Mindfulness and Self-Love in Chef’s Kiss

Review:

Chef’s Kiss

By Hank Jones

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Graphic Novel/Romance

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: No

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Ben Cook, a recent graduate with an English degree, dreams of working in the publishing industry. But although his friends/roommates seem to be fulfilling their career goals, he’s still looking for a job. When he sees a sign for a job with no experience necessary, he soon finds himself on a trial run as a chef at a restaurant with an unorthodox way of testing out their new chefs. Ben finds that he loves this job more than he expected, but he’s lying to his parents about his work, fighting with his best friend, and he finds himself drawn to his fellow chef, Liam. Can Ben make his new passion work? Or is he really ready to give up on his dream job?

A Little Bit of a Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that this was an ARC in no way changes my review or how I felt about the book.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

I am a sap. I really am. I used to try and deny this fact, deny that I loved a good romance, but I’m in my thirties and too old for that, so yes, I love romances! I love the “will they, won’t they,” knowing full damn well that they will. I love the lingering touches, the soulfull glances, the waiting for the other to make the right move. I love that even more when it’s queer because as a queer person, I didn’t have a lot of romance that represented me when I was growing up. The only thing I love more than a queer romance, is a queer romance with mindfulness and self-growth as its themes.

Chef’s Kiss is a graphic novel following Ben, a recent college graduate who is searching for a job in his field. When everything he tries requires experience he doesn’t have and can’t get without a job, he soon becomes desperate. He sees a sign at a restaurant saying no experience required and decides to use his love of cooking to land himself a job. It’s not easy as all that, however, and Ben soon learns the hoops he must jump through in order to actually secure this job permanently. He tells himself it doesn’t matter, that he is only doing this until he can get the job he really wants. But the longer he cooks, the closer he grows to Liam, and the more Ben realizes that he maybe doesn’t want what he thought he did after all.

Ben’s story rings true for many of us. I certainly didn’t think I’d have the career I did now, particularly not when I first started school. Sometimes pressure from the world or the people in our lives to pursue a certain path can cause us to see any other option as a failure. Ben’s family certainly sees it that way. He also finds that he is butting heads with his friends as he struggles to balance who he was with who he might be.

There is a scene towards the end of the story in which Ben takes his best friend’s yoga class. The narrative takes us through a breathing and mindfulness exercise. During this moment, we can see Ben’s mind settling as he begins to have a more full understanding of what it is he really wants. This moment is pivotal to his character growth, his relationships, and his overall outlook on life.

Mindfulness is, indeed, at the absolute core of this story. Only by looking within can we break away from the expectations of others and find what we really want. When we are able to make peace with ourselves, when we are able to put down the burden of what we think we need, we are able to embrace our most true and complete selves. Ben chooses his path wisely because he is able to explore mindfulness and self-compassion.

Chef’s Kiss is a compulsively delightful read that comes out next year. I suggest pre-ordering your copy now from your favorite indie bookstore! What are some of your favorite indie shops? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Chef’s Kiss? Leave a comment telling me some of your go-to mindfulness exercises. You can also find me on Instagram @booked.with.grace and on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@ynbushehri) for editing my posts.

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