Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chef's Table by Lynn Charles ♥ Fun Facts, Book Tour & GIVEAWAY ♥ (Contemporary M/M Romance)

Chef's Table
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?
When creating a character, you never expect for the movie Stranger Than Fiction to happen to you and your protagonist to walk right into your life and offer you a delicious sandwich.
But, it happened to me not too long after I started putting words on paper for what is now Chef's Table. I had Patrick down. His physicality. His background. His personality. His accent. His swagger. He was as real to me as any character is after about 10K words can be.
I went to lunch with a friend to "that new deli in town," completely unaware of the purveyor and what delights awaited me there. I heard him first. "Whadaya want on that? Deli mustard? Honey mustard, mayo, gourmaise, horseradish?" His words flew, his accent thick, his smile bright, and his food—unmatched, especially in the area I live where going to BW3 is a fancy night out.
We each got a free cannoli that day, because everyone gets a free cannoli on their first visit. And he knows if it's your first visit. He remembers everyone.
Richie is not Patrick. And Patrick is not Richie. But that day, and numerous days since, I am taken with how they feed into each other. How my imagination spins and Richie, by virtue of being himself, walks right in and makes it come alive. Richie's Italian, Patrick's Irish. Richie is a happy newlywed to a beautiful lady he met in town who matches his vibrancy and takes him to task at every opportunity. Patrick is gay. Richie's slight where Patrick is more bulked up. Richie is a bit more brash than I'd expect Patrick to be, but if you ever rearrange the tables at Patrick's restaurant, I can imagine you'd be met with a loud, "Hey, hey, HEY!" a smile and a quiet, direct request to kindly put his furniture back where you found it, just like you would at Richie's.
And the best part of it all, after eating there regularly, I got the courage to ask Richie for some help with my book. To spend "an hour at most, I promise," interviewing him for some finer details of who he was, how he ended up in my little town after being the pastry chef at Marriott Marquis Times Square, and to get any anecdotes he might have to help bring the book to life. We spent three hours together that afternoon and another couple of hours for a subsequent interview when I needed a little more fact checking. I also get free dessert. The best cakes, cookies and brownies you'll find anywhere. Also, his cannoli is better than any Italian bakery I've tried. As is his sfogliatelle.
Every time I walk into his deli, he asks about the progress of the book. He celebrates the victories along the way and wants links to everything he can get his hands on to see it all happen. Next to my family, he's my number one fan and the guy hasn't read a word I've written yet.
Every writer admits that people they know inspire characters, but when it goes the other way, when your character comes to life right in front of you, well it's inspiring indeed.
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."
        

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.
       
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9 comments :

  1. Thanks for the excerpt, I'm looking forward to reading this. =)

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  2. Thanks for the insight about your research and talking with Ritchie.

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    1. You're welcome. I wish everyone could meet Richie. He's a delight.

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  3. That's such a lovely anecdote (and you know, I've still never had cannoli)...

    Trix, vitajex(at)aol(Dot)com

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  4. I enjoyed reading the fun facts and also the excerpt. I've never had cannoli either!

    ShirleyAnn(at)speakman40(dot)freeserve(dot)co(dot)uk

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    1. Oh, do find some. Good cannoli now, from a reputable Italian bakery. Or, you know, from a little deli in an unsuspecting mid-western town. :)

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  5. I'm catching up on the book tour, since work was H-E-Double-Hockey-sticks this week. I love the Richie story. When you shared it online, I get all melty. :-)

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