by Lynn Charles
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?
So, instead of walking home from the DeKalb station, he stopped into Johnny's hoping Patrick was at the grill. The other cook, Oscar, was fine enough, but he needed a dose of Patrick. Of his food. Of his ability to speak through his food. His cheesecake, the special off-menu treats he'd whip up for Evan, all had a piece of Patrick in them. Evan didn't know his story, of course, but somehow he felt as if it were right there laid out in front of him, waiting for him to learn it.
Fate was on his side.
"Why don't you come on back, Chef? How long has it been since you've worked in a small kitchen, huh?"
And now he'd been caught staring.
Evan looked away, flushed and too tired to care. But when he looked back at Patrick, he was met with a friendly smile. "I should probably learn a more stealthy way to stare."
"Only if you want..." Patrick glanced up at a ticket on his rail. "Seriously, how long has it been?"
"Quite some time and—" Evan looked around. The diner was almost empty, winding down another day. "You still have some patrons. Thank you, though."
"Who cares? Besides, I figure you won't strain your neck that way.”
But Evan wasn't longing for the days of a small space and a small staff, although upon reflection, it did seem like a simpler time.
For all of his psychobabble and emotional meanderings on the train, by the time Evan had arrived at Johnny's and sat down at a prime counter seat for the show in the kitchen, it had come down to this: The view was tremendous.
Patrick's arms were strong and cut, lifting soup and stock pots as if they were wicker baskets. His skin rippled over flexing muscles that tested the strength of his shirt seams as they strained under the movement of his arms. The bastard even whistled along with the music as he worked—and it wasn't annoying.
Evan felt heat rise to his cheeks and ears, and Patrick simply smiled, waiting for a reply or a motion, something more responsive than a prepubescent mouth-hang.
"I'm only coming back if I can help."
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates back to her childhood, but took shape as an adult, when she found herself expressing her grief in a years' worth of journaled letters to a lifelong friend who passed unexpectedly. She has been writing works of fiction in the online fan community since 2002, where thousands of readers have enjoyed her stories.
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.
Connect with Lynn at lynncharles.net.
Lynn Charles’s Interview
1. Did you do any kind of research to determine the details of your characters’ lives/lifestyles?
I did a ridiculous amount of research before this book before realizing I was doing a ridiculous amount of research. I have been a reader of chef's memoirs, cooking shows and the culinary world for quite some time.
Authors and chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Gabrielle Hamilton, Michael Ruhlman, Mark Bittman and others have kept me intrigued when my love of food television went to the wayside by way of Sandra Lee and processed foods.
Once I got into Chef's Table, I had the great privilege of working with two professionals, a senior line cook in NYC and a pastry chef from NYC now serving up deli sandwiches and gluten-free desserts in my little Ohio town. They both offered their time, expertise, and some really delightful anecdotes to bring this story to life in as realistic of a fashion as possible.
2. The best book/s you ever read?
I'm better at remembering authors rather than books, but my go-to answer is always Stephen King's On Writing. I really need to pick that up again because it's been years since I first read it and I'm a different writer now than I was then.
I'm a big fan of Nick Hornby's story's; Long Way Down remains a favorite as well as About A Boy. I'm a sucker for Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series—quick, crazy reads with some of the most interesting characters I've ever "met." Jennifer Crusie pulled me out of the formulaic romance scene into the more witty, smart, crisp worlds she explores. I enjoy David Levithan, just discovered Larry Duplechan, and Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris are also favorites.
3. Who inspires you?
Other creative people. People who are fantastic at what they do, who have a passion for it. I've never understood the mindset that the great work of other creative people makes you want to curl up in a cave and never create again. Experiencing someone else's brilliance only makes me want to dive in and put out my best work too. Excellence should beget excellence, not self-doubt.
4. Do you have strange writing habits?
I'm not sure if they're strange, but I have to have music on, trying to match the music either with the theme of what I'm writing or with music my main characters would listen to. So, for Chef's Table, I had a really expansive classic rock playlist on rotation. I use an app to shut down favorite websites so my gnat-like attention span won't be squandered on cat videos and GIF sets of hot men. I have a sign for my "office" door to tell my family they're on their own for a bit, and I need a beverage and a few hours in front of me. I don't do well writing in small spurts of time.
5. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a suburb of Central Ohio. Very middle America: two-working parent home, bikes, jump rope, summers at the pool, and holiday parades that ended with horses walking down our quiet suburban street. I loved those horses.
6. How did you get into writing?
I received a diary in second grade and immediately began filling it with daily mundanities and cries for justice in the world. I still journal today, but it's more free therapy than anything. As I got older, I was told by numerous people that I express myself well in writing and was always on the hunt for a good creative writing class—which I never found. Once my oldest was off to school, I found the internet and in it, hoards of excellent writers, an audience, and in time, my own writing voice.
7. What do you consider your best accomplishment?
How cliché would it be to say my kids? They're adults now and still trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in, but they're excellent people. I'm also pretty damned proud that I can now legitimately call myself a novelist.
8. What is your favorite quote?
It's said a lot in my house:
"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
It goes a long, long way for personal sanity, for personal decisions and for learning from other peoples' behavior. For a more inspirational quote, I love the popular one from Dead Poets Society:
That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
9. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a writer?
Time with my family. Fortunately, I didn't get into this gig until my kids were older, but I know I probably was too absent years back when I started. Even still, I know I'm missing time with them, with my husband, my parents. It has, however, made hubby and I very protective about the time we do have together, which I've only seen as a positive.
10. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely. Oft times it's what people see before the title and most definitely before the summary. If that visual isn't there, you've lost them, possibly for good. We are very fortunate at Interlude to have an amazing art director running our cover designs. She's been able to do great work herself and pull in talented artists to assist her in making each of our titles come to life.
11. How did you come up with the title? Names?
Chef's Table came about with assistance from our editorial director. It was the first on a list of options and I adored it. It hits on a key scene in the book, it's crisp, memorable and spot on.
For character names, I start with a search for names popular at the time of the character's birth and try a few on that are further down the "popular" list. Sometimes, if I have a specific background in mind, like I did for Patrick, I go with meanings and origins. Same with surnames. Occasionally, the name will just pop in my head so quickly and confidently, I have no choice but to go with it.
12. What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your book?
That I really enjoy the editing process; having other people read through my book, make judgment calls, ask questions and flat out say, "This isn't working." I feared it like you wouldn't believe, and it ended up being an absolute joy. Not to say I didn't want to tear my hair out at times, but that was never because of what they said or wanted, but because I had to come up with ways to make it work. It was also rewarding to be able to explain why I did something and have them respect my point of view. I never, ever expected to come out of it with a smile on my face.
THE AUTHOR WILL BE GIVING AWAY:
A $25 Interlude Press GC to one randomly drawn winner and digital copies of CHEF’S TABLE to ten randomly winners via Rafflecopter. One randomly chosen host will win a $25 Interlude Press GC.a Rafflecopter giveaway