Love à la Mode


By Stephanie Kate Strohm

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Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . .

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love à la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.


For Max. There’s no one else I’d rather eat with.

The girl across the aisle was staring at him.

At first, Henry had thought it was an accident. Maybe she’d just looked his way randomly, or maybe he’d imagined it, but it wasn’t an accident, and he hadn’t imagined it. She was definitely staring at him. Well, maybe at him wasn’t totally right, but definitely near him. Her eyes were fixed somewhere around his hands, which were holding the latest issue of Lucky Peach magazine. It was weird.

She hadn’t been staring when he’d gotten on the plane. She’d been sitting there first, which made sense, because Henry had been one of the last people in boarding group four to file in. He’d decided that, yes, the mini Oreos and the Teddy Grahams were both good snack choices, so he’d circled back around to Hudson News to get the Grahams, too, and had almost missed his boarding group.

Henry hadn’t noticed the girl because she was pretty—even though she was. At first he’d just seen a white girl around his age sitting across the aisle from him, but when he looked again, he’d noticed her crazy-big brown eyes and the thick toffee-colored braid resting on one shoulder. It was the exact same color as the peanut butter toffee Henry had gotten once at the Wicker Park Farmers Market and had never been able to find again. But he’d noticed her because she was just sitting. Calmly. Patiently. Like she was waiting for something. Not on her phone or on an iPad or flipping through a magazine like almost everyone else he’d passed, but just sitting there. She was still sitting, but now she was staring at him. Well, near him.

Henry tried to wedge himself farther into the aisle, trying to get away from the people next to him. Yes, his elbow had been bumped by the flight attendants twice already, but a bruised elbow was vastly preferable to what was going on next to him in 22A and 22B.

“We’re on our honeymoon!” 22A and 22B had announced proudly, Mrs. 22B waving a giant diamond inches from Henry’s nostrils. They had then proceeded to practically merge into one person, giggling and kissing, and now Henry was the unwilling third wheel in their relationship.

Man. Eight hours was a long flight no matter what the circumstances, but being stuck next to 22A and 22B was truly cruel and unusual. It wasn’t the longest flight Henry had been on—that had been when his family had gone on vacation to Hawaii, and that had also been an excruciating trip. His little sister, Alice, had won “Halfway to Hawaii” and wouldn’t stop gloating about the bag of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts she’d been awarded as a prize for correctly guessing the exact time their flight hit the halfway point. She hadn’t let Henry eat any of them, and she’d eventually left them in the backseat of their rental car, where they fused into one giant melted nutty chocolate blob. Mom threw the bag out. On the flight back to Chicago, when Henry had fallen asleep on the plane, Alice had drawn purple zoo animals all over his arms. In marker.

But in eight hours, he’d presumably be purple marker–free—unless 22A and 22B had other tricks up their sleeves besides surviving without oxygen—and he’d be in Paris. Paris. Henry still couldn’t believe he was really going to Paris. And not just going to Paris on vacation, but to study there. To live there. To cook there. For the next nine months, Henry wouldn’t be just another random Chicago junior. He’d be a chef-in-training at the École Denis Laurent, the most prestigious cooking program for high school students on the planet. It still sounded unreal when he thought about it, like some place that couldn’t possibly exist, but it was real, and he was going. Henry couldn’t wait to trade the brown rice and bulgogi he served at his parents’ restaurant for boeuf bourguignon and béchamel. There wasn’t anything wrong with bulgogi—he was just ready for something different.

Henry wouldn’t miss standing behind the register all weekend, every weekend, but he’d miss the kitchen. His earliest memories were of sitting on the counter, swinging his legs. Taste, Dad would say, and Henry would open his mouth for a meltingly rich mouthful of pork belly, or the sweet tang of pickled carrots, or the salty brine of a still-raw shrimp. It was Dad who taught Henry to eat, and then to cook. Because you have to know how to eat before you can know how to cook.

