The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan is a pleasant story about a British cooking competition during World War II. The winner of the contest will be the co-presenter on the popular radio program known as The Kitchen Front. The current host, Ambrose Hart, will be the judge of the contestants from his hometown of Finley Village. The contest is held once a month in July (starter), August (main course), and September (dessert). The contestants must prepare the dish at home using only their own food rations. The dishes need to show ingenious use of the limited ingredients available to home cooks.
The contestants each have their own reason for wanting to win. Audrey is a war widow who is barely scraping by with a pie business. Her estranged sister, Lady Gwendoline, not only loves being in the spotlight but wants to please her controlling and demanding husband. Nell is a timid orphan who works for Lady Gwendoline, under the tutelage of her beloved mentor, Mrs. Quince. The fourth contestant is Zelda Dupont, a tough London chef who has been sent to the country due to a pregnancy she is trying to conceal. Zelda works at the Finley Pie Factory, owned by Gwendoline’s husband.
There is some cheating by a couple of the contestants, but Ambrose is quick to catch on. Over the months of the competition, the relationships between each of the women with the others changes. Each of them learns to overcome hardships. While only one of them wins the Kitchen Front contest, all of them end up winning in their own way.
Many of the chapters end with recipes. Some seem unpalatable, including sardine rolls and one with whale meat, but others such as mushroom soup and fruit scones look delicious. It is apparent the author carefully researched each recipe to make it appropriate for food rationing and local availability at the time of the contest.
3-stars. I enjoyed the book but didn’t love it. It was a nice way to pass a couple of winter days. I do think it would be a good book club selection with the topics of family, friendship, and overcoming hardships.
The expected publication is February 23, 2021. Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for my advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. The hardcover is 416 pages and is a fast, easy read.