When sixteen-year-old Canadian food blogger Sarah Dayan-Abad, who is of Ashkenazi Jewish and Filipinx descent, is chosen to compete on the pandemic-era virtual reality show Cyber Chef, she looks forward to sharing fusion dishes, including twists on her beloved late Baba’s Ashkenazi Jewish recipes. But the show’s staffers have something else in mind; they urge Sarah to focus on Filipinx recipes.
Although Sarah doesn’t have as much connection to that side of her family, having been raised exclusively Jewish, she dives into new recipes with the help of her mom’s chef sister, Aunt Cher. Along the way, Sarah uncovers insights into her family’s past, including her mom’s reluctance to acknowledge her heritage. As Sarah progresses on the show, she quickly realizes that her Jewishness is being forgotten, and she feels uncomfortable by their focus on categorizing and stereotyping the contestants. Sarah begins putting the pieces of her past together and learns what it means to be her true self.
Sarah’s narrative is interspersed with chapters featuring the points of view of other characters, including family members and Cyber Chef staffers. Some offer alternative perspectives on circumstances in the book, while others provide a multifaceted view of past events.
The story is thought-provoking and insightful. Sarah’s experiences emphasizing the intersection of ethnicity, community, and identity are universal. Recipes precede each chapter, featuring Sarah’s descriptions and directions. The integration of social media and technology amidst the backdrop of the COVID pandemic offers a current and certainly relatable context.
Sarah’s journey will engage readers who may even be inspired to explore their own family stories.