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The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by [Samantha Vérant]
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The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 332 ratings

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"Verant transports us to the enchanting setting of Southern France and the magic of an  exquisite French kitchen. This delectable novel is pure escapism through the delicious dishes made by chef Sophie’s expert hands, the romance involving a childhood friend, and the splendor of France. Verant’s amazing recipes are included as the perfect companion to this tasty debut."—Roselle Lim, author of Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

“A passion for all things gourmet leaps off the page in Samantha Verant’s newest novel. Told from the perspective of a determined female chef, set amid a beautiful French backdrop, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is a delicious tale of self-discovery.  Thoroughly enjoyable!”—Nicole Meier, author of The Second Chance Supper Club

“Indulge in the delicious story of a professional chef, spiced with a French château and sweetened with a love story. A charming read.”—Janice MacLeod, author of New York Times bestsellers Paris Letters and A Paris Year

"Samantha Vérant brings her love of France and food to this vibrant, gratifying book. The recipes and characters leap off the page and Vérant deftly appeals to all five senses, as well as the heart. A perfect novel for anyone who enjoys good food and a great tale.”—Michelle Gable, New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment and The Summer I Met Jack

"Told with pep and so-vivid-you-can-taste-it food descriptions, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is a sumptuous, transporting read from start to finish. What a pleasure to follow Sophie's journey, one of love, family, and confidence lost—and found—through food."—Jessica Tom, author of Food Whore: A Novel of Dining & Deceit

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is a scrumptious novel about family, love, and food, layered like the very best dishes, each bite revealing another luscious note. If you love fiction and food, Samantha Verant serves it up right.”—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

"I savored every page of The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux. Join a 'ruined' chef as she rebuilds her life at an ancestral chateau, rekindles an old romance, and, of course, labors in the grand kitchens where aspirations are fostered and dreams brought to fruition. With an ear for language, evocative sensory details, and delectable recipes, Samantha Verant invites us to take our seat at the table and relish a delicious sojourn in the south of France. And just remember: never trust a skinny chef."—Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Vineyards of Champagne

"Featuring an ambitious young chef, an elegant château, and the enduring charm of the French countryside, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is the perfect escape! Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on a Charles Trenet album, pick up this book, and you're there..."—Ann Mah, USA Today bestselling author of The Lost Vintage

"Verant’s sparkling debut novel...[and] enticing culinary tale will appeal to romance fans and foodies alike."—Publishers Weekly

“Vérant immerses readers in the sounds, smells, and tastes of a professional kitchen, with a cast of sous-chefs, old friends, and a gruff but handsome mushroom forager along for the ride. Francophiles and fans of Mary Simses and Roselle Lim will adore Sophie's journey.”—Booklist

"Think Kitchen Confidential meets Emily in Paris. But instead of designer fashion, Sophie brings us delectable French dishes. Instead of Paris, Sophie takes us to the South of France. And Sophie’s journey is about much more than sybaritic pleasures. Her story is one of self discovery, family, and love.”—Carmen Suen, Undomesticated Mag

“A great story line, strong writing, plus a handsome French ‘hero’, and lovely descriptions of France make this debut women’s fiction book a sure winner. … A charming, feel good French romance that transports you out of your every day life and into the heart of France – a delectable read.”—The Good Life France

"A lush and lovely story full of food and French atmosphere. C’est bon!”—The Parkersburg News and Sentinel (WV)

"The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Verant is not just a tale of following one’s dreams. It’s a story of persevering and succeeding when those dreams are seemingly crushed and shattered. With food descriptions and detailed recipes that will make the reader salivate in every chapter, this novel epitomizes the French noble spirit of success and jubilation despite life’s constant twists and turns."—The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

 

counting stars

 

A zucchini flew over my head, missing it by a few centimeters.

 

Miguel, my commis, caught the torpedo of a vegetable with flair, swaggered over to the Bose sound system, and changed the music from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons to Madonna's "Lucky Star." Nobody whipped Miguel's ass with a kitchen towel or slugged him on the arm as he danced his way back to our station. Instead, after exaggerated moans and groans from a few of the macho men, the brigade sang along, Miguel using the zucchini like a microphone.

 

Insanity, momentary madness, spread like an airborne disease. Vegetables were launched in all directions, a few tomatoes thudding on the floor with a healthy splat. Freedom. Chaos. The rules went out the window. I smiled so wide my cheeks hurt.