So Dad was the first person Henry told about the program in Paris, when he’d discovered that Chef Laurent took twenty high school juniors to live and train at his cooking school every year. Henry had pulled up the website excitedly, heart hammering in his chest like he’d found a lottery ticket on the sidewalk. And in a way, he kind of had. The website was full of the accolades of graduates of the program, graduates who had James Beard nominations and featured spots at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and well-reviewed restaurants that Henry recognized by name alone, the kind of places you’d have to book a reservation for a year in advance. The kind of place that Henry dreamed of running someday. The kind of place Henry could run, once his year at the École guaranteed him a stage—kind of like an internship—in any kitchen he wanted, and ensured his future. Henry could still feel Dad’s hand on his shoulder, almost an electric current running between them as they checked out the website together.

Dad loved Chef Laurent. Maybe even more than Henry did. “The only person on the Food Network who’s still cooking,” he’d say proudly, like Chef Laurent was his other son. Henry and Dad watched a lot of Food Network. Mom had no patience for it. “The last thing I’d ever want to watch is other people cooking,” she liked to say, shaking her head in disbelief. “Don’t we see enough of that every day?”

Mom liked crime procedurals. Henry didn’t understand how watching people get chopped up and stashed in boxes was more relaxing than watching Chef Laurent sweat some onions in his bright French farmhouse kitchen, but sometimes Henry felt like there was a lot he didn’t understand about his mom.

You don’t have to go, you know. That’s what she’d said. What she’d chosen to say after Henry had tried to hug Alice—she’d acquiesced half-heartedly—as his family stood on the sidewalk by the departures drop-off at O’Hare Airport, when they were supposed to be saying good-bye. Like Henry was just going to turn around and get back in the car. Like this wasn’t everything he’d ever wanted.

She’d tried to backpedal, to say that even if he did go, it could just be a thing he did that looked great for college. That he didn’t have to be a chef. She didn’t want Henry trapped in a restaurant for the rest of his life—her words, not his. Henry didn’t understand how someone who had knowingly married a chef could take such a dim view of running a restaurant, but as Mom liked to say, you didn’t run a restaurant, it ran you. Mom wanted Henry to do something, anything, that didn’t involve chopping vegetables. Henry was pretty sure Mom would prefer he cultivate a career cleaning up toxic waste—provided he had a degree from a four-year college. And preferably if he wore a suit while doing so.

This wasn’t the first time they’d had this fight, and it wouldn’t be the last. He knew it would come back over and over, like the refrain in that awful cello piece Alice wouldn’t stop practicing. What would it take, he wondered, to get Mom on board? The École hadn’t been enough. A stage at Alinea? A James Beard Award? A Food Network show of his own? Cookbooks with his face on them and kitchen utensils with his name on them and a fast-casual restaurant in O’Hare? Whatever it was, he’d do it. And then she’d see.

Henry flipped to the next page in his magazine, and the girl gasped, loud enough that he heard her over the drone of the engine and the sucking noises of 22A and 22B. He looked up, and they made eye contact, and the girl blushed the exact same color as the end-of-season raspberries he’d bought from Mick Klug Farms at the farmers market the Sunday before he left. Why was everything about this girl making him think about food? He must not have bought enough plane snacks.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, although her voice was so quiet, it was more of a whisper. “Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry.”

Henry stifled a laugh at Oh my gosh. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard someone say gosh.

“It’s okay,” he said.

“No. No it’s not. Oh my gosh.”

“Seriously. No worries.”

“I was reading over your shoulder, and that was rude, and creepy, probably, and I definitely shouldn’t have been. I really am sorry.”

“It’s fine. Really. Stop apologizing.”

“Sorry,” she said again. “I mean—not sorry. Sorry. Argh!” she exclaimed. “Saying sorry for saying sorry is like that snake eating its tail. You can’t get out of it. It’s linguistic quicksand.”

They looked at each other, and Henry was struck again by her eyes—the exact color of tempered chocolate. Perfectly tempered chocolate. Again with the food? What was wrong with him? He must have been hungry. Too hungry. He reached into the open bag of mini Oreos in his seatback pocket, grabbed a fistful, and shoved them in his mouth.

