Millions of viewers have discovered the joy of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen’s YouTube channel, but now is the perfect time to get into it if you haven’t yet. If you’re anything like me, you’ll watch any video regardless of whether the recipe seems tasty, the particular challenge seems interesting, or I have any fondness for the featured chef. True Bon Appétit fans watch every video in hopes of seeing cameos from our favorites in the kitchen. In other words, the Bon Appétit Cinematic Universe is real.
Another great thing to be getting into these days is romance. Simply put, it’s the literature of hope. And as the old commercial says, two great tastes taste great together. That means it’s time for food romances! The world of food romance is vast, with room enough to encompass the full range of personalities found in the Test Kitchen. I will note that I’ve never met any of the Test Kitchen staff in real life. What I know are the personas they’ve curated on social media and the personas created by the production staff of the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. This means I’m going to talk about them as personas rather than people.
I start with Claire because I suspect she’s most people’s favorite. She’s the quintessential achiever, sensitive and meticulous, and also tortured when things don’t go her way or when she is underpraised for her efforts.
If Claire’s your favorite, give Sweet Mess (July 14, 2020) a try. (Sorry, it’s not out for a little while, but tide yourself over with some other books from the list!) Sweet Mess is about a baker whose business is nearly ruined by a bad review written by a well-known food writer. He was accidentally served something he never should have eaten, but he’s also sexy. Couldn’t you imagine the lengths Claire would go to if she were wrongfully accused of making a bad cake?
Delany has such palpable chemistry with whoever is sharing the camera with him. He also is the person who knows all the spots and what to order at them. He’s so affable and knowledgeable that it’s easy to forget he’s not actually a chef.
If Delany’s your fave, you should read Can’t Stand the Heat. It’s the story of a food critic trying to hide the secret that she doesn’t know how to cook from the hotshot chef she’s writing an exposé about.
Brad is the guy we love because he’s garrulous, never takes anything too seriously, and reliably sends good vibes into the universe. He also knows that good things, like fermented food and drink, take time.
Couldn’t you imagine him being a farmer upstate who’s part of the slow food movement? And of course, any romance for Brad fans has to be funny. Ergo, Nuts by Alice Clayton is the romance you’re looking for.
Sohla is the kind of person who is incredibly knowledgeable and competent but not a show-off. She has more tricks in her back pocket than anyone and has tried everything once or twice.
If Sohla is your favorite, Beverly Jenkins’s Forbidden is the book for you. The main character, Eddy Carmichael, gets robbed on her journey to California. She’s still so determined to get there that the hero finds her walking alone through the desert, carrying her cookstove. That’s exactly the kind of flex we would expect from Sohla, too.
Molly Baz has a veneer of chill to her, but when there’s a chance to compete, it’s game on. She’s the kind of person who wants to turn anything into a true friendly competition, because she wants to have a laugh while she’s showing everyone up.
If you love Molly, you’ll love The Opposite of You. This book’s heroine opens a food truck opposite a fine dining restaurant, resolving to make better food than the sexy chef over there does.
Chris is the embodiment of soft masculinity. He might seem quiet and nerdy, but his skills run deep, and if you give him a task in his wheelhouse, you might draw out a little swagger.
Those who favor Chris Morocco probably want a cinnamon roll hero. Small Change by Roan Parrish features a kind hero running a coffee and sandwich shop. This is a book for everyone who knows the secret ingredient is love.
Andy is hot and he knows it. He wants everyone to see his knife skills. He’s the guy who can’t get through a video without making some kind of innuendo.
Luck on the Line by Zoraida Cordova features a hot, bad boy chef, which sounds like just the ticket for Andy’s fans. Just like Andy, this book features someone you can tell has a good heart along with his healthy ego.
Priya is another true cinnamon roll of a persona. She brings emotion and memories to every dish she makes, and has strong ties to her family.
Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol is a great read for a Priya fan. The heroine of this novel is an archetypal good girl, making sacrifices to help her parents’ struggling bakery. And maybe she’s going to fall for a bad boy while she’s at it.
Carla is the person who brings the party wherever she goes. Not because she’s wild, per se, but because her positivity is infectious and inspirational. Carla is amazing when paired with the celebrity guests she teaches to cook.
Recipe for Persuasion (May 26, 2020), the forthcoming novel from Sonali Dev, is perfect for Carla fans, because its conceit is a reality cooking show featuring chefs and celebrities! It’s another one that’s not out for a bit, so read Sonali Dev’s other novels (they’re all delicious) while you wait.
Christina: To me, Christina’s superpower is her humor. There’s often a dark, sardonic edge to the things she says offhandedly. While many of us know the Bon Appétit staff from their Youtube personalities, Christina’s writing is not to be missed.
If you could imagine Christina as a romance heroine, perhaps her name would be Brynn, and perhaps she’d have a blog called Brynn’s Dips and Balls. So the book for you would be Man Hands, by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby.
Rick has a passion for food reflecting his Mexican heritage. He wants people to eat the best tacos in New York. He wants you to eat his family’s stuffing at Thanksgiving, and while debating whether nachos are a snack or a meal, Rick assures you his nachos are a meal.
Mangoes and Mistletoe is the perfect romance for fans of Rick. Two Dominican chefs team up to compete in a holiday baking challenge, and sparks fly regarding how much of their heritage should shine in their creations.
Gaby is the heart of the operation. She brings humor and light everywhere she goes. While the rallying cry for Bon Appétit fans is often “I Would Die For Claire From The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen,” we all know we’d die for Gaby too.
If Gaby suffered from amnesia, can you imagine how people would rush to surround her with support and love? The same is true for the chef in A Cowboy To Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon. The book is a warm hug, as Gaby is often seen giving her colleagues.
Amiel is a true wild card to me. The energy of the videos he narrates about every technique possible to cook a given ingredient is incredibly chaotic. His fans clearly crave that level of zaniness in their lives.
The best book for the Amiel fans can only be one in which a dragon shifter falls in love with a bear shifter. I don’t make the rules. You get Her Chef Bear by Alice Summerfield. How’s that for chaotic energy?
If Adam’s your favorite, I know what you want. You want to be bossed around by a dude with silver hair.
I think there are plenty of romances out there for the Rapo fans, but if you’re looking for one with a chef, give Barefoot at Midnight a try. It’s got a silver fox chef vying for ownership of a dive bar on fictional Mimosa Key.