 

Miguel set the zucchini down on a chopping block and then he nudged my ribs. "Look at you, Sophie, you're always so serious. But right now you look like that weird cheshire cat in the Disney movie-all teeth and crazy eyes."

 

"This is my wonderland," I said, sweeping out my arms.

 

"Wonderland? You sick?" He placed the back of his hand against my forehead. "You're looking a bit pale and skinny."

 

"I've always been pale and skinny," I said with a laugh.

 

When I'd first stepped foot into this kitchen five years prior, the entire brigade made fun of my whiter-than-white complexion and teased me, saying they'd expected me to break like a porcelain doll. But I proved to them that I was far from fragile-conquering late nights and early mornings, not to mention all the burns, cuts, and bruises. It wasn't long before they dubbed me Scary Spice, the guys having learned never to drop their pants in front of a woman wielding an oyster knife.

 

"Dios m’o, Sophie, I never, ever thought I'd be a part of something like this," said Miguel. "Do you think we'll get it?"

 

I couldn't respond because I was praying with my heart and soul we would.

 

Rumor had it that any minute now we'd find out if we'd received our third star before Michelin released next year's New York red guide. Renowned chefs throughout the city were already receiving courtesy calls-a few of them gaining stars, and a few becoming starless. Judging by the six-month wait to dine at Cendrillon NY, this third star was shooting right toward us in all its shining glory. I clasped my hands together and lowered my head, my spine tingling. I wanted this more than anything. I wanted to be blinded by the light of this magnificent event, the splendor.

 

"Chica, you've zoned out," said Miguel, hip-bumping me. "Do you think we stand a chance?"

 

"Well, we deliver the ultimate dining experience," I said, floating back from my galactic-inspired fantasies and coming back down to earth. "The third star is in the bag. For sure."

 

Miguel made the sign of the cross with his right hand, exuberantly-up, down, left, and right.

 

"Pray to the food and wine gods," I said, and we both snorted.

 

Miguel grabbed me by the waist and we sambaed. Or we did our best with my two left feet. Yes, this kitchen was my crazed wonderland.

 

Normally, we were a well-oiled machine, operating with precision-the way any Manhattan-based Michelin two-star restaurant should run. If Auguste Escoffier-the French chef who'd codified the brigade system for the hierarchy of kitchen staffs in the early 1900s-were still alive today, he'd have flambŽed our crew of eighteen one by one. But today was an exception, and perhaps even Auguste would have cut us some slack. I'm sure he strived for his dreams, too. If Michelin decorated Cendrillon with its third star, every kitchen door in the world would swing wide open for me, and the thought of running my own restaurant sent chills down my spine. The kitchen was the only place that made sense in my world, where I had control and could make people happy with my cooking. The kitchen was my life.

 

A cough came from the doorway. Miguel raced to the Bose and turned the music off. The brigade froze as Chef O'Shea sauntered into the kitchen. He stood in silence for one of those moments that felt like an eternity.

 

Barrel-chested and broad-shouldered, O'Shea's appearance was more similar to a redheaded street boxer from Southie than that of a two-star chef. We'd joke he was part pit bull, part man, but not when he was around. His hands were enormous-it was amazing he could handle his knives with such grace. The man could fillet a yellowfin tuna in under a minute. And while he may have left his South Boston life behind him when he came to New York as a venerable chef, he still had the temper of a kid from the streets. But this guy, this man, was a culinary visionary. Regardless of the fear factor he imposed, we were working with-and for-the best.

 

"Is this the kind of kitchen I run?" O'Shea asked with a hiss. "No more messing around. We have a busy night ahead of us."

 

"Yes, Chef," came our nervous answer.

 

Instead of going off on one of his tirades, when his face would turn beet red and his large nostrils would flare, O'Shea broke out into a wide grin. "I can't wait to show those French pussies in Paris what an American thug from the docks can do. A third star will seal the deal for opening a Cendrillon in the City of Light."

 

Pots and pans banged.

 

O'Shea turned on his heel and headed to his office in the back of the kitchen. "I'll join you in twenty for the family meal. Get back to work."

 

I set the commercial immersion blender on high, purŽeing my veloutŽ to creamy perfection. As I squeezed a lemon to add a dash of acidity to the base, a hot breath on my neck sent shivers of dread down my spine. Catching his musky scent, a mix of cologne, sweat, and cigarettes, I didn't have to turn around to know Eric stood behind me-too close for comfort. "So, have you thought about my offer?" he asked.

 

I turned to face him, putting a few inches of needed space in between us. "Have you told O'Shea you're leaving yet?"

