Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Beginning 105

"Hey sweet thing, how's the pastry business?"

Sam looked up from his desserts. He hoped the voice belong to someone else, someone he didn’t hate. The visitor ducked out of the kitchen through the wrong door nearly hitting busboys carrying plates.

"You know that jerk?" I asked as I prepared my station for the chocolate gorillas.

"Unfortunately," replied Sam, the best pastry chef I ever worked with. We didn’t talk until we finished forty “death by chocolate”– four types of chocolate cake layered with four types of chocolate filling, frosted with chocolate, decorated with chocolate flowers, and each surmounted with a chocolate banner announcing "Happy Birthday" in delicate gold icing.

"How?" I pried.

"From culinary school, he’s a self-important moron,” Sam said.

"He's auditioning for head chef," I said.

Sam rolled his eyeballs in disgust as he started to wrestle the mountain of bread dough we called the creeping white fungus.

We didn't talk as he sliced strands of dough, rolled them in powdered sugar and arsenic, and carefully braided them before basting the beautiful round loaf with egg whites from which the white oleander blossoms had been thoroughly strained out.

"I don't think that audition will be a problem," said the best pastry chef I ever worked with. "As long as the arsenic doesn't kill the yeast before the second rise."

Opening: Dave.....Continuation: J.E. Barnard


merper said...

0 tension. The antagonist says one line and runs away before you even describe him? And we're supposed to believe he's the big bad guy?

#2 POV shift between 2nd and 3rd paragraph. Unless your 1st person MC can read minds, there's no way he can see what Sam is hoping.

Also, continuation was spot on about the awkward placement of "the best pastry chef I ever worked with." Show, not tell.

Unless your target market is fat and/or hungry people, you should drop most of the details of cooking on paragraph 3 and the last paragraph, and focus on building tension asap.

McKoala said...

I was thrown by the POV change. Also, when there's juicy gossip to be had, I don't care how many death by chocolate cakes I'm making, I need to know right away. And then your protag 'pries'? Not really, he's just asking.

HawkOwl said...

For once I have to agree on the point of view. It's kinda weird having Sam's thoughts (he hoped...) in an otherwise first-person narration. You also have "said-bookism" (I asked, he replied, I pried). The first "I asked" is fine and "replied Sam" is useful for the segue, but after that you can just drop the tags. And do chefs refer to school as "culinary school"? I thought it sounded wrong, because pretty much everyone I know who has schooling just says "from school" and doesn't specify what kind of school. We pretty much know by their trades what schools they went to.

Other than that, I'm all about it. I'm one of Theprem's fat hungry people. :) As is most of North America. Lucky you. :) I just hope there is a wedding cake coming up somewhere. Or at least caramelized pork bellies.

merper said...

That's what the food network is for. >_>

writtenwyrdd said...

I second the prem: zero tension. If you read the continuation, Author, you can learn something about how to write cooking action in with dialog. It's much more smoothly done.

I believe the problem is that, as written, this scene is not the starting point. Your choice of "Hey sweet thing" and then segueing off without explaining who was speaking or why Sam isn't fond of this person isn't a good choice. and the line itself is just silly.

The POV shifts are also a problem. Select a pov style and stick with it, please. Readers do expect that.

-ril said...

Sam rolled his eyeballs in disgust...

How about changing that to "Sam rolled his eyeballs in flour..."?


December Quinn said...

POV shifts don't normally bother me in the slightest, but I could not figure out who was talking, who was Sam, and who said the "sweet thing" line.

Which unfortunately meant I couldn't figure out why I should care, either. I think the idea of a new head chef that everyone hates could be a good set up, but the grammatical error and the confusing beginning made that setup disappear.

And while I quite like lots of foodie stuff in my books, and would ordinarily love to read about chefs and what they cook, I didn't need a description of "death by chocolate". Almost every restaurant does a "death by chocolate". They're all basically the same. Just say "death by chocolate" and we know what you're talking about. It's like trying to describe what spagehtti is--it makes the reader feel bored and talked down to.

Any other dishes you care to describe and I'm there, though.

Devon Kellogg said...

I would suggest clarifying the phrase "finished forty 'death by chocolate'." When I first read that, I thought they ate them, which, of course, would be literally a death by chocolate. "Finished preparing" would be more clear.

corydon said...

if there are four layers of cake, shouldn't there be THREE layers of filling?

Zombie Deathfish said...

I found this very confusing. Wasn't sure who was talking, who's POV it was in or what the point was. The dialogue seemed very stilted.

Anonymous said...

corydon - # of cake layers

no, there's an extra layer of chocolate icing on top the cake and then the entire assembly is coated with chocolate ganache (that hard coating on Klondikes and ice cream bars)

When they say DEATH, they mean so much chocoloate on chocolate in different forms that you go into sugar and chocolate shock by eating it.

Anonymous said...

I've met all these people. Cooks are a strange bunch and a snobbish bunch of egomaniacs. They are either screaming obscenities at each other in a hot kitchen or slicing everything into tiny, consistent pieces while silently wearing toques under a snotty french chef.

They do say culinary school (Academy or Institute) and not just school.

Death By Chocolate is richer than this description and the world knows what it is (just like we know Cherries Jubilee)... And the "creeping white fungus" is such an in joke, it's obscure.

I read this opening to my niece who is a pastry chef and she roared. It
seemed funny to me at the time.

But that is all beside the point.

There have been a series of cooking related murder mysteries and Tell-All food books.

So this might work if the plot was murder, intrigue and food.

Stargazer said...

Ditto POV comments.

As a foodie, I love cauldron cakes, lashings of ginger beer (it's an Enid Blyton Brit thing) and sensual chocolat but wondered if this the right place for a description of cake. How long does it take to prepare 40 DBC?

Sam: "Unfortunately."


Me: "How?"

HawkOwl said...

7:08 - Thanks for the clarification. I'd rather see a psychological drama in a fine restaurant than a mystery, though. That would combine my love of food-related words with my love of Oprah-esque fiction.

Rita said...

Your prose is interesting, albeit a little unorthodox, I'm pretty sure they are still called culinary schools as well!