Mistake. He started chewing madly, but the Oreo mass seemed unconquerable. The girl probably thought he was crazy. Why couldn’t he swallow these Oreos? How were there so many of them? Henry chewed in panic as he contemplated the girl. What should he do now? He should offer her some. Right? Definitely. It was only the polite thing to do. Otherwise, he was being rude and gross.

He held the bag out across the aisle. He smiled, then realized there was almost no way his teeth weren’t decorated by a fine coat of Oreo crumbs and quickly closed his lips. Henry was leering like the Grinch with chipmunk cheeks full of Oreos, and he had never felt more stupid. But he must not have looked entirely deranged, because, tentatively, the girl reached her hand in, and took out exactly three mini Oreos. Like a normal person.

Finally, Henry swallowed and cast about desperately for a new conversation topic. He jammed the Oreos back into his seat pocket—fat chance of him eating those again anytime soon—and looked down at his magazine. His magazine! That was a thing they could talk about.

“Wow.” Henry whistled. “That’s quite a cake. I would have gasped, too.”

Henry had never seen a person literally light up before, but that’s what this girl did. And now he was staring. Which he definitely needed to stop immediately. So Henry looked down at his magazine again. It was quite a cake. Three layers of cake interspersed with layers of jam and frosting—no, not frosting, lemon cheesecake, according to the caption—and topped with pickled strawberry icing and a ring of what looked like crumbled cookies. The sides were exposed so they could see every delicious layer.

“It—it’s Christina Tosi, isn’t it?” she asked shyly. “The exposed sides of the cake. That’s her thing. And the milk crumbs on top. I recognize them, from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.”

Henry looked closer—she was right. They weren’t cookies.

“Milk crumbs?” he asked, trying to imagine what a milk crumb could be.

“They’re made with milk powder and white chocolate. Really good. You’re not supposed to eat them on their own, I don’t think, they mostly go in or on other things, but they’re so good I always save a few to snack on. What flavor’s the cake?”

“Strawberry lemon.” Henry was staring at her again. He’d never seen someone’s face look like that when talking about baked goods before. Not even his dad when he talked about the cinnamon buns at Ann Sather.

“Mmm. Strawberry lemon. That sounds good. That one’s not in the cookbook. I’ve only made the apple pie cake and the birthday cake, of course. I make that one every year for Owen’s birthday. My brother,” she clarified. “Although . . .” She chewed her lip distractedly. “I’m not sure what he’s gonna do this year. His birthday’s in November. Maybe Mom will make him the Funfetti cake. You know, from the mix. Like I did. Before I knew about Christina Tosi.”

She went back to chewing on her lip. Henry hadn’t known that someone chewing on her lip could be quite so distracting.

“You can have it,” he blurted out.

“What?” she asked.

“The magazine. You can have my magazine.” Henry held it out across the aisle eagerly. Too eagerly.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t—”


“No, I can’t—”

“Take it.” He shook it at her insistently. It was suddenly incredibly, vitally important that the girl take his magazine. “Take it. Please take it.”

“I—I— When you’re done reading it,” she said firmly. “It’s Lucky Peach, right? I’ve never seen a paper copy before. I’ve only read it online.”

Henry nodded and put the magazine back on his tray table, wondering how he could possibly read it knowing she would have it after him. What if he left a sweat print? What if there were chocolate stains on the earlier pages? Had he drooled into his magazine, somehow? Who knew what horrors he’d left behind, lurking within those innocent pages? Was there an embarrassing way to read a magazine? Probably. And he’d probably been doing it the whole time.

“I just have one question—sorry.”

Henry looked up, and the girl smiled at him apologetically. Henry smiled back, probably in a lame way. Why was everything he did so lame?

“Just one question before I let you finish reading. Sorry. I mean, I’m not sorry.” She cleared her throat and shook her head. “I’m just curious. Does it say if she used an offset spatula to ice the top layer? Ateco, I’m assuming? Does it say what size the blade is?”

