|First, thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Books for giving me a free copy of an unedited proof in exchange for an honest review.
I requested this book because I am a lover of television food competition shows, and I also love a good romance thrown in so this seemed like a dead ringer for something I’d enjoy. Sadly, this book overall did not work for me. The food competition in Sadie on a Plate is very heavily influenced by Top Chef, which is also one of my favorites. As always, lets start off with the positives!
I enjoyed the Top Chef atmosphere, including the “behind the scenes” element. I liked Sadie’s Jewish heritage and how it influenced her food and cooking. Jewish stories and characters are not easily found in the literary world so I believe any good representation should be applauded. The novel also has good representation of different backgrounds and diversity through the secondary characters. Sadly, this is about where my positives end. Let’s dive into what I did not enjoy, without spoilers to the story line.
What I struggled with is mostly found in the writing of the story through the progression of the romance events. The romance was cute, but seemed a little unrealistic for me and there were no serious hurdles for them. The “grand gesture” at the end was not at all grand, with nothing risked for anyone and nothing really gained out of it beyond the expected. There is no spice in this book. While this is not necessarily a negative for everyone, I definitely found myself wanting more for Sadie and Luke’s connection. There are about two scenes of intense kissing that went from 0 to 100 in a blink of an eye, but nothing beyond that.
There was an over explanation on basic concepts, while under explaining food descriptions or cooking details. One section mentioned that Sadie was thinking about wearing a flowing white dress. But then it goes on to explain to the reader “But that couldn’t happen because she’s in cooking competition and didn’t bring her whole wardrobe with her.” We, as readers, can make that assumption and don’t need details like that spelled out for us. On the opposite side of the problem, Sadie, at one point, describes her dish to the judges as a “herby, buttery sauce” and the show judges fell into this hole of describing the food or their presented dishes in the same generic manner. Being an avid watcher of Top Chef and other professional cooking competition shows, these contestants and judges have the ability to describe their dishes with more complex terms than herby and buttery. Regarding this aspect, it didn’t feel like this book was written by someone that has a lot of chef or cooking experience.
We learn in the beginning that Sadie has had a major falling out with her previous employer and is “black-listed” from the culinary field in Seattle. We do learn about what the situation is later on and it amounts to some friends saying “Wow that is horrible!” and that’s it. There’s no fanfare or anyone saying “We will help you spread the word on how this is not acceptable.” Life continues on, as normal. Very anti-climactic. Sadie also mentions in the beginning how little female chefs get acknowledged or the credit they deserve within the culinary world, and for most of the book Sadie is absolutely obnoxious about a fellow female chef she has worked with for a few years. It was disappointing that these interactions were just feeding into the stigma. One would think that if Sadie can acknowledge the set-backs female chefs already have, that she would be able to be more supportive instead of being so single-minded about it.
Overall, I was just supremely disappointed by this book. It has major potential and just didn’t make it there. I did some research on the author, as she was new to me, and I see she has primarily written children and YA books. I could see where this story would have worked better for a YA audience instead of adult. I honestly wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, even fellow lovers of Top Chef. There are better romance or rom-coms out there in this field, with even more coming.
-Review by Kelly