Best Served Hot
Grade : B+

In Best Served Hot, our leads, Julie and Bennet, debate the question: Which is better, a restaurant review from a food influencer or a review from a professional newspaper critic? Best Served Hot is a light-hearted, mouthwatering story and I was thoroughly entertained.

Julie Zimmerman, also known as @JulieZeeEatsNYC, is a food influencer in NYC. She has a day job where she works as a personal assistant to Mr. Decker, an ultra-rich retired CEO of a major TV network. She answers his phone, collects his mail, and helps manage his properties. In her free time she visits restaurants with her best friend, Alice, who helps take photos and videos of their delicious meals for Julie to post on social media. What Julie would really like to do is become a reviewer with the New York Scroll (Scroll), a prestigious NYC paper. (She likes the idea of an expense account to cover her expensive meals.) But, when she applied, she didn’t even get an interview. :(

Bennet Richard Macalester Wright is the new restaurant critic for the Scroll. He became fascinated with food when he was young and his father took him and his twin sister to all different kinds of restaurants after his parent’s divorce. No one knows what he looks like so he can go into restaurants incognito for reviewing purposes. Except that Emerson Leigh, Mr. Decker’s daughter, is a friend of Bennet’s and she shows Julie a photo of him. Emerson also shares that Bennet went to Dartmouth with her sister and spent time with her family at their summer home in Martha’s Vineyard when he dated her sister. Emerson liked him because he always knew the best places to eat.

Though Bennet looks hot in his photo, Julie is sure he’s some rich, fratty guy that plays squash. He had worked for The New York Times for five years prior to moving to the Scroll, so he appears to be qualified but Julie can’t help but wonder: If he ran in the same circles as the Deckers, did he get the new job because of his family’s wealth and connections?

Then, when Julie is at The Central Park Food Festival, her favorite foodie event of the year, she recognizes the person in front of her from Emerson’s photo. The two have a confrontation. Julie tells Bennet he is spoiled and that she isn’t surprised that he isn’t going to feature any of the vendors at the festival in the Scroll. She says the restaurants he reviews are pretentious, expensive and boring. She argues that print media is dying and losing subscribers and that social media is the future for food reviewing. For his part, Bennet accuses Julie of caring more about pretty food that she can photograph for her followers than about the history behind it or the chef that cooked it. While they snipe at each other, Alice films the confrontation which Julie decides to post although she is respectful to not show Bennet’s face. After the video of their argument goes viral, both of their follower numbers soar and they decide to collaborate. They will visit the same restaurants and review them. Readers can comment on which review they like best.

My favorite scenes in this rivals to lovers story are the funny things that happen when they go to each restaurant – and they are even kicked out of one! I love the humor around these meals. When they visit Calabaza, a restaurant with amazing tapas, Bennet waits patiently for Julie to take photos of the food while he’s worried about how it will taste cold. Julie begins to find herself really enjoying their meals together. They even visit Chef Sadie’s new restaurant from Elliot’s earlier book, Sadie on a Plate. (The dishes they eat sound amazing.) Soon they find other things they have in common besides just food.

I like the secondary characters in the story like Emerson Leigh who starts a yoga business for stressed pets and Jada Knox, the Queen of New York restaurant review streamers – all 400,000 of them! It was special to see the camaraderie between the women as they cheer each other on and support each other’s dreams.

The topic of the advantages of wealth is a theme throughout the book. The author makes it clear it’s easier, if you’re rich and have powerful friends, to make reservations at trendy restaurants or get certain jobs because of who you know. I confess I wasn’t as interested in those parts of the story. Other than that I really enjoyed this book and as much as I love Sadie on a Plate, I like Better Served Hot even more. I recommend this to readers who like to read about delicious foods with their romance.

Reviewed by Kayne Spooner

Grade: B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 22, 2023

Publication Date: 02/2023

Review Tags: enemies to lovers

Recent Comments …

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Kayne Spooner

Kayne Spooner is a retired science teacher, dog owner, and proud grandma who lives in beautiful Colorado. While she's an avid reader of all genres, romances have always swept her off her feet. Kayne gravitates toward stories with humor, swoon-worthy love interests, and memorable furry sidekicks, although really, if there's a happy ever after, she's here for it! She loves sharing her passion for books with the romance community and connecting with fellow readers.
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