In brief: Becca is a working behind the scenes for once of the most famous chefs in Britain when she’s asked to be his PA. Enter international trips and fancy dinners, but will she lose sight of what is really dear to her?
The good: Lisa Joy has a fantastic writing style that transports you into her world.
The not-so-good: Some time jumps in the narrative had me wondering where we were at right now.
Why I chose it: Thanks to the kind people at Penguin – you were right; this was a great read for the trip home.
Year: 2014 (eBook), 2015 (paperback)
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Setting: England, Turkey, Italy
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
I consider myself a foodie. I like to cook and I like to eat. However, I’m not hard-core (as in I don’t compulsively watch Masterchef and I detest My Kitchen Rules – I’d rather browse a cookbook or food magazine). Saying that, there’s no way I’ll pass a book by that contains food or cooking. I’ve been known to stop reading and start hunting for recipes that match what the characters are eating/making. So when this book was offered to me by the lovely people at Destiny Romance/Penguin Australia, how could I say no? The book sounded like it was right up my (g)alley, and it was. The most difficult thing was reading it on the aeroplane home and not being able to pull out my phone to search for quince recipes or wander into the kitchen to prepare a gourmet dinner.
Yes, Chef! is more in the chick lit vein for me, which is no bad thing. It’s a genre that I’ll always come back to – after all, who doesn’t need a gentle reminder every now and then that work/men are not everything, and friendship is important? The book is told in first person by Becca Stone, who has kind of lost her way when it comes to the jobs field. She’s a reservations girl for Damien Malone, a kind of Gordon Ramsay super-chef. Becca dreams of working in Italy (she’s fluent in Italian) or doing something more exciting. She has a close group of friends, but when a nice guy takes an interest in her, she forgoes him for a dark and handsome rich man she meets in the restaurant. So you can see from this that Becca is quite mixed up in knowing what she wants. When she’s asked to be Damien’s PA, she accepts reluctantly, but soon gets caught in the glamour of overseas travel and being someone that Damien and his wife need. But will she lose her friends in the process?
Reading this, it’s easy to see that Lisa Joy is a talented writer. She combines so many elements in Yes, Chef! – friendship, romance, work-life balance, finding yourself and making changes and the majority of them are done really well. It’s a book I found engaging, warm and witty – it combines the ‘OMG’ moments of The Devil Wears Prada with the blunt honesty of Bridget Jones’ Diary. There were some time jumps that I found myself backtracking on – for example, when Becca starts daydreaming at work about something that happened recently, we go back in time to that moment but it’s not always super clear. I found this easier to deal with once it had happened a few times as I was familiar with Becca’s thought patterns. Sometimes the writing was also a bit uneven and some plot threads weren’t fully established, but I just love Lisa Joy’s style. I can easily forgive that in a debut novel when the tone is as engrossing as this. I can’t explain it too well, but there’s something about the writing that I just adored. Perhaps it’s the combination of dark wit (hello Sexual Harassment Thursdays) with honest self-assessments but I could not put this book down until I’d finished it. I lapped it all up, from the dodgy practices of some of the wannabe chefs on Damien’s reality TV show to the sweet moments of Becca and Dean (the nice guy) in Italy.
I’ll definitely be looking for more from Lisa Joy. Her writing has a great voice, one that I resonate with.