When not at school, taking cooking classes or working in her family’s roti shop in Queens, Anjali, 13, dreams of becoming the Food Network’s youngest chef.
When she’s chosen to audition for Super Chef Kids on the Food Network, she has a chance to make her dream come true, but there’s a problem. Her Trinidadian-immigrant parents want Anjali to take the Stuyvesant High School entrance exam, which happens to coincide with the audition. After they insist she drop the audition, Anjali hatches a plan with her best friend, Linc, to go to the audition instead. In her fiction debut, the author reveals a gift for creating compact, vivid character portraits, yet whenever the plot shows signs of taking off, she marches it back to the kitchen. Taking up about 20 percent of the book, the recipes (some appear in Ganeshram’s cookbook of Trinidadian cuisine) are intriguing. But while enticing for foodies, most assume considerable culinary know-how. Some ingredients—callaloo leaves, fresh cassava, mixed essence—may be a hard sell for young readers and hard to locate outside cosmopolitan urban centers.
Strong on platform, the result is more fiction-seasoned cookbook than recipe-studded novel, best suited for precocious cooks open to culinary adventure. (recipes, author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)