I love cooking shows. I absolutely love them. I’m not even too picky about the gimmick of choice. A failing restaurant has a limited amount of time and an even more limited budget to fix everything that is wrong with their business…and hopefully heal their broken family in the process? Yep, I’ll watch that. Several world-class chefs go head-to-head to create culinary masterpieces with a basketful of random ingredients like kale, ostrich eggs, rainbow sherbet, and candied lima beans? Well, duh. That’s appointment viewing. People who don’t know how to boil an egg are forced to exhibit their cooking shortcomings by creating haute cuisine in the presence of Michelin starred chefs. Yes, please!
I love it all. In a pinch, I’ll even settle for an engaging personality cooking up delightful dishes in their beautiful kitchen—no gimmick required.
I’m sure you can understand why I began writing my latest novel, Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish, feeling like a bit of an expert. I knew that I was fully qualified to write a romance about two competing celebrity chefs. I’d been educated by all the great masters. Gordon Ramsay and Bobby Flay. Alex Guarnaschelli and Christina Tosi. Robert Irvine and Ree Drummond. Julia Child, Julia Child, Julia Child. I knew that the icons had given me all the tools I needed, and I began to write.
Want to know something interesting? Watching a lot of cooking shows doesn’t necessarily teach you anything about cooking. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. It didn’t take long, once I began to write, to realize it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Now, don’t get me wrong…Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is not a cookbook. It’s a work of fiction. It’s a romantic comedy. It’s more about the characters and their interactions than it is about recipes. But the book starts out in the kitchen. The book ends in the kitchen. And about 60-70% of the book in-between? You guessed it.
I realize that by telling you I don’t know how to cook; you may be thinking I just don’t know how to cook by Julia Child standards. Julia Child standards? Ha! Most of the time I don’t manage to rise to six-year-old child standards! Yet there I was needing to create, with my words, an environment befitting Hadley Beckett and Max Cavanagh—two of the greatest chefs in their fictional world. The kitchen needed to be their safe space. They needed to eat, sleep, and breathe brilliant culinary concoctions. They needed to be able to flambé with their eyes closed. (Disclaimer: Please do not try that at home. I don’t think even Julia Child, who continually taught us to be fearless, would recommend flambéing blind.)
So how did I overcome my shortcomings in order to write this book? Did I attend cooking classes? Did I actually listen to Julia’s advice that “the only way you learn how to flip things is just to flip them”? Alas, no.
Truthfully, I just watched more cooking shows. And apart from that one embarrassing note in which one of my editors had to ask me why Max was preheating the oven in preparation for making a risotto, I’d say my research went pretty well, thank you very much.
Bethany Turner is the award-winning author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and Wooing Cadie McCaffrey and the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former bank executive and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she’s chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.