Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Meet Dex! A Middle-School Chef! By Sheri Lynn Fishbach...

Looking at all the ingredients he had lined up for today's menu made Dex feel better. There was just no way to look at a ripe, red tomato without smiling. If was an example of nature's perfection and he knew how to show it the respect it deserved. He looked at the clock and grimaced, realizing he was running behind schedule...He took a try of piping hot cookies out of the oven and Marla snatched one. She sat down at the kitchen table, careful not to get in his way. There was a very big wheelbarrow in the middle of the kitchen, but Dex was used to working around it. He had no choice. It was his portable restaurant. The wheelbarrow didn't slow him down a bit. Marla was as unfazed by the wheelbarrow as was her son.
"A lot of orders today," Marla said, looking around the kitchen. "Is something special going on?" She didn't seem particularly interested. Most of her attention was being given to carefully rolling off her beauty gloves.
"Not really, I think people are telling people, that's all."
"That's the way any good business starts." Marta took a bite of her cookie. "It's word of mouth," she said as she took another bite, "And in a word--outstanding!"
Dex looked at his mother appreciatively. Growing up in a restaurant had made her a tough critic. If something didn't taste right she wasn't shy about making her pinion known and whether he liked it or not, she was usually right. He took both jalapeno raisin cookies and wasabi tuna parmesan subs off his debut menu when she said they tasted like hot, smelly feet. Come combinations, he was learning, sounded better in theory than in practice...
~~~

If you are one of those kids or teens that love food and food shows, as the book cover says, I guarantee that you are going to enjoy meeting Dex! I've been told that the book is part of a package now being developed which includes a screenplay, a TV pilot, and a title track song... Plans call for celebrity chefs in a variety of roles will be involved... But let's first get to know Dex and what he's been doing thus far in his life...


Dex was fortunate to be a member of a family who owned a restaurant and, of course, everybody was involved in some way... At the age of four, he was right there in the kitchen with his Poppy who patiently talked with him and guided him in learning how to do things there in the kitchen... I can just imagine his young thinking--I'm hungry. What sounds good to eat? And experimenting with food combinations until he found what was quite delicious!



If only Dex would have been there the day that everything changed. But nobody even knew that it had until years later... There had been a theft there in the kitchen...The theft of a very important recipe that had been developed by Poppy himself...

Poppy had since died and his grandmother was trying to hold on to the restaurant, although she had not shared the financial problems with the rest of the family... Dex was in middle school, already industriously working at his chosen career - Chef... 

To start, he'd begun a gourmet lunch menu that he sold out of a wheelbarrow on his lawn.  He got up early every morning, made everything he needed for the day, and had it made, and sold, before he headed to school! His customers came in by car, bus and he also had standing orders for many of them... He was succeeding and becoming more well known...

But Dex wasn't a success at school--at least in the areas that counted to him! He had a serious crush on a young lady, Sarah, who was now involved with a jock, with muscles...That's all Dex could think about--if he just had some muscles, so he was saving his money from his food sales to buy an expensive machine to help! 

Until then, he spent most of his time with two friends, Kyle and Liza and soon Lisa brings Jordy into the group... All of them love Dex's food and help whenever needed, especially Kyle... When Dex and Sarah was paired in their cooking class, it was at least the beginning... and the beginning led to Sarah, in an emergency, asking Dex to fill in to handle the stir fry table at her Bat-mitzah... Since I'd never been to a Bat-mitzah, I checked out what it was like...
So instead of being a guest, Dex was working...cooking for the crowd that was attending Sarah's special event. Ahhhh, but a man was attending that event and saw that Dex was drawing a crowd of people as he was responding to their food requests! And he liked what he saw! And the rest, of course, is history, since Dex was next offered his own network TV show!

Exciting yes, but Dex was extremely nervous, so he scheduled a rehearsal with his friends at home so that he could get used to an audience...
Dex stood behind the kitchen counter assembling a line of ingredients and utensils. His rehearsal had to be authentic and he knew cooking shows always had than kind of stuff prepared in advance. That was the secret behind a meal made on TV being ready to serve in a half hour. Dex knew that with all the chopping and measuring he needed to do, he would have to add on at least another half hour. 
The only thing he decided to save for his audience was the chopping. He knew people liked to watch a chef dice onions, grate ginger, and smash garlic. Maybe it was the speed and precision, or maybe they were waiting to see a professional make a mistake. He had to admit when Geema forced him to watch figure-skating, he counted on someone doing a butt-flop.
But that wasn't going to happen to him. There would be no flopping of any kind. He had gone over the recipe a dozen times and he was more than ready to cook...
"What's she doing here?"
"You like her. I invited her." Liza smirked and gave Dex a little pinch on the cheek. "You can thank me later, doughboy."
"I will," Dex groaned, with a nervous smile. He walked behind the counter and took a few deep breaths hoping to quiet what felt like an octopus clawing at his gut. Just start, he murmured to himself. Pick up a spoon, an onion, grate some garlic; do anything but stare at Sarah...
"Meatballs!" he shouted, realizing his little misstep. After a moment of hyperventilation, he continued. "Let's go back to the sauce," he said, regaining composure. "Now when you make tomato sauce, be sure to use the right utensils. I've got my own favorite wooden spoon, right here. My Poppy gave it to me."
Dex lowered the spoon toward the pot, but a surge of hot steam burned his fingers. "OW!" he yelped, letting go.
The spoon plopped into the boiling pot, and red hot tomato sauce splattered all over the counter and his apron. Dex did a pained dance as some of the burning sauce hit his head, and he smacked himself a few times to get it off. Jordy couldn't contain his laughter and Liza punched him on the arm...
"I can't do this!" Dex pounded his fists on the counter...
~~~