And that was the moment Henry started to worry that he might have fallen in love.

Rosie couldn’t remember the last time she’d talked to a boy she didn’t know. She’d known every guy in her class since kindergarten, or earlier. And sure, it wasn’t like East Liberty was so small that Rosie recognized every single person who browsed next to her in the aisles at Walmart, but she recognized a lot of them. Rosie couldn’t run an errand or grab a pop somewhere or even walk down to the mailbox without being stopped for a How’s your mom? or a When’s that brother of yours gonna stop playing soccer and start kicking for the football team? Didn’t matter which brother. They were convinced that any one of Rosie’s four brothers was the missing piece that would guarantee East Liberty’s long-awaited championship win. Even Owen, and he was still years away from high school.

Maybe that’s why Rosie was so nervous talking to this boy. Maybe that was why she’d apologized so many times. And said gosh way too many times, just like her nana. Rosie was never nervous talking to any of the boys at school, not even when Brady Gill had asked her to homecoming last year, and he was a year older. But she’d known him because he played soccer with Cole and Ricky, her older brothers, and there was nothing particularly exciting or nerve-wracking about talking to him. The boys at school were taller than they’d been in kindergarten, sure, and some of them had developed muscles they definitely hadn’t had when they were five, but other than that? They were pretty much the same.

But this boy was a surprise. The Lucky Peach magazine was intriguing, of course, but Rosie also found herself fascinated by him. He was so hot she almost couldn’t look directly at him, but found herself staring at the most random things, like the short-trimmed dark hairs at the nape of his neck as he bent over to read. And the straight line of his forearms when he pushed up his sleeves. And his long, tapered fingers with cut-short nails, crisscrossed by faded burns and the scarred mementos of cuts long gone. Not unlike her fingers, actually.

His hands. The magazine. Rosie realized with a sudden jolt—a jolt that inexplicably caused her pulse to speed up and a distinctly uncomfortable, clammy feeling to start at her temples and spread toward her neck—that this boy was almost definitely heading to Paris for Chef Laurent’s École. He had to be, right? She’d only seen hands like that on the guys who worked at Cracker Barrel with Mom. They were chef’s hands.

The man sitting next to Rosie shifted as the baby in his arms stirred in his sleep. The baby, all fat, rosy cheeks and a soft blond crown of hair, drooled prolifically onto his dad’s collar. Rosie thought, with a pang, of Owen, her youngest brother. Most of her earliest memories were of Owen as a baby, how fascinated she’d been by this chubby pink creature with his endless supply of drool. Not unlike this baby.

The parents had apologized, profusely, as they’d filed into the seats next to Rosie, diaper bags and sippy cups swinging from every available appendage. “You’re stuck with us!” the mom had chirped, as the dad announced, formally, “Congratulations. You’ve officially lost the airplane lottery. An international flight with an eleven-month-old.” Rosie had waved off their apologies. She’d been babysitting for so long, she was pretty sure there was nothing this baby could do that would bother her. Honestly, she was glad to be sitting next to the baby. He’d distracted her.

Before the family had arrived, Rosie had been sitting in her seat almost paralyzed with fear. Not so much because she thought the plane would crash—not really—but because she just didn’t know what would happen, what it would feel like when the plane took off, how she would feel, hurtling through the air thousands and thousands of feet into the sky. And it was that not knowing that Rosie hated. That was why she loved baking. Baking was all knowing. If you followed the recipe, you got exactly what you intended. An apple pie never surprisingly turned into lemon meringue halfway through the baking process.

Maybe it was that not knowing that had sent Rosie’s stomach into a tailspin of anxiety on the five-hour drive to the airport in Chicago. What did she know about France, really? Aside from the food? Appallingly little. Maybe that was why she was having such a hard time imagining it, or believing that this was really happening, that she’d really be living in another country in a matter of hours. When she tried to picture herself in Paris, alone, all she could conjure up was a mental image of herself walking down foggy cobblestone alleyways, wearing a beret, even though Rosie was pretty sure she didn’t have the kind of head shape to pull off hats.

