In a reality TV show slash cooking programme mashup, a group of witty teens must go head to head to win a scholarship to a leading culinary school in this YA Contemporary. Each teen has their own angle and story which they have to play on to win hearts, whether that be their socioeconomic background or their family connections. To win, not only do they have to cook up a variety of baked goods and full meals in some pretty wild challenges but also boost the network’s ratings.
It’s a great concept for anybody who likes watching food programmes. As somebody who regularly watches Masterchef (the UK version) and spends too much time flicking onto the Food Network, this was right up my street and made me realise that cooking shows in the UK are definitely less cutthroat than they are in the US…
But what did I think about it?
If we were to judge this book like one of Peyton’s dishes, I’d say that the concept is brilliant. The individual components are even quite good. The overall execution may need some tweaks but it’s still enjoyable enough to read the whole book. Schmitt would be staying for the next round.
Peyton Sinclaire wants nothing more than to escape her life as a diner waitress in her small, North Florida town and attend culinary school. Top Teen Chef, Food TV’s new show that pairs reality TV drama with a fast-paced culinary competition, is her ticket out of her boring future. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make her dreams come true and Peyton is determined to prove to herself, and the world, that where you’re born does not determine where you can go. However, once on the show, Peyton quickly discovers that there is more to the competition than just a well-seasoned dish.
As things start to heat up on and off the set, Peyton will have to prove to the judges that she deserves to win while trying to untangle what is real and what is scripted drama, and decide what she is willing to risk to win before her dreams end up on the chopping block.
This book is enjoyable to read and also quite creative, which suggests that the author should start directing food TV shows. From Landmark Challenges in New York City where you have to spend hours running around a zoo and then create a dish inspired by it, to advantages where you can turn somebody else’s kitchen into a miniature version of one, it’s fun to read about. Peyton reacts well to the challenges and I liked how Schmitt knew her characters enough to see how they would react to these obstacles.
There were some three dimensional characters here, though given how brief the book is, they weren’t always developed enough. But I did enjoy learning about the cast from Paulie who has to play the angle of being a good, young Italian chef to Hakulani who uses his Hawaiian influences to run his successful food truck with Peyton. Every cast member had their own motivations which made the book special.
References To Musicals
I’m a big fan of musicals and I liked how Schmitt used the plot from Waitress to inform Peyton’s story and how this influenced her character arc. I must have listened to a dozen versions of She Used To Be Mine and I thought that including the moment when Peyton sees it at the theater was a clever way of diving into her emotions.
Where I felt this book lost some of its genius was how quick it was. It felt like we raced through stages of the competition and the relationships that form so that by the end, it’s like you’ve read a (very nice and totally enjoyable) summary of the plot. It would have been nice to have more description: what does the kitchen look like? Let’s see Peyton’s life beforehand so we know what she’s running from. If Dani is going to be mean, then let’s capitalise on this. I think that this book, if slowed down, really could be infinitely better.
Suspension Of Disbelief?
There was a lot of this book which was centered around the romantic relationships between the characters on the show. Whilst perhaps this is reasonable enough given their ages, I felt as if for them to be believable, they needed some more work. For me, this would largely be cleared up if Where There’s A Whisk was longer, so in some way, these qualms go hand in hand.
In summary, this was a sweet, light-hearted read that capitalises on a brilliant concept, though may slightly lack in the execution. I recommend it for anybody who loves reading about food or just clean teen fiction.
I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Do you like watching cooking competitions? Will you read Where There’s A Whisk? Do you like reading about food?