I won a book on the Jungle Red Writers blog recently that I want everybody to read. It's Aftertaste, by Meredith Mileti.
The story is not technically a mystery, but mysteries do arise as we follow chef Mira Rinaldi through her anger-management classes, cooking at her acclaimed New York restaurant Grappa, and returning with her baby daughter to her family and roots in Pittsburgh. Will her husband acknowledge his daughter? Will Mira be able to hang onto her temper? Will Pittsburgh keep her from returning to New York? Will she follow her passion in work and love?
This is a wonderful book. Great characters, intriguing plot, beautiful writing. I particularly liked experiencing the inside scoop on what the life of a chef is like. Mileti's writing about food - its preparation and enjoyment - made me hungry page after page, although I don't think I have it in me to work the long hard hours of a professional chef. I asked Meredith how she learned so much about the restaurant business. This is what she was gracious enough to share with me:
"I actually did a fair amount of research for the novel. Oh, it was a tough job! I love to travel and eat out--food stands, greasy spoons, as well as more "serious" restaurants, and everything in between. So, for the years I spent writing the book we certainly did quite a bit of that. Many chefs were kind enough to answer my questions and some were kinder still in allowing me to peek into their kitchens. And, I cooked lots of Italian food, which I love. I learned to roll out homemade pasta with a rolling pin, an accomplishment I'm really proud of. (My husband jokes he gained twenty pounds during the writing of this novel!) I also read a lot. In particular, I found Michael Rhulman's series of books (The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef, The Reach of a Chef) very enlightening. Bill Buford's Heat was helpful as well, not to mention tremendous fun."
Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Islieb) at Jungle Red interviewed Meredith here, which is where I learned about her. It was fitting for Lucy to interview Meredith, since Lucy's first book about a restaurant reviewer will be out shortly.
I hope you'll find time to pick up Aftertaste and let me know what you think. And what's your favorite chef story? Best restaurant meal?