Prism Book Alliance would like to thank Lynn Charles for taking the time to talk with us today.
Title: Chef’s Table
Author: Lynn Charles
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: unknown
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?
A favorite recipe of mine isn’t really even a recipe. It comes from a rant by Michael Ruhlman, a wonderful author on all things food and good eating, that not only made me laugh, but also sealed my opinion that we are being taught (thank you, Food Network) that America is too stupid to cook. I believe some of it is laziness as well, but that’s probably better saved for another time.
Everything is prepared for us. Rotisserie chickens sit under warmers at the grocery. For heaven’s sake, you can now get sauce packets for your Crock Pot. Dump in the meat, open a bag of sauce, turn on the heat and go. Letting the “grocery work for you” has become, “go pick up a bag of dinner.”
Cooking isn’t that difficult. Sometimes it’s time consuming, but it’s time consuming in that a good roast, a good stew will sit on heat for hours, so you can go do other things. Prep your ingredients and let heat and magic and science do the rest.
To prove how easy it is to roast a chicken, Ruhlman wrote this list of directions. I’m sure it won’t take much effort to figure out my favorite line. You can read his entire post here.
The World’s Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe
Turn your oven on high (450 if you have ventilation, 425 if not). Coat a 3- or 4-pound chicken with coarse kosher salt so that you have an appealing crust of salt (a tablespoon or so). Put the chicken in a pan, stick a lemon or some onion or any fruit or vegetable you have on hand into the cavity. Put the chicken in the oven. Go away for an hour. Watch some TV, play with the kids, read, have a cocktail, have sex. When an hour has passed, take the chicken out of the oven and put it on the stove top or on a trivet for 15 more minutes. Finito.
Which leads me to the rest of this post—food writers. Chef’s, experts, home cooks who are amazing with word play. They all factored in, in some way, to the making of Chef’s Table. These are a few of my top recommendations:
Michael Ruhlman—He has a plethora of books out there, but my top recommendations are:
Anthony Bourdain—The food lover’s rock star. Some hate him, some love him. He teaches history of food, respects all cultures he visits and helps me to do the same. The things I’ve learned from him over the years are littered throughout Chef’s Table. My top picks for him are:
Gabrielle Hamilton—Her book Blood, Bones and Butter sparked a few key details that I used in Chef’s Table. Her memoir is full of good food, and a contagious passion. She has a new cookbook out, Prune that I’m hoping to find under my Christmas tree this month.
Nigella Lawson—Nigella is “just a home cook” but her cookbooks are true love letters to all things food. Beautiful descriptions of the beauty of ingredients, their taste, smell, and texture, all weigh in to make you want to strap on an apron and spend the day cooking. And, of course, eating.
Finally, Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan is another great memoir that outlines the grit, the grime, the heat and chaos that can exist in the back of the house of many restaurants you eat. A great escapist memoir that gives you a feel for what Bourdain calls “the culinary underbelly.”
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.”
About the Author:
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.
Connect with Lynn at lynncharles.net.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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