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A Novel of Dining and Deceit
Releasing Oct 27th, 2015
Full of wit and mouth-watering cuisines, Jessica Tom’s debut novel offers a clever insider take on the rarefied world of New York City’s dining scene in the tradition of The Devil Wears Prada meets Kitchen Confidential.
Food whore (n.) A person who will do anything for food.
When Tia Monroe moves to New York City, she plans to put herself on the culinary map in no time. But after a coveted internship goes up in smoke, Tia’s suddenly just another young food lover in the big city.
But when Michael Saltz, a legendary New York Times restaurant critic, lets Tia in on a career-ending secret—that he’s lost his sense of taste—everything changes. Now he wants Tia to serve as his palate, ghostwriting his reviews. In return he promises her lavish meals, a bottomless cache of designer clothing, and the opportunity of a lifetime. Out of prospects and determined to make it, Tia agrees.
Within weeks, Tia’s world transforms into one of luxury: four-star dinners, sexy celebrity chefs, and an unlimited expense account at Bergdorf Goodman. Tia loves every minute of it…until she sees her words in print and Michael Saltz taking all the credit. As her secret identity begins to crumble and the veneer of extravagance wears thin, Tia is forced to confront what it means to truly succeed—and how far she’s willing to go to get there.
The reception was meant to be casual and fun, but instead the air vibrated with tension, like a kettle on the verge of boiling. I saw some people in crisp lab coats (the food science researchers), others in tweed jackets (the cultural anthropologists), and a select group in shorts and hoodies who looked about the same age as us (the Internet start-up founders). The room was a convergence of all kinds of food industry professionals: restaurateurs, packaged food makers, web series producers. Students like me jockeyed for position around these would-be mentors, needy moons circling any planet with a vacancy in its orbit.
“Do you see Helen?” I asked Elliott. He already had a job at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, but he’d come with me to the graduate student reception as a show of support.
Even though he had attended three of her speaking engagements with me and knew her face, he checked her picture again before scanning the crowd.
“Helen . . . Helen . . . where are you, Helen?” he said with squinted, searching eyes. “Want me to walk around? I’ll text you if I see her.”
Before I could say yes, Elliott was off, hunting. He was good like that. Elliott was Elliott—goofy and kind and the type of guy who made me giddy even by standing a little too close. He’s a good one.
But one thing Elliott will never be is a person who loves to eat. He isn’t opposed to a good meal or annoyingly picky or anything like that. It’s just that food doesn’t matter to him. If a meal ever tried to speak to Elliott, he’d probably excuse himself from the conversation. But that didn’t mean he’d bail on helping me out.
Now that I was officially in NYU’s master’s program in Food Studies, I didn’t want to leave Helen to chance. The committee already had my internship application and I’d find out my placement in five days, but maybe—just maybe—I could seal the deal by charming the socks off Helen at this event.
Helen is brilliant. Her work for the Times is legendary for its incisive critiques, but I love her memoirs and cookbooks the most. Unshackled by journalistic constraints, her voice grows
warm and visceral and pulls you into the heart of every recipe and story. You sit in her blue childhood kitchen in Massachusetts, ache over her short-lived love affair with a chef in France,
grit your teeth at her hectic days as a new mother.
Part of my plan included enticing Helen with a batch of my special cashew-almond-
walnut- pecan Dacquoise Drops, something to make her take notice of my application essay. Dacquoise Drops were no ordinary cookies. They’re what drove me to Helen, though I can’t say I planned it that way.
Reprinted courtesy of William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers.
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Jessica Tom is a writer and food blogger living in Brooklyn. She has worked on initiatives with restaurants, hospitality startups, food trucks, and citywide culinary programs. Jessica attended Yale University and graduated with a concentration in fiction writing, studying three years under Amy Bloom. She brings a wide variety of food experience to her writing.