Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Lucy Burdette's TOPPED CHEF: A Lethal Cook-off
HALLIE EPHRON: Watch out, Hayley Snow the food critic for Key Zest is back!
Lucy Burdette's new Hayley Snow mystery TOPPED CHEF is completely hysterical and for a serious foodie like me, completely divine. In this one Hayley gets rooked into judging a chefs' competition. She's horrified to discover that one of her fellow judges is a chef whom she'd just a soon avoid -- she just gave his restaurant a scathing review.
No worries, because in short order that fellow judge is in no position to give her any grief at all, and Hayley is up to her neck in intrigue.
What I love about this book is the way Lucy uses the three competitors to poke out there. Like... molecular gastronomy.
LUCY BURDETTE: So here's the thing: I had to come up with three foodie candidates for the TV show, and there were already four judges. That's seven characters and I haven't even added the Key West regulars! How were readers going to keep track of them? The clearest way seemed to be how and what they cook--and as one of the characters says, "what is their philosophy of cooking?"
I had lots of fun imagining how the three chefs would think about food and what they’d prepare. One of them leans toward home-style Southern food (a carping judge calls him “Paula Deen squared"); a second cooks from the tradition of molecular gastronomy (a lot of spheres and fumes); and the third, now that I think about it, is a little lost. Although she did produce some killer key lime cupcakes for the wedding challenge.
HALLIE: Okay, so make us jealous. What kind of research did you need to do for TOPPED CHEF?
LUCY: I'm afraid you all will line up and throw cream pies at me if I wax on too long about Key West. I will say that Hayley has a disastrous date at Michael's Restaurant. She eats exactly what I ate. And there is a fabulous event every year called the KEY WEST FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL. It's basically a taste of Key West, but it goes on for three days--a perfect backdrop for a cozy mystery!
HALLIE: Being a restaurant critic is Hayley's dream job. Is it one you ever dreamed about?
LUCY: I love to eat, and I love to eat good food. But not fancy, fussy stuff. I don't think I'd enjoy being a food critic in real life--when I go out to eat, I like to choose what I feel like eating, not what I think other folks want to hear about. And I draw lines where my character Hayley Snow, cannot. For instance, tentacles. Raw fish and meat. Slimy things. Like that:).
HALLIE: Oh, Lucy, lead me right over to all the tentacles and raw fish you pass up. Mmmm.
Key West is so quirky and filled with so many memorable characters. Tell us about one who turns up in this book, hopefully not dead.
LUCY: If you've read the first two books in the series, you'll remember meeting Lorenzo, the tarot card reader--he's one of my faves and he shows up in TOPPED CHEF too.
But then last year I offered an auction item to benefit the Waterfront Playhouse--naming rights to a character in TOPPED CHEF. The man who won the auction sent me a photo and bio of the character he wanted me to include--Randy Thompson, an actual drag queen who performs at the Aqua Bar as Victoria.
I didn't have the heart to explain that I'd offered naming rights, not character development rights. So I took the real Randy to lunch to talk about the psychology of drag queens and watched him (her) perform a few times, and expanded the character from those points. He's utterly adorable and the character turned out to be so much fun!
HALLIE: You were definitely in luck. Randy could have been a computer programmer or an insurance salesman.
Where will your readers find you promoting this book?
LUCY: My kick-off party will take place at RJ Julia booksellers in Madison CT on May 8 at 7 pm. We always have cake and champagne--please come if you can!
I am also doing a blog tour and after that, a "Molly Weston" tour of the Raleigh/Durham area with Hallie and Jennifer McMahon. I'm so looking forward to that! All the details can be found on my website.
Here's a link for ordering the book, and a fabulous book trailer.
HALLIE: Thanks, Lucy! Lucy will be giving away a signed copy of TOPPED CHEF to one lucky commenter, so let's hear from you.
My question: What are your "raw meat and tentacles" -- the foods you'd rather not see on your plate, thanks very much.