Amanda Elliot’s adult debut (she writes for kids and teens under the name Amanda Panitch), Sadie On a Plate, is a fun romance novel, but it’s also a book about following your dreams. Sadie is a rising star in the Seattle restaurant scene. She’d love to open up her own restaurant, making traditional Jewish recipes with a twist, but all she’s done is work for other people — until she gets fired. Then, she gets a call inviting her to be on the reality show Chef Supreme.
She meets Luke on the plane ride to New York, and after spending dinner with him that night, she says goodbye, telling him she’s busy for the next few weeks, not knowing if she’ll ever see him again. Except when she shows up on set her first day, guess who she sees.
With each cooking challenge the show throws at the contestants, Elliot develops all of the characters in a compelling way that also deepens Sadie’s character. Through her friendships with the other contestants, Sadie learns more about who she is, the insecurities she harbors, and just how much she really wants to succeed. In her head, while cooking, she’s often hearing her Grandma Ruth providing commentary about food, love, and life, which adds a humorous touch to the story but also provides more backstory as to why Sadie cooks what she does.
While Sadie’s Jewishness isn’t the main subject of the book, it’s undeniably a part of who she is. Her cooking style revolves around her Jewish identity and culture, and her pride in who she is and where she comes from (hence, what she wants to cook) is a recurring topic of conversation with her and Luke, especially later on in the book. Elliot’s descriptions of the food and the memories it evokes in Sadie will no doubt stir up some appetites and memories for the reader as well.
While the romantic tension between Sadie and Luke is always simmering in the background, friendships and self-discovery are also front and center in the book. Sadie has to confront her feelings about an acquaintance she’s always resented, and with each challenge she is pushed to her creative and mental limits but digs deep and gets through. She learns more about what works and how she works best and begins to believe that maybe, just maybe, her dreams can become reality one day.
Elliot’s novel is multidimensional, and the characters have real depth and are well-developed. The fact that the romance didn’t feel like the main plot line for most of the book but was still well-paced, flourishing in the end, speaks to her talent.
Jaime Herndon is a medical writer who also writes about parenting and pop culture in her spare time. Her writing can be seen on Kveller, Undark, Book Riot, and more. When she’s not working or homeschooling, she’s at work on an essay collection.