It was funny—for almost as long as she could remember, Rosie had been desperate to get out of East Liberty. Desperate to be somewhere that things were different—somewhere where people didn’t know everything about her. Or think that they knew everything about her.

But when it was actually time to go, it was a lot harder to leave than she’d thought it would be. Rosie had thought she’d be racing into the airport terminal, tearing straight toward an adventure that smelled like butter and sugar. But Rosie hadn’t raced anywhere. Hugging Cole, then Ricky, then Reed, then Owen, and then Mom good-bye, she’d swallowed back the uncomfortable prickling of tears against the back of her throat. No crying. Not today. This was everything Rosie wanted.

When her mother had first told her about the École, Rosie had been lying on her stomach in bed, watching old clips of Chef Laurent’s first TV show, Laurent du Jour, on YouTube. Mom had knocked on her bedroom door, and Rosie hadn’t even looked up when she came in, hadn’t looked up until her mother had dropped a packet of papers right next to her.

“Chef Laurent, Rosie,” Mom had said.

Her mom knew all about Rosie’s Chef Laurent obsession. Well, Rosie wouldn’t call it an obsession—but everyone else did. She did own all of his cookbooks and read his blog religiously and watch all of his shows—the ones currently on the air and the ones she could only find online. So maybe she was a little obsessed. Which didn’t even really make sense, because he wasn’t even a pastry chef, like Rosie wanted to be. But there was something about him, the way he casually tossed off jokes in the kitchen as easily as he flipped a crêpe, something that made Rosie feel warm and safe, like she was sitting right there at the table with him, about to tuck into a perfect roast chicken or a salade Lyonnaise. But the idea that she could actually be in the same kitchen as Chef Laurent was something she didn’t even know how to process.

Rosie had read the application six times right then, with her mom next to her, squeezing her hand excitedly. She’d read it again when she woke up in the morning. When she came home from school. Every night before she went to sleep. She read it so many times that she had all the questions memorized. Had all her theoretical answers memorized. She could have taken a quiz on it, could have recited that application as a dramatic monologue. But she hadn’t applied. For weeks, she hadn’t applied.

Rosie was more of a pastry chef than a chef, she argued with herself. They probably wouldn’t want someone who was primarily interested in baking, since the program was mostly cooking. But Rosie did cook, all the time, and just because she wanted to be a pastry chef one day didn’t mean she didn’t want to learn how to cook from Chef Laurent, in Paris.

The idea of being so far away both terrified and thrilled her. But at least it made her feel something.

You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.

Wayne Gretzky had said it first. But Cole said it all the time. And Dad had said it, too. Rosie heard it, then, in Dad’s voice, as she sat in front of her computer in her darkened bedroom, staring at the application the night before it was due. And Rosie knew that she had taken very few shots in the sixteen years she’d been on this planet. And then she thought of Mom, finding the application, printing it out, probably hoping that Rosie would do something besides sit in her room, reading cookbooks and watching old cooking shows on YouTube. And Rosie wanted to do more than that, too. Almost as if Rosie’s fingers were moving of their own accord, she filled out the application with the answers she’d had memorized for months, and she clicked SUBMIT.

The baby stirred in his sleep, bringing Rosie back to the plane. He fluttered his hand like a small pink starfish, opened his eyes briefly, looked at her, then closed them again, heavy.

Rosie was having a hard time imagining life without her brothers. What would it be like? Not to be one of the Radeke kids or the Radeke girl, but just to be Rosie? Her teachers at the École wouldn’t call her Cole’s sister or Ricky’s sister. They’d just call her Rosie. This was uncharted territory, and Rosie was surprised to find herself feeling less excited and more unmoored by the prospect than she thought she’d be.

