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The Lost Recipe for Happinessby Barbara O'Neal
Synopses & Reviews
Elena had been expecting Dmitri for more than an hour when he finally stormed through the back door of the Blue Turtle, the Vancouver restaurant where they both worked.
She'd come in early, as was her habit, to cook in the agreeable quiet of the Sunday morning kitchen, when the young apprentices and line cooks and dishwashers were all still abed after their Saturday night revelries. Her only companion was Luis, the forty-something El Salvadorian commis, who stirred his stockpots with a hand so brown and squat it looked like a hand balloon. He sang cheerfully under his breath, a bloody old Spanish folk song about a conquistador taking revenge on his enemy. It made Elena think of nights at the VFW when she was eleven or twelve, drinking Cokes while everyone danced the two-step. No doubt it made Luis think of bodegas back home.
Humming tunelessly along with him, Elena stood at the stove, stirring pale pink shallots and yellow onions with a long wooden spoon, thinking of the things she needed to check for service today. She thought of conquistadores and the plate armor they'd worn to protect themselves from arrows.
Mainly, she thought of Dmitri, who had betrayed her.
Her whole body ached this morning, back and hips from the old injuries, shoulders and neck from trying to erect the armor she had to assemble afresh each and every day, finely honed plates of sharp arrogance and bad language beneath which she--the secret and guarded Elena--could hide. She rolled her shoulder blades down her back, reminded herself to stand tall.
Shake it off.
When the onions were nearly done, she crushed garlic with the flat of her knife, and was about to scrape it into the mix when Dmitri burst through the back door. Hearing his fury in the slam of the door, she pulled the pan off the fire and turned to meet his anger.
Long and lean, with severe planes in his beautiful Russian face, he strode through the kitchen and flung a newspaper down on the counter. She turned off the burner and wiped her hands.
The paper was turned to the front page of the Lifestyle section, and featured a photo taken two weeks before. Of Elena, dressed in chef's whites at the end of a shift, long blonde hair pulled back from her face beneath the bright scarves she had adopted as her trademark. She lifted a glass of wine to the camera with a crooked smile and a saucy cock of a brow. It was a good photo, she thought again. It made her look younger than her thirty-eight years, sexier, charming. The headline read:
STANDING UP TO THE HEAT
BLUE TURTLE CHEF SAYS LIFE AS A FEMALE IN
THE KITCHEN IS NOT EASY, BUT WORTH IT
I saw it, she said mildly.
You are fired.
What? Her head jerked up. Come on, Dmitri. It's not my fault she liked me better than you. And you're right there in the first paragraph anyway
It is my kitchen. Your focus should have been on the restaurant, on the menu. Not on yourself.
It is not your kitchen she said, slamming her knife down on the counter. You have the title of chef, but you know as well as I do that we built this menu and this kitchen together. It's as much mine as it is yours.
Is it? He raised his index finger. One question, hmm? When he got angry or excited or p
Delighted to be offered her dream job of executive chef at an upscale Aspen restaurant, Elena Alvarez knows that this will be opportunity of a lifetime, and through the delicious food she creates, the friendships she forms, and the trust she learns to place in others, she finds the strength to confront the pain of her past and find healing in body and soul. A first novel. Simultaneous. 60,000 first printing.
In this sumptuous new novel, Barbara O’Neal offers readers a celebration of food, family, and love as a woman searches for the elusive ingredient we’re all hoping to find….
It’s the opportunity Elena Alvarez has been waiting for–the challenge of running her own kitchen in a world-class restaurant. Haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, Elena knows better than anyone how to survive the odds. With her faithful dog, Alvin, and her grandmother’s recipes, Elena arrives in Colorado to find a restaurant in as desperate need of a fresh start as she is–and a man whose passionate approach to food and life rivals her own. Owner Julian Liswood is a name many people know but a man few do. He’s come to Aspen with a troubled teenage daughter and a dream of the kind of stability and love only a family can provide. But for Elena, old ghosts don’t die quietly, yet a chance to find happiness at last is worth the risk.
About the Author
Barbara O’Neal fell in love with restaurants and the secret language of spoons when she was sixteen. She spent more than a decade in various restaurants, dives to cafes to high cuisine, before selling his first novel. O’Neal teaches workshops nationally and internationally, and lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, in Colorado Springs.
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