Olivia “Ollie” Paras, now executive chef at the White House after her adventures in State of the Onion, returns for the holiday season in Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy. Called to see the First Lady to discuss plans for Thanksgiving, the Secret Service speeds in and rushes Ollie; the First Lady, Mrs. Campbell; and her nephew, Sean Baxter, to the bunker for protection because they’ve found a suspicious device. During the long wait, Ollie becomes privy to the First Lady’s personal business issue, whether to sell a business that she and three other people have inherited from their parents. The Thanksgiving dinner will be attended by the partners, all three of whom are eager for her to sell and putting the pressure on hard. Sean who has served as the First Lady’s advisor in this issue, is the only one to disagree with the decision to sell. With the Secret Service’s all-clear, Ollie returns to the kitchen to work on plans for the major events coming up for the holiday season at the White House. However, soon, the kitchen staff hear a loud thud, and Ollie finds the chief electrician lying electrocuted next to a power box. The other electricians just assume this was due to a careless mistake, but Ollie is not so sure.
Soon after this, as one of the department heads, Ollie gets sent to a meeting in which she learns that the suspicious device has been an inactivated improvised explosive device and that all White House employees must go through special training to learn to identify suspicious items.
But when Thanksgiving arrives, the guests assemble for dinner, but Sean does not. As the members of the kitchen staff worry about the food’s getting cold from the wait, the news arrives that Sean has been found dead, shot in the head. Many assume he committed suicide, but once again, Ollie has her suspicions.
The book is not as intense as the previous book but still gripped my attention just as much. The plot moved quickly and with a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the book, especially all the details about life in the White House. Seeing the work done in the kitchen and all that the staff in the background does to keep the White House running effectively was really fascinating. Hyzy does an excellent job of drawing her characters both realistically and as ones whom we soon become deeply invested in.
I enjoyed the narration of Eileen Stevens, who does a lot in bringing this book to life. I enjoyed the accents of the foreigners who work in the kitchen in addition to the Southern accent of Mrs. Campbell.
This book is high on my list of recommended series for all mystery lovers. It’s not gruesome or has any sex, so fans of cozies will appreciate it, while it avoids the cutesy side of things, so fans of harder core books can still appreciate it. I give this book five stars!
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
This is a fun series so far. Eileen Stevens is a fabulous narrator! Can't wait to get to the next one!
Have you listened to any of Eileen Stevens’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Eileen Stevens is one of my favorites.
While I enjoyed the White House setting and the fact the leading character is a capable woman, I was regularly distracted by the inaccuracies of kitchen life. I thought the narrator did a good job.
Just a couple of notes about the kitchen culture she got wrong:
*The head chef (regardless of what he or she is called) is the boss - no back talk such as Bucky regularly passes her way would be accepted.
*The rest of the kitchen staff would call her CHEF during working hours. Yes, they do it on TV and it is the way of the kitchen.
*If four professionally trained chefs are panicking over Thanksgiving dinner for 9, there is something terribly wrong. Panicking over the reception for 200 is much more rational.
*If she has worked her way up to Executive Chef at the White House, she will not be surprised at the amount of paper work that comes her way. And the worst part is not scheduling employees' vacations, it is ordering food, vetting suppliers and checking in deliveries. The week this book occurs would have been a controlled chaos - something we do not see at all.
*Any meal made from MREs and canned supplies may be nutritious but it would not be of award winning caliber.
I had some fun with the book but am not sure I will take on another.
Would you try another book from Julie Hyzy and/or Eileen Stevens?
Has Hail to the Chef turned you off from other books in this genre?
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
Narrator was fine, it was the story that bored me. And was kind of stupid.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Hail to the Chef?
I would not have published this book.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
I rarely listen to books from a series back-to-back. I enjoyed the first book of the White House Chef Mysteries so much that I made an exception and listened to the first two books one after the other. That's 1) a sign of how enjoyable I find these books to be, and 2) probably a lesson to stick to my original practice of not consuming them in sequence.
As I've mentioned before, this narrator is periodically irritating with her gravely approach to male voices. I found that easy to ignore, particularly since I already knew it was just going to be that way. These stories have twists and turns that kept this listener quite entertained. However, there is minimal character development and nuance in these stories. If I want complexity all the time, there are plenty of other books available...but that might explain why sequential listening wasn't the greatest idea.
What I absolutely love about these books are 1) the White House related stories, 2) the personality of the primary character, and 3) the pacing of the book. Re the White House part: the pressures and demands on the kitchen staff are really interesting and probably reasonably close to reality. The challenges that various staff departments face and their overall pride and response to the First Family and their historic home is fascinating to this listener. Re the primary character: she is resourceful, creative, and very "can-do"; while experiencing human fears, exhilarations, and all the rest of real life emotional cycles. She is easy to relate to vs being so extreme that you could never see yourself in the various situations. Re pacing: Julie Hyzy has set a pace that is almost rhythmic to listen to. She describes scenes and sets environments deftly with a thoroughly enjoyable economy of words. Nothing seems to slow down or drag.
The stories are not overly complex, yet you don't always see things coming. Overall, I find these books to be a treat somewhat like dessert, but they definitely aren't a heavy meal. (And, please excuse the culinary metaphors.)