Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot
Contemporary Romance/Romantic Fiction
March 15, 2022, by Berkley
Review by Melanie
The first line of the blurb of Sadie on a Plate reads as follows: A chef’s journey to success leads to discovering the perfect recipe for love in this delicious romantic comedy.
It’s a cutesy opener to introduce the theme of the book, a pun on the fact that it’s about a chef. Here’s the problem though. While the book did make me laugh in parts, thereby earning the comedy label, I’m more reluctant to label it a romantic comedy. Is there a romantic storyline running through the book? Absolutely. Does it culminate in a HEA? You bet it does! BUT. Is romance the driving force of the plot, the central theme, the storyline on which the entire premise of the book rests? I’m….not sure.
Titular character Sadie, currently unemployed and believing herself to be unemployable in the Seattle restaurant scene due to EVENTS (more on that later) is thrilled when she’s cast as a contestant on the tv cooking competition show, Chef Supreme. On her flight out to New York, she finds herself attracted to her seat mate, Luke, and they share a very fun evening ending in a kiss before heading off in separate directions. Sadie makes it clear that she’s very interested but also will be unreachable for reasons she cannot divulge due to a NDA for the next few weeks. Cue to the following day when Sadie and her fellow contestants are on set for the first time and there’s Luke…one of the judges on the show.
This book is one of several I’ve read in the past few months that takes place within a cooking/baking competition but is the first one I’ve read where the romance is between a contestant and a judge while the contestant is still competing. The premise was really interesting with a built-in conflict and interesting power dynamics. However, I can’t help but feel that this is more of contemporary fiction with a romantic subplot that is not the main impetus of the book.
Sadie, who loves to cook the Jewish food she grew up with but with a modern, upscale spin on it, has serious self-confidence issues. She doubts herself, her abilities as a chef, and because of her past trauma relating to her former boss who also happens to be her ex-boyfriend, she seriously doubts her future in the profession she’s chosen.
While the book does feature a romantic storyline, it’s more of a subplot than anything else. I cannot conceive of Luke as a main character in this novel – he’s very much a side character. Instead, this book is really about Sadie and her journey, a journey of self-discovery, of realizing she’s good enough and worthy of being in this competition, of figuring out who she is and who she wants to be, and ultimately about finding her place in this world. That part of that journey also ends with her finding love seems more like happenstance rather than the event that drives the narrative forward.
However, that’s not to say the story itself is terrible. I’m always fascinated by cooking and baking competitions and tend to love books that take place behind the scenes of one. Chef Supreme seems a bit like Top Chef and the author even namedrops several well-known real chefs in the book, which I found to be unusual. I love a book with a competent heroine and Sadie excels at her craft.
There’s also a host of side characters (namely the other contestants), many of whom make quite an impact on the book. It’s very much an in-depth look at life behind the scenes of a reality cooking competition with all the different personalities forced to share a New York apartment for the duration of filming the show.
When the dark moment comes regarding what happened to make Sadie leave Seattle, it may trigger some people so I’m going to lay it out.
Sadie worked for a restaurant run by her boyfriend, who was the head chef. When a positive review of the restaurant paid extra attention to an item on the menu that was specifically created by Sadie, the boyfriend got jealous and then got revenge by sharing private naked pictures of Sadie with the entire restaurant staff that were meant exclusively for him and claiming he must have been hacked. It’s only when the ex-boyfriend shows up as a guest judge on the show that Sadie is forced to relive the entire sordid mess all the while having to cook a meal inspired by her time cooking for her ex-boyfriend.
All in all, it’s an ok story about finding yourself and realizing your self-worth. If it’s going to be called a love story in any capacity, then it should be one that’s really about Sadie learning to love herself. I don’t think the term romantic comedy reflects this book accurately. At best, it’s romantic fiction and that’s ok. Again, that’s not a diss on the book but fair warning to readers to not expect this book to deliver on what’s being promised.
Content Notes: Sadie’s ex-boyfriend/former boss shares nude photos of her without her consent, there’s some fat shaming language, Luke’s father who is also a famous chef, seems hypercritical of ethnic cuisine, one of the contestants seems a bit sexist/misogynistic