Title: Chef’s Kiss
Author: T.J. Alexander
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: May 3rd, 2022
A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.
Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.
To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.
Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).
The opposite’s attract adage fits well for this book, Chef’s Kiss stars a very type A, meticulous pastry chef and a perky, optimistic, expressive new kitchen manager. I wouldn’t exactly call this grumpy/sunshine – Simone isn’t so much grumpy as she is set in her ways and liking control in all things. Ray enters the scene and successfully shakes up Simone’s orderly, routine life. Plus changes to her job description, like starring in cooking YouTube videos when all she wants to do is cook and bake.
Ray is a non-binary character, and there is a story line regarding their coming out at work and the affect it had on their relationships and work life. Simone is also queer, but this isn’t known to Ray for much of the book. This definitely classifies as a slow burn, the two don’t get together until close to the end of the book after having some intense moments over the course of the plot.
Overall I found this book to be enjoyable as well as educational on the greater conversations around gender identity discrimination in the workplace and how non-binary folx are treated when they come out and ask to be referred to by different pronouns.
Also, maybe try not to read this one an empty stomach, there are a lot of food descriptions in here as they cook and bake for their work!
Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
Happy reading, folks!