Bitter Taste by David Evans

So you think you want to be a chef?

By Robyn Lewis
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Bitter Taste by David Evans

Bitter Taste by David Evans

 

Many are those who – perhaps inspired by TV cooking shows or the lure of Jamie-Oliver-type glory –  desire to become chefs.

But short of doing an apprenticeship, or a three-month stint of isolation from family and friends in the MasterChef house, there seems little way to peer behind the kitchen doors and find out what really goes on in this high-pressure world of culinary creativity.

First-time author David Evans helps us fill that gap with his novel Bitter Taste. Evans was apprenticed in Switzerland, later becoming the Executive Chef at The International Sporting Club on Park Lane (formerly The Playboy Club) in London, and at the film- and music-industry oriented St. James’ Club in Mayfair.

Evans is also a former International Vice-President of the Epicurean World Master Chefs’ Society and in his role as Competition Director, judged cookery competitions throughout the British Isles; in France, America and Thailand. Great credentials for an exposé of the high end of the world of chefs.

The rear cover tells us: ‘With a reputation forged in France, Jack Kennedy (the main character of Bitter Taste) was the pick of the new crop of British-born chefs. When he teamed up with a Mayfair socialite intent on establishing a London restaurant to rival the world's finest, the prospect of becoming a rich man was overshadowed by his yearning for international stardom.

But the dream turned into a nightmare when the owner decided to turn the restaurant into a private members’ club.

Maybe if Jack hadn't invested his family’s life savings he would never have risked life and limb to escape the golden handcuffs, but when his scam to recoup his stake backfired so unexpectedly, he resorted to extortion. It would prove to be the biggest mistake he ever made’.

As Evans adds: ‘Consider the soufflé: the pace at which it rises is disproportionate to the speed with which it falls.’

It’s a novel about someone who, after a leap of initial enthusiasm, certainly wants out. I sense that parts of Bitter Taste are more than a little autobiographical, especially in the lead character Jack Kennedy’s early years, and it’s peppered with many insider notes and cheffy jokes.

Not being a chef, I initially found it hard to get into, not just because of the kitchen jargon, but because of the (to me) somewhat confusing array of characters who appeared from left-field just as I thought I’d worked out who was who and what was going on.

However, as I got further into Bitter Taste it all became clearer, and like any good novel it became more gripping, the plot thickening (I’ll refrain from culinary analogies) and jumping from scene to scene.

I agree with another reviewer that perhaps you need to be a chef to fully appreciate Bitter Taste, but to me, it was certainly a very interesting insight into this high-pressure world, that clearly isn’t always as friendly and nice as the TV shows portray.

David Evans is also a features writer for Stereoboard.com and has recently completed his next novel Sour Grapes, a suspense/thriller inspired by the proven case of wine fraud in 1998 at Château Giscours, a winery in the Margaux appellation of the Bordeaux region of France.

He is making a name for himself in this genre, and Bitter Taste is an entertaining introduction to his style and perhaps to the high-end world of London and French restaurants to which so many aspire.

 

Bitter Taste by David Evans is published by AuthorHouse UK Ltd (Milton Keynes, 2010; sc, 288pp) and can be purchased through the Australian distributor for A$25 plus postage and handling. Email Russell Griffiths russchef@gmail.com for details.

Bitter Taste is also available from booko.com.au 

 

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April 27th, 2011
 
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