Secret Ingredient, by Stewart Lewis (book review) – psychic to young chef: change is coming

book cover of The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis published by DelacorteTwo food-obsessed dads,
One music-mad brother,
The world’s best best friend,
and a long-ignored question bubbling up, demanding an answer.

Maybe the psychic’s unsought observation is true, and every decision that Olivia makes this summer will be connected. Maybe she’ll find cute Theo again, too.

A movie version is already in the works for this June 2013 book, but it’s set in Birmingham instead of LA.  The Secret Ingredient‘s  SoCal setting is plot-essential, as Ollie gets a summer job with a Hollywood casting agency, counts the palm trees as she passes each one on her bus ride, and harbors a lingering fear of the ocean’s depths. I’ve always said that the book is better than the movie –  just try to imagine two gay men adopting children 17 years ago in Alabama…

In the book, Ollie shares several recipes with her own secret ingredient added – any recipes with your special touch?

Book info: The Secret Ingredient / Stewart Lewis. Delacorte Press, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: This summer should be relaxed for Olivia, but the unexpected jumps in. With a psychic’s warning and a vintage cookbook in hand, Ollie decides to help her dads save their restaurant and finally search for her birth mother.

Bell and Enrique have put everything they have into FOOD, and mortgage payments are coming due too soon. Ollie cooks the special on Saturday nights, always adding a secret ingredient for her own signature touch. Her big brother is totally obsessed with his guitar playing, but his huge talent isn’t exactly paying his bills yet.

They’ve had never been particularly bothered about being adopted by their gay dads (LA is pretty laid-back that way), but Ollie begins to wonder about her own mother when she hears that her best friend Lola’s mother has cancer.

Riding up the elevator to her summer job at a casting agency, a psychic suddenly tells the sixteen year old that her choices will be pivotal and connected, including a young man, guidance from the past, and food, too.

Maybe Theo from last summer will come back?
Perhaps her birth mother is the past part?
And food is always with Ollie – but will FOOD survive, too?

As she supports Jeremy breaking into the music business, creates a backstory for the handwritten notes found in an old cookbook, and stands by Lola during her mother’s treatments, Ollie has to figure out whether the secret ingredient for her own life might be finding her birth mother…or not.

Enjoy the recipes this brilliant young chef shares as she finds her own way in the world during an intense high school summer. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

What do you think?

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