When plus-size eleven-year old Kyle enters a recipe in an online contest, he wins a coveted spot on the wildly successful junior chef show, Kids in the Kitchen. The winner will take home $100,000 and a summer internship with a celebrity chef. Kyle knows exactly which chef he’ll choose: his own father. His dad may be a top New York chef, but he’s not a top father. He leaves Tampa Bay when Kyle is five years old, leaving behind a battered notebook of handwritten recipes. Kyle mourns the loss of his father and turns to food and food television to fill the void. Kyle dreams of a world where he’ll be judged by his body of work and not his fat body. Winning this cooking competition will show his father he can be good at something and he deserves his dad’s love. There’s only one problem: Kyle can’t cook!

Kyle turns to Dad’s old notebook and finds a recipe he decides to tweak for the contest, and it wins him a spot on the show. Now all he has to do is learn to cook. Best friend Addie has the perfect solution: learn from YouTube. With her help, he pours his energy into learning the basics and feels he is ready. On the eve before the cooking show, Kyle shows how unprepared he really is. He sets his apron on fire setting the smoke alarms off which causes the  evacuation of all guests. As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, all kid chefs are staying in his hotel, and now everyone knows he’s the boy “who set the hotel on fire.” When news cameras show up, Kyle hides.

Kyle must win the competition to show his chef father that he is worthy of his attention. If he doesn’t win, he may never have another chance at a relationship with his father.

Complete at 45,000 words FAKING IT is a middle grade contemporary novel. It will appeal to fans of “MasterChef Junior,” THE NEXT BEST JUNIOR CHEF, and BETTER NATE THAN EVER. Kyle’s story is own voices for weight and body image.  Kyle’s recipe for Grown Up Grilled Cheese is an original recipe I wrote that won a cooking contest. Like Kyle, I’ve won food contests without ever cooking any of my dishes! FAKING IT was named “Readers’ Favourite” in the WMCA 2019.

 

FAKING IT

Episode six is my favorite. It shows Dad teaching two eight-year olds how to make a “Sunday sauce.”  The chef, my dad, explains how Sunday sauce is rich red sauce Italian grandmothers pass along to their grandchildren. I stop mid-slice, setting my knife on the kitchen counter. The kids watch with wide eyes as he shows each ingredient to the camera before dumping it  into the saucepan. The boy adds a small bowl of chopped garlic, beaming up at my dad and giggling. The little girl stands on a stool stirring the sauce. The kids are all smiles withmy dad on his cooking show. He smiles back atthem,and all I can think is: I can’t remember the last time he smiled at me that way.

The back door creaks open, and I close the window on my computer. I pick up my knife and get back to work. My dad will be so proud of me, he’ll smile at me like he smiled at those other two kids. I’m determined to get this right and win. I can’t let anyone know I’m really a big, fat fake.

“What’re you watching?” Addie asks hurrying to my side. I keep my head down and peek up at her as my face heats up. Caught in the act! Addie won’t understand. She’ll say I’m wasting time watching my dad’s show again. She’s my best friend, but it’s hard to make her understand why I watch him over and over. It feels safe to me.

No one ever said butchery was easy. I slide the steel blade down the delicate white backbone careful not to pierce the meat on either side. I want to get two clean, unbroken cuts. They make it look easy in videos. My dad could do this in his sleep.

Lesson #1: Don’t trust videos. You see the edited, cleaned-up version. You don’t see the hundred early attempts and apocalyptic fails.

“Kyle, do you need to watch it again?” Addie asks with her face scrunched up and she has that You’re- not-doing-it- right!-expression that she gets when my performance is not up to her caliber of excellence. The knife shakes in my hand, but I rein it in trying not to get frazzled by her scowl. She’s only five feet tall, and I tower over her, but it’s smart not to mess with Addie, trust me. She’s my best friend and a master perfectionist. I can’t let her make me nervous. Chef Graysen Randell always says, “A top competitor must keep his cool at all times.” He’s my chef hero, and I channel him every time I try a new skill. Well, him and my dad. My dad’s almost as famous a celebrity chef as Graysen Randell. Too bad he’s not much of a father.

The doorbell rings and I jump. I drop the knife on the counter. As it clatters to a stop, I glance over at Addie who’s staring at me. “Gah, Kyle! Nervous, much?”