that really share very similar values; good ingredients, good basic foundational cooking and a heaping load of heart.
But, if I were walking through the city—location not a concern—whose restaurant would I choose to patronize?
Patrick's diner, Johnny's, is a friendly place—loud at busy times, with a nice mumbling buzz of activity at less busy times. Other than desserts, the menu is static. And even with desserts, Patrick has his constants. While you might get a homemade dressing on the salad, 'health food' is not on the menu. Your meal is served with plenty of fat, and plenty of sass, thanks to his wait staff, and plenty of rib-sticking goodness. It's good for a sandwich on the run, or a hearty stew or meatloaf when you want to settle in. But, even the sandwiches are so good, you tend to settle in anyway. Slow down. Nurse a cup of coffee over Patrick's newest twist on pumpkin sweetness for the fall season.
Evan's restaurant, Il Boschetto, is also a friendly place, but not so friendly you're likely to see the man behind the food. Or the woman. Or any of the cooking staff. But it's still friendly. Your servers take care of your every need before you know you need it. They know when to give you privacy and when to sweep in and refill your wine. And the food, like Johnny's, is also stick-to-your-ribs hearty. Stuff your Italian grandmother would have made if you indeed had an Italian grandmother. It's made with the freshest of ingredients by chefs trained in the culinary arts and trained on the lines all over the city. Your sauces will be rich and layered, the meats will be off-the-bone tender, the pasta will be cooked to lip-smacking perfection and the sides will be good enough you'd consider making them meals themselves. It's a full experience of food and atmosphere.
But, so is Johnny's.
Which makes that choice difficult. But, I believe if I had to choose, if I had to pick one meal, I'd hop on the Q and head to Johnny's in a heartbeat. I don't need a server refilling my wine or reading off the prix fixe menu when I know I just want the tuna melt on wheat. At Johnny's I'd be having a meal with friends. And that always makes everything taste better.
Now, if Patrick is manning the grill to boot? Well, someone better be making me airline reservations.
Chef Evan Stanford has climbed the New York City culinary ladder one proper rung at a time, earning himself the Rising Star James Beard award and an executive chef position at one of New York City's favored restaurants in Hell's Kitchen. But in his quest to build his reputation, he's forgotten what got him there; the lessons on food—and life—from a loving neighbor back home in Illinois.
Patrick Sullivan lives a contented life in Brooklyn cooking at Johnny's diner, keeping the memory of his grandmother and her Irish cooking alive even in the foods she never taught him to prepare. When Chef Stanford comes into his diner requesting and enjoying one of his grandmother's specialties, he's swept up by Evan's drive, his passion, forcing himself to reconsider if a contented life is a fulfilled one.
With much in common, the two men—and Evan's particularly spoiled pug Dini—begin a journey through their culinary histories falling into an easy friendship. Even with the joys of their newfound love, and the guidance and support of friends old and new, can they tap into that secret recipe of great love, great food and transcendent joy?
Evan was used to distractions in the kitchen. His job was buoyed by auditory distractions: printers clicking a constant tick-tick-tick of new orders; cooks chattering about the food, their horrible mothers-in-law and how drunk they'd gotten the night before; expeditors shouting orders and the general clang-sizzle-hiss of food prep all served not only as a droned soundtrack, but also a constant distraction. You learned to work with it, if not for it.
But this distraction—Patrick's lips moving up the curve of his neck, hot breath tickling his ear right before the damp warmth of his tongue traced the shell of it; Patrick’s arm wrapped firmly around his waist, hand dipping knuckle deep into the waistband of his lounge pants, the other covering his own hand on the sauté pan handle, "helping" him flip the asparagus over the heat—was a distraction he could not get used to.
Not that he wanted to. Not at all.
A $25 Interlude Press GC to one randomly drawn winner and digital copies of CHEF’S TABLE to ten randomly winners during the tour.