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BOOK REVIEW: Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy

| 7 March 2015 | 3 Replies

BOOK REVIEW: Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy

Penguin – Michael Joseph
February 2015
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

2/10

9780143799931

You bet, darls. Grace called everyone darls, but I liked to think I was one of her special darls.

Meet Becca Stone, a Mary Sue if ever there was one.

The blurb of this book offers readers excitement, controversy, and romance:

Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations in one of London’s most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef, Damien Malone, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime.

Becca is quickly caught up in an exciting whirlwind of travel, reality TV and opening nights, and even her usually abysmal love life takes a turn for the better. But as Becca is slowly consumed by the chaos of life in the spotlight, she begins to lose touch with her friends, her heart and even with reality. Working with Damien has its challenges and she is soon struggling with his increasingly outrageous demands and sleazy advances, all while managing the ridiculous requests of his self-centered wife. It takes a disastrous trip to Italy for Becca to realize that she may have thrown away exactly what she’s been looking for all along.

Inspired by real-life adventures, this deliciously funny and romantic story reveals a tantalizing glimpse of the trendy restaurant scene: a world where chefs are treated like rock stars, and cooking isn’t all that goes on in the kitchen.

But what it actually delivers is far from it.

As the story opens, Becca is working in the reservations office for Damien’s many restaurants. The many restaurants are so busy that calls go through a central office.

She’s pulled aside by Damien’s personal assistant, Abigail, who is going away for a month and wants Becca to take over in the meantime. And then she’s caught up in the whirlwind of planning events for Damien, taking trips overseas, and falling in and out of… lust.

But there was no real emotion in this, no reason to care for the characters, and nothing particularly unique. This was a watered down version of books like The Devil Wears Prada and Nanny Diaries.

This was an inside, “uncensored” look at an industry which we know has some pretty big tempers, but it never delivered on the heat it promised, or the juicy secrets.

 

It could be that this book had me off-side from the first page, when Becca answered the reservations line and proved wholly unhelpful to the caller:

‘Good morning, Damien’s… I’m sorry, Sir, we’re fully booked this Saturday evening… Oh, that’s your anniversary? I still don’t have any tables available… Yes, Sir, even for just two, but I’d be happy to make a reservation for you on the next available Saturday… It’s September 24th… Yes, Sir, I know it’s only April… Hello, hello?’
He hung up. Rude prick.

Now, having worked in customer service, both on the phone, and face to face, I understand her frustration when he hung up, but at the same time, she seems not to have used her intuition in this situation.
Saturday night was the man’s anniversary, but rather than suggesting the next available date, she’s just looked at Saturdays. Surely the man would be more likely to take a reservation in the following weeks on a different day than five months down the track.

Twenty-four pages later, this:

What made it worse was that the evening had started slowly. This is bad for a waiter but especially bad for the host, as you have to pretend to be busy when there really is nothing to do. Most guests that evening were not due to arrive until the magic hour between seven and eight and I could see Damien pacing restlessly, ready to pounce on anyone who dared to stand still.

While this may well be a different restaurant to the one she took the call about earlier, this does suggest that the restaurants aren’t booked solid all the time. A good sales person and customer service operator would have tried to reroute this reservation to a different night.

In addition, she shows a lack of care about the image put forward at the restaurant:

I laughed and helped her carry another spare chair. ‘I can’t be bothered to take these upstairs,’ she said.
‘Well I’m not carrying them up there in these heels. Let’s just leave them over by the bathrooms. We’re bound to need them again at some point during the evening.’ It was true. People were always booking a table for four and then turning up as five, lamenting that they’d forgotten to count themselves when making the booking.

Anyone who has even gone out to dinner also knows that people often bail at the last minute. As such, some chair juggling should mean that they need to get extra chairs infrequently. Either way, the staff shouldn’t be leaving things lying around which look untidy because they can’t be bothered. I’d not accept something like this from my retail staff, and most of them are in their late teens. Becca is approaching thirty.

 

Abigail, the former PA, worked crazy hours:

If I proved myself, they might let me continue helping Abigail after she returned. Her job was obviously too much for one person. She worked all hours in the office during the week and from home on the weekend.

Yet Becca is expected to take over the job without training, and continue to work all of her shifts in the reservations office.

 

Becca bemoans her single status, and wonders if she’ll ever find someone, but guy after guy after guy who she meets in this novel all want a piece of her. Oh, and one girl. And of course she goes for the ones who are horrible people first.

While Becca pines over a guy she’s gone on a couple of dates with, who she feels so right with she’s already fantasising about their life together, she finds herself overseas and ends up sleeping with another man. Yet she is appalled when one of the TV crew tell her how  most of the men on staff cheat while on tour.

 

Becca is selfish, and if there had been more to her character, this might have added to the story. It could have been a tale about a selfish person growing up and learning what’s important in life, and I get the feeling this is what the author was trying to do.

But the whole thing came off as a little flat in the execution, and there were definitely no shocks, nothing to keep the reader guessing, to keep them coming back for more.

This might be a good read for someone who likes their chic-lit with few serious challenges, perhaps while on holiday and wanting something light and fluffy.

In the acknowledgements, the author states that a writing workshop showed her she needed to change genres, and I can’t help but wonder what the previous genre was, and if that story might have had a little more feeling.

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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  1. Krista says:

    I agree. This book is such a bad read.

  2. Stephanie O'Connell says:

    Thanks for commenting, Krista!

    I know everyone has different tastes, but I did find myself wondering if I’d read a different book to the people who gave it 5/5.

    Glad to hear I’m not alone!

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