Hoping to ground herself, Rosie closed her eyes and thought of butter, the way other people probably pictured relaxing tropical idylls. Her favorite thing in the world was creaming butter and sugar, watching the way two disparate ingredients come together to form something new. She could picture it in her mind, back in the kitchen at home: the soft pale yellow of the butter, the old wooden spoon, and the cracked brown mixing bowl. Butter was magic. The starting point for cookies and cake and pie and muffins and everything good.

“I’m finished.”

Rosie had been so lost in her thoughts she’d stopped staring at the boy and was almost surprised to see him there, holding the magazine across the aisle.

“I’m Rosie,” she blurted out.

“Henry.” He grinned. “Not, you know, finished.”

“Ha.” She’d spoken the word—ha—instead of actually laughing.

“Please, spare me the pity laugh.”

“It wasn’t a pity laugh. It was just . . . strange.” Just strange?! What a weird thing to say. She was just strange.

“Do you, um, do you still want it?” The magazine sagged a bit in his hand.

“Yes. Please.”

She took it from him and placed it carefully on her tray table, and then the lights went out, plunging the cabin into a soft darkness that Rosie guessed meant it was time to sleep.

“Crap,” Henry muttered. “I guess you can, uh, turn the light on.”


  • Praise for Love à la Mode:
    A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Love à la Mode combines the best of French cooking and French kissing. I was enchanted by Strohm’s funny, thoughtful characters and their Parisian adventures. Sign me up for Chef Laurent’s École!”—Tiffany Schmidt, author of the Bookish Boyfriends series

    BNTeen's Best YA Rom Coms of 2017
    A Romantic Times Top Pick of 2017
  • "The plot moves along well, and the supporting characters are diverse and intriguing... The discussion of food and cooking is engaging, and the Parisian setting adds to the charm... Food lovers will eat this up. A good choice for romance shelves."
  • *"Strohm's delectable novel perfectly captures the mania of food obsession... and her descriptions of food are salivatingly good. The snappy banter and camaraderie among the rich cast of well-rounded characters crackles, and the halting, awkward romantic tension between Rosie and Henry simmers tantalizingly through every page. It's got the lighthearted, cinematic pace of a rom-com... An utterly satisfying, delicious delight."
  • Love à la Mode is a sugar-coated confection that satisfied all my cravings for travel, swoony romance, and pastries. Lots and lots of pastries! Readers will adore the sweet story of Rosie, Henry, and the magic of Paris."—Crystal Cestari, author of The Best Kind of Magic series
  • "Stephanie Kate Strohm has created a hilarious cast of characters and a romance sweeter than all the pastries in Paris. Love a la Mode is deliciously swoony!"—Lauren Morrill, author of

    "Prince in Disguise is the perfect winter getaway in book form. Readers will enjoy every minute of this hilarious holiday read...The setting is magical... Strohm writes incredibly fun and quirky characters... Readers won't want the story to end."—Romantic Times Book Reviews
  • "The story is infused with such joy and love--and delectable dishes--that readers will simply gobble it up whole. Like a souffle: bright, frothy, and entirely delicious."
  • Accolades
    BNTeen: Our Most Anticipated Contemporary YA Novels of 2018: July to December (selection)
    Bustle: 11 Upcoming Romantic YA Novels That Might Just Be Your new Favorite Rom-Com, 2018 (selection)
    BookRiot: 125+ Upcoming YA Books You'll Want on Your October to December Radar, selection (2018)
    BNTeen: 21 of November's Best New Young Adult Books, selection (2018)
    Amazon: Best Young Adult Books of the Month, selection (December 2018)
    EpicReads: 22 YA Romance Books for the Perfect New Year's Eve, selection (2018)
    BNTeen: 12 New and Upcoming YAs That Are Perfect for Valentine's Day, selection (2019)

On Sale
Oct 1, 2019
Page Count
336 pages

Stephanie Kate Strohm

About the Author

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of Prince in Disguise; Love a la Mode; The Date to Save; It's Not Me, It's You; That's Not What I Heard; and Restless Hearts (Katy Keene #1.) She lives and writes in Los Angeles. You can find her online at and on Twitter and Instagram @stephkatestrohm.

Learn more about this author