 

"Nope," said Eric. "But it's not like he can hold it against me. He was-what? Seventeen when Jean-Jacques Gaston discovered him at the fish market? And he left Le Homard shortly after it received its second star-"

 

"We all know his rags to riches story. And it seems he's passing the torch on to you," I said with sarcasm. "Moving on up from chef de cuisine to an executive chef with your own restaurant. May the stars be with you."

 

Eric placed a hand on my shoulder. "Our stars, they align. Leave Cendrillon to work for me. And then we'll take things from there."

 

"You have to be joking," I scoffed, pushing his hand off me.

 

"I'm not," said Eric. "Every time I look into those gorgeous green eyes of yours, I get lost. Do me a favor, think about all the good times we had."

 

Good times? Was he nuts? He'd had them with other women.

 

"Oh my God, what the hell have you been smoking?" I choked back my laughter and yanked out my necklace from underneath my coat. Attached to the chain was an engagement ring, complete with a sparkling five-carat canary diamond the color of glistening butter. "You do realize Walter and I are engaged."

 

"Rings are worn on fingers."

 

"Not one as big as this. Don't want to lose it in the soup," I said, tucking my necklace back into my jacket. I let out an annoyed huff. "You seem to have a new flavor of the month every week."

 

"They mean nothing to me," he said. "Brain-dead food groupies. Starved for attention."

 

Eric crossed his arms over his chest, the black ink of his tribal tattoos peeking out from under his sleeves. "What kind of relationship do you have with a stale, boring attorney, anyway? You never see him. You're always here in the kitchen with me." He tugged my braid. "We were so good together, Sophie. And now we can be even better. A real team. Don't forget I was the one who took the risk and convinced O'Shea to hire you after your stage."

 

"I proved my worth during my internship. And he hired me, not you," I said.

 

"Sure, Sophie," he said. "Whatever you want to think."

 

For a moment, he almost had me, the way he locked onto my eyes. Still, we were over. I was never going to go through that pain again-no matter the temptation of his perfect smile.

 

Lanky with a goatee and tribal tattoo arm sleeves, Eric broke the mold when it came to sexy chefs. His eyes were dark, the color of dried cloves-dark brown and hard-his eyelashes were long, and his body was buff. In the beginning, when I was young, dumb, and full of hope, his charm and charisma had drawn me to him, right into his bed. I'd loved watching him rule the kitchen, clipboard in hand, acting with finesse even when under pressure.

 

But, unfortunately, up-and-coming chefs in New York City were like rock stars, and our personal relationship had flamed out. After Cendrillon received its first star, Eric was written up in the Times and Post almost as often as O'Shea was, and he attracted food groupies looking for fresh meat. When O'Shea traveled-opening new restaurants or appearing on cooking shows-Eric's status of chef de cuisine became equally important and he ran everything. After the second star came a year later, his ego exploded like an overcooked soufflŽ. Women went nuts for Eric. One evening, I overheard one say to her friend, "I'd have sex with that sexy chef in front of my husband." Cendrillon meant "Cinderella" in French, and Eric's foot fit right into the proverbial glass slipper. Such a shame serial cheating also came in his size.

 

Although Eric's many, and I mean many, betrayals hurt me to the core, my culinary aspirations were more important to me than the state of my heart. Only one percent of restaurants had women navigating the helm of a Michelin-starred establishment and it was my lifelong dream to become one of them. With Eric leaving Cendrillon to strike out on his own, I stood a chance to take over his position of chef de cuisine, build up my name in the culinary world, and eventually create my own empire just like the female chefs I'd idolized over the years.

 

"I've worked here for five years. And I believe I've held my own," I said with a beleaguered sigh. "Look, Eric, we work well together in the kitchen. But we never, ever worked well as a couple. Speaking of work-I'm trying to get things done."

 

After Eric placed his hand over his heart and pouted with mock hurt, he dipped a spoon into the soup I was preparing: roasted potimarron-a chestnut-flavored squash-veloutŽ, one of the restaurant's signature fall dishes served with orange-and-ginger-infused lobster. He spit out his mouthful, wiped his lips with a kitchen towel, and said, "The base is absolute shit. Did you even season it?"

 

"Of course," I said, taken aback. "I followed Chef's recipe to the letter, like I always do."

 

He shoved the spoon toward my mouth. "Taste it," he said and I did, mostly because I didn't have a choice.

 

"It's fine," I said. "Just the way it's supposed to be."

