Salty, bitter, sweet

Mayra Cuevas

Book - 2020

"A driven 17-year-old girl whose family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents turns to a kitchen apprenticeship in Lyon, France, as the only means to bring order back to her life"--

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Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Cuevas Mayra Checked In
Grand Rapids, Michigan : Blink [2020]
Physical Description
313 pages ; 22 cm
Ages 13+.
Main Author
Mayra Cuevas (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Isabella is a young aspiring chef who comes from a mishmash of cultures that often leaves her feeling like she doesn't identify with any one of them. Part French, part Cuban, and part American girl, she throws herself into her ambitions rather than dwelling on whether she got the best of all worlds. Following the death of her abuela and her parents' divorce, Isa jets over to Lyon, France, where her dad lives with his new and pregnant wife. There, Isa joins a prestigious competition to be an apprentice to a world-class chef. The story explores the idea that, sometimes, ambition and hard work can take over completely, leaving the individual feeling miserable. The book's layout, with its wide margins, recalls a cookbook, as if any moment the reader may be treated to a recipe for something decadent. Readers may catch small nods to figures of the food world, such as Anthony Bourdain, or salivate over the tantalizing descriptions--or itch to visit the French countryside. A treat for foodies.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Cuban-French Isabella Fields, 17, is the only American among 15 students chosen for a three-week apprenticeship at La Table de Lyon, a Michelin three-star restaurant in the world's gastronomic capital. One graduate will be selected to stay on for a year, and the competition is intense. For Isabella, the apprenticeship is a chance to press "a reset button to erase everything that's happened in the last year." Her beloved Cuban abuela, Lala, died, and Isabella emigrated from Chicago to France with her father and new, pregnant stepmother Margo; she's avoiding "the why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom conversation," as well as her overwhelming grief. But the high-pressure environment of Chef Troissant's kitchen is a far cry from the love-filled cooking on Lala's Kansas farm. When Margo's smoldering stepson Diego moves in with them, Isabella finds her attention growing divided. Though Diego and Isabella's eventual partnering is never in question and character development is slight, Cuevas effectively touches on the complexities of female ambition in a male-dominated field and multiracial identity ("Never Cuban enough, or French enough, or American enough--that's me, a dissonant three-course meal"), making this an engaging, multilayered read for aspiring chefs. Ages 13--up. Agent: Saritza Hernandez, Corvisiero Literary. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up--Isabella has faced a lot of heartbreak and disappointment. Her beloved grandmother, who instilled in her a passion for cooking, recently passed away, and her parents divorced after a rocky marriage and her father's affair. The silver lining: she's spending the summer in France with her father and new stepmother and participating in a highly selective cooking class for young people at the restaurant of the world-famous Chef Grattard. If she wins the competition and gets the highly sought-after restaurant apprenticeship, her dreams of running a high-end restaurant will become closer to reality. But is being a chef all it's cracked up to be? And what about Diego, her stepmother's stepson from another marriage, who is suddenly crashing with her new family? Diego is handsome but complicated, and he's throwing another curveball into Isabella's already complex new life. But with the help of her fellow classmates Lucia and Pippa, Isabella just might make it through the intensely demanding culinary course and figure out what she really wants in the process. Cuevas does a wonderful job of weaving together a coming of age, early love story with compelling characters and the beautiful scenery of Europe. What makes the story unique is the emphasis on career success while also maintaining self-care and a moral compass. Isabella is a character who many teens would love to have as a friend, with her raw honesty, ambition, and genuine passion for her loved ones as well as the culinary arts. This book will take readers to the beautiful cities of Europe and into a strong, compassionate teenage girl's heart. VERDICT A heartwarming testament to the power of female friendships, the drive for success on one's own terms, and accepting one's family, even if they turn out differently than originally thought.--Margaret A. Robbins, University of Georgia, Athens

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Isabella Fields is a teen chef with aspirations of becoming world-renowned. Incredibly, Isa is the only American selected to participate in an elite international summer cooking program that could lead to a life-changing apprenticeship in a famed French restaurant. Isa, who speaks French thanks to her French mother, knows that her performance will be the key to realizing her biggest dreams, and she refuses to let sadness over the death of her Cuban abuela, the divorce of her parents, and her new stepmom's pregnancy sidetrack her. When a handsome and infuriating new houseguest adds even more stress to her life, Isa struggles to stay focused on her goal of kitchen perfection. The course begins, and Isa finds herself jockeying for the top spot against 14 other young gourmets while grappling with her own complex identity and confronting her grief. The high-intensity cooking competition brings out Isa's deepest anxieties and tests her friendships. The author uses these trials to call out the male-dominated, cutthroat culture of the restaurant industry and the need for women to support one another. Isa's mouthwatering descriptions of the dishes she's preparing and tasting will appeal to both hardcore foodies and the casual eater. Sumptuous European settings and a delicious romance create a satisfying recipe. Fans of Top Chef won't be able to resist a taste of this culinary drama. (author's note, food glossary) (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.