Then he had his first successful show on TV! And that's when the trouble started! The villain of the story appears and starts a campaign to sabotage Dex... and when it still wasn't going right, Dex was blackmailed to sabotage himself!

I've got to admit, I'm not much of a cook, so I was learning about some really strange menu options in this book. You may even want to try some of them, although there are no recipes for readers. But, really, that's not the purpose of this book. Readers are meeting Dex, learning of his expertise, and solving a long-ago mystery that has led to the financial problems that are plaguing the family now. Will they lose their restaurant, what you might call Dex's inheritance--his future sometime when he's older? 

You might have guessed it, but there's a lot of humor throughout the book, some laugh out loud, especially as Dex meets his problems at school... There is a great side story as Dex's sister begins school and complicates matters for Dex, as she decides to make Dex her film project...along with finding herself a nice young man! Another word about the characters. I was pleased to find many different friends for Dex who showed true caring and loyalty to each other. The book definitely is a great example for middle-school and older students, as well as a fantastic introduction of the possible love of cooking that children may find with Dex as their mentor...Dex was even being asked to autograph frying pans! Cool, right?!

Do check this book out for your children in grades 7 and above, although personally, I think some children who are interested in cooking already, even with lower reading skills at this time, could easily find enjoying the book with parents reading along! Highly recommended...

And by the way, on New Year's Eve when everything was over, Dex was right there, doing what he dreamed of doing when the clock struck midnight... Loved it!



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Sheri Lynn Fishbach is a New York-based writer and editor who has just published her first novel, DEX, based on her screenplay and TV pilot of the same title. Over the years, Sheri has contributed to local, regional, and national publications including Gannett's the Journal News, the Jewish Reporter, Steppin’ Out, Psychology Tomorrow, and the New York Times network of newspapers. Sheri holds a B.A. in History from SUNY Binghamton, an M.A. in English Education from Brooklyn College, and is a Meisner-trained actress. She has performed in various regional productions and has been a featured voice in local commercials and audiobooks. Sheri has completed several screenplays and two yet-to-be published novels based on her screenplays entitled Lovelines, and her latest, The Plane Truth. A lover of badinage, find her on Facebook for a spirited exchange.