 

"Fine? Are you questioning me? I'm still the chef de cuisine here, not you," he said, pointing his finger in front of my face. "We don't do fine here. We serve the best, and your veloutŽ is completely bland. Did your taste buds take off on a vacation?"

 

Although I didn't trust Eric as a man, I did trust his palate. I tasted the soup again. "I guess you're right," I said, adding more cinnamon, cumin, and paprika into the base. After a quick stir, I held out the spoon. "Better?"

 

He tasted the veloutŽ. The way he licked his lips made me cringe.

 

"Thatta girl, Sophie. It's perfection," said Eric. "Finish up the veloutŽ and get on tonight's entrŽe for the tasting."

 

"Yes, Chef."

 

Eric nodded perfunctorily and stormed toward Alex, the sous chef. They whispered in the corner by the walk-in, up to their usual colluding. Probably talking smack about me but I didn't care. Soon, Eric would be out of my life, out of this kitchen, and my lifelong dream would be within reach.

 

Miguel's eyebrows shot up. "Your history with him has been dead for years. Why doesn't he pick up the hint? What's his problem?"

 

"He's an egomaniac. And there are far too many problems to list." I forced a smile. "Let's focus on tonight. Can you grab a few more lobsters from the tank while I head into dry storage?"

 

2

 

never trust a skinny chef

 

Cendrillon specialized in seafood, so we had four fish stations: one for poaching, one for roasting, one for sautŽing, and one for sauce. I was the chef de partie for the latter two, which also included making our restaurant's signature soups.

 

O'Shea planned his menu seasonally-depending on what was available at market. It was fall, my favorite time of the year, bursting with all the savory ingredients I craved like a culinary hedonist, the ingredients that turned my light on. All those varieties of beautiful squashes and root vegetables-the explosion of colors, the ochre yellows, lush greens, vivid reds, and a kaleidoscope of oranges-were just a few of the ingredients that fueled my cooking fantasies. In the summer, on those hot cooking days and nights in New York with rivulets of thick sweat coating my forehead, I'd fantasize about what we'd create in the fall, closing my eyes and cooking in my head.

 

Soon, the waitstaff would arrive to taste tonight's specials, which would be followed by our family meal. I eyed the board on the wall and licked my lips. The amuse-bouche consisted of a pan-seared foie gras served with caramelized pears; the entrŽe, a boar carpaccio with eggplant caviar, apples, and ginger; the two plats principaux, a cognac-flambŽed seared sea scallop and shrimp plate served with deep-fried goat cheese and garnished with licorice-perfumed fennel leaves, which fell under my responsibility, and the chef's version of a beef Wellington served with a celeriac mash, baby carrots, and thin French green beans.

 

As I lit a match to flambŽ the scallops, Alex and Eric raced around the kitchen, checking everybody's stations. Alex always looked as if he was sweating profusely, out of breath. Not to mention the way he'd leer at the waitresses working the front of the house. When Eric left the restaurant, O'Shea couldn't want this lecherous creep to be the face of Cendrillon, could he?

--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B082H35HBM
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (8 September 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 3617 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 348 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 332 ratings

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
332 global ratings

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Sarah Hague
4.0 out of 5 stars Lip smacking good
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 September 2020
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Spa Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read! Pairs well with a bottle of French wine.
Reviewed in the United States on 30 September 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read! Pairs well with a bottle of French wine.
Reviewed in the United States on 30 September 2020
Open a bottle of wine and grab a few hours in a comfy chair. This is a fun weekend read. It took me a weekend split into a few sections of time and I was able to enjoy a bottle of wine.

This is Samantha Verant's third book and she delivers a great story just like the first two (5 Letters From Paris; How To Make a French Family.)

The characters are well developed along with the story line. She has a great writing style where you feel you're actually in the story and connected to each person. I was rooting for Sophie to get that Michelin star and devastated when she was sabotaged. I felt like I was right there with her. The friendships and relationships seem very real and very current. Samantha writes in a style that just makes everyone and every situation relatable.

Fun, great read. I bought this book and others' of Samantha's books to give as gifts because they are just great reads, great stories and nice little escapes from our own realities. Her books are enjoyed by many different age groups and backgrounds. My friends have loved them.
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SouthernGal820
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh...the menus and chateau descriptions make this 3 stars
Reviewed in the United States on 7 October 2020
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11 people found this helpful
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Brenda McNew
5.0 out of 5 stars Great escape
Reviewed in the United States on 8 September 2020
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13 people found this helpful
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Susan M. Carter
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Entertaining Read
Reviewed in the United States on 9 September 2020
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