Excerpt from Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Tough Cookie

By Diane Mott Davidson

Tough Cookie
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2000,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2001,
    320 pages.

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Eileen, ever generous, had promptly pitched a cooking-show idea to the Front Range Public Broadcasting System. They'd said yes. I'd demurred. Eileen argued that my cooking on TV, at her bistro, would boost her business plus give her a huge tax write-off. Meanwhile, I could use my television exposure to publicize the new culinary venture I'd finally hit upon: becoming a personal chef. That particular avenue of food work requires no commercial kitchen; it only requires a wealthy client's kitchen. Just the ticket.

So I'd said yes to show business. The Killdeer Corporation had offered free season ski-lift passes to me as well as to my fourteen-year-old son, Arch. Shot through with new enthusiasm and hope, I couldn't wait to cook and ski. I gave up herb tea for shots of espresso laced with whipping cream. In November, I plunged eagerly back into work.

Every Friday morning, I would appear at Killdeer's Summit Bistro to do my bit before the camera. At first I was nervous. And we did have a few mishaps. Thankfully, Cooking at the Top! was taped. Viewers never saw me slash my hand--actually, sever a minor artery--while boning a turkey during the first episode. The spray of blood onto the prep counter had been distinctly unappetizing. The following week, I produced a meringue so sweaty it needed antiperspirant. I also dropped two roasts--one of them stuffed--and splattered myself with a pitcher of Bearnaise. But with glitches edited out, even I had to admit the Saturday morning broadcasts looked pretty good.

On the upside, I told jokes on-screen and mixed cream into smashed garlicky potatoes. I chatted about the rejuvenating properties of toasted, crunchy almonds while folding melted butter into almond cake batter. I gushed about the trials and joys of learning to ski as I chopped mountains of Godiva Bittersweet Chocolate. I swore to my viewers that my recipe made the darkest, most sinfully fudgy cookies on the slopes. I even assiduously followed Arthur's tasting instructions: Take a bite. Moan. Move your hips and roll your eyes. Say M-m-mm, Aaah, Oooh! Yes! Yes! Watching the footage, Tom had quipped that the program should be called The Food-Sex Show.

All in all, the first four weeks of taping went well. By Week Four, though, my personal-chef business still had not taken off. I only had one upcoming job. Arthur Wakefield himself had offered me a gig the following week: preparing food for a holiday in-home wine-tasting. Arthur supplemented his floor director income by working as a wine importer. He needed to showcase some new wines--and serve a gourmet meal--to high-end customers and retailers. So, even in the personal-chef department, things were looking up.

Unfortunately, in Week Five, Cooking at the Top! hit a snag, one occasioned by a predictable Colorado crisis: blizzard.

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Excerpted from Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson Copyright© 2000 by Diane Mott Davidson. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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