Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Georgia’s Kitchen"

Jenny Nelson grew up in Larchmont, NY and graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Denver. A former web editor and producer, she worked for companies such as iVillage, and

She applied the Page 69 Test to Georgia’s Kitchen, her first novel, and reported the following:
Georgia’s Kitchen is about the thirty-three-year-old head chef at a trendy New York restaurant who loses her job and her fiancé and travels to Tuscany to open a trattoria. While there, she sharpens her cooking skills, finds romance with a winery owner and embarks on a crash course in self-discovery. Packed with food, restaurant and travel scoop, as well as a healthy dose of humor, Georgia’s Kitchen also tackles complex family dynamics and the risks and rewards of holding out for what you believe in.

Page 69 kicks off a pivotal scene in Georgia’s Kitchen. Chef Georgia Gray has learned that her career-making review has turned into a career-breaking hatchet job. All too aware that her days as head chef at Marco are over, and with nothing left to lose, she’s just completed the best dinner service of her career. The kitchen is on fire (in a good way), each station perfectly in synch, the dishes lovely to behold and lovelier to eat; the restaurant is sparkling with energy. Despite Georgia’s impending sacking, the mood is sanguine.

The first two sentences of the first full graf sum up the self-important attitude at Marco, the white-hot New York restaurant where Georgia is head chef.
Huggy Henderson held court at table nine, a corner banquette bathed in a soft glow. Far enough from the bar and the server station to seem almost intimate, yet central enough so fellow diners couldn’t help but crane their necks to see who graced the table at which they’d never be seated, it was the undisputed best table in the house.
Huggy, a philanthropist and lady who lunches, whom Georgia recently met and invited to Marco, has requested a tableside visit from the chef. Though uncomfortable stepping out of the (relative) safety of the kitchen and into the dining room, Georgia takes a deep breath and plunges forward.
She marched through the dining room, eyes straight ahead, hoping she didn’t look like a girl heading for the guillotine, which was how she felt. She wouldn’t miss these at-table appearances, rare though they were. Some chefs loved them, basking in the spotlight, beaming as they sauntered through the crowd of adoring diners. Not Georgia. She was delighted when Marco told her he believed the chef belonged in the kitchen and the front of the house was his and the manager’s domain. Marco didn’t go much for anything that took the limelight from he felt it rightfully belonged: on himself. In this case, Georgia happily agreed with him.
Page 69 gives a strong sense of the restaurant, of Marco the man, Georgia’s slick, attention-hording boss and owner of the eponymously named restaurant, and of Georgia, who’s a departure from the stereotypical ego-driven chef. Georgia cooks for the purest reason: because she loves creating tasty, tantalizing dishes, not because she thrives on the adulation of her customers, and this is illuminated on the preceding pages. On the pages that immediately follow, a significant character is introduced and Georgia’s world – professional and personal – begins to disintegrate, forcing her to hatch a plan to re-build it from the ground up. Page 69 and the surrounding pages offer a voyeuristic glimpse into the inner workings of a top New York restaurant, both the glamorous and the seamier sides, and allow readers to see Georgia in her true light. Tough and vulnerable, she’s the take-charge chef who rules the kitchen and the self-effacing woman who greets her customers in the dining room. While Georgia realizes that life as she knows it is about to end, she’s determined to make the next phase of her life count.
Read an excerpt from Georgia’s Kitchen, and learn more about the book and author at Jenny Nelson's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue