Welcome to the worst day of Chef Charlie Sheridan’s life, the day he’s about to lose his two great loves: his childhood sweetheart, Lulu, and the legendary Brighton hotel his grandfather, Franco Sheridan, opened in 1973.
This is the story of the Belle Hotel, one that spans the course of four decades – from the training of a young chef in the 1970s and 80s, through the hedonistic 90s, up to the credit crunch of the noughties – and leads us right back to Charlie’s present-day suffering.
In this bittersweet and salty tale, our two Michelin star-crossed lovers navigate their seaside hangout for actors, artists and rock stars; the lure of the great restaurants of London; and the devastating effects of three generations of family secrets.
As someone who works in the hospitality trade, I appreciated the realistic (if occasionally tongue in cheek) view of the industry. Too often in literature it’s portrayed as all mainly being about icing cupcakes and dealing with wonderfully behaved guests. If only. As we see in this book, an awful lot goes on behind the scenes in a busy hotel, such as endless work, constant juggling to avoid the latest looming financial crisis, the need to keep abreast of all the latest relevant ideas and developments and building that customer base. For many people it will be quite an eye-opener, and it’s all very entertainingly done.
There’s lots of variety in how the story is set out – sometimes with a time and the relevant character’s name to head a section, sometimes as more straightforward narration, and there are letters, recipes and receipts too along the way. This keeps everything as fresh and bubbly as the author’s writing. Real events and people are woven into the fictional action, which definitely catches the tone of the various eras in which this action takes place, which is 1973 onwards. Trust me, I’ve lived through those times!
Charlie makes for a sympathetic hero, pretty much from the word go. We immediately start hoping he’ll find that £10,000 he needs, although it seems a tall order. We quickly realise Charlie is someone who won’t give up on his dreams and is someone to admire. We follow both his and his family’s fortunes in the course of the novel.
It’s definitely different, extremely enjoyable and absolutely to be recommended.
About the author
Craig Melvin holds an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and works as a restaurant consultant in London and Brighton. He was mentored by Albert Roux at catering college and has worked in the hotel industry ever since.
Buy the book here.