Read an excerpt from The Lemon by Boston Magazine alumni

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Read an excerpt from the novel, which they wrote under the pseudonym SE Boyd.


The green book cover features the title, The Lemon, and the author, S.E. Boyd, in bold black over a photograph of a lemon broken in half with a man's head and torso in it, facing away from the camera.

Cover of The Lemon by S.E. Boyd. / Courtesy of Penguin Random House LLC

in LemonA popular new novel written by native and former Massachusetts residents Boston Magazine writers Kevin Alexander and Joe Keohane, along with editor Alessandra Lusardi—a bartender/author/host of a food and travel show named John Doe dies under suspicious circumstances. His death causes people in the worlds of food, media, and entertainment to scramble, all trying to either protect his legacy or control it to advance their own interests.

Among them is Boston-born celebrity chef Patrick Whelan. When we meet him, he’s past his prime, living outside of Vegas, and comes to the conclusion that John Doe is dead.

**

Chef Patrick Whelan did not return the call. I need a minute. He had known Doe since the late 1990s, when Doe hired as head waiter at Áise, the 35-seat restaurant Whelan opened in Boston’s South End neighborhood when he was 28 years old.

Irish for “Asia,” Áise was a test kitchen for Patrick’s experiments using the flavors of his Irish Catholic upbringing in the Boston suburbs of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and fusing them with his true interests: Asian cuisine. A gyoza-style shepherd’s pie, with a wasabi-mashed potato crust and a filling of ground pork speckled with scallion and ginger, terrified his Irish mother but set the culinary world on fire. Boston, long considered the culinary brotherhood of New York County, suddenly found itself celebrated by the national food media.

Although a few critics worried that a young white chef seemed to pick random Asian ingredients according to his whims, this was the ’90s and those voices faded in the midst of a massive tsunami, especially once Patrick won three straight James Beard awards. , first for Emerging Chef of the Year, and then twice in a row for Outstanding Chef.

It became nearly impossible to get a reservation for Áise less than six months in advance, even though Patrick kept a small portion of the restaurant and bar area open for walking. The blocks surrounding the restaurant, which were historically working-class and black, quickly gentrified as wine and cocktail bars popped up trying to entice the waiting crowds of Áise (a Harvard urban studies professor even coined the term “Whelan effect” to describe the specific contribution to the neighborhood’s change), and waned. Predominantly black families and businesses, southwest of Washington Street after Ramsey Park.

Patrick was young, stylish, and handsome, with just enough of a Boston accent and working-class background to give his story the kind of American Dream flavor advertisers became irritating, and he was soon starring in national commercials for American Express, Hertz, and GMC. He had deals with Wüsthof to use their knives, a clothing factory to wear chef’s coats, and LLBean to design a specific style of rubber-soled slippers to wear in the kitchen (once he found out across Boston An interview with the magazine that he strangely wears their slippers when he cooks).

It was identified in GQ And the The New Yorker She appeared nude on the cover Gourmet Holding a bag of potatoes. He went from dating a bartender who used to work at the Waterclub Marina Bay, to being romantically involved with Tiffani Amber Thiessen and Neve Campbell. He got a booking agent, literary agent, fashion designer and personal assistant. He signed a deal with Paragon Casino in Las Vegas to make a 350-seat version of Áise at their new resort with an unprecedented licensing deal that paid him $2 million upfront, $100,000 annually to use his name, menu, and recipes. , and a small percentage of net profit and sales. With his windfall, he bought a 7,200-square-foot second home in Henderson that was allegedly once owned by Frank Sinatra, dressed in yellow stucco that perfectly matched the color of the dress Ava Gardner was wearing when she left it in 1957.

But then, one fateful day, he met with the network’s studio executives. Patrick had always planned to open an Irish pub in Boston with his mom and name it The Pub, and in the midst of having a small talk, he told these executives about his plans.

They said: What if we filmed behind the scenes and you open the bar?

And he said, “I couldn’t. This is a personal project with my mom.”

And they said, “Well, what if we cover all the costs of opening the restaurant, add another $500,000 for you, and a cash bonus for your mom?”

And he said, “The world really has to meet her.”

This was early in the reality TV game Patrick was naive, and the deal seemed pretty cool outside of the fact that they insisted on opening the bar in New York. And so, at the height of his fame, Patrick left Boston to come to New York City to open what was essentially an ordinary Irish pub. It was an unmitigated disaster, but in the kind of car crash where you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Patrick seemed in every part a narcissistic celebrity chef, and his mother, never happy with his New York opening, seemed sad even for an Irishwoman.

The entire show has sent his favorability ratings down in a way America hasn’t seen since Gary Hart. But she did something else. Introduce the world to John Doe.

Only appearing in three episodes, Doe was a very small part of the show, but there was just something about him that caught the attention of a young producer. There was a slow burn to him, and the cruel worldliness. But he was also thoughtful, intelligent, and likable—the guy other employees went to when they wanted to talk about problems. He spent much of his time reading or writing things down in a small notebook and talking books with a small group of other literary-minded people in the industry. This was strangely annoying to Patrick. On one of the last nights the pub is open, Patrick notices Doe talking to a woman at the end of the pub. He overheard their conversation about the best time of day to write, how to get an agent, and whether they should both shell out money from some writers’ convention in Vermont.

Patrick interrupted him, unable to help himself.

“Damn you have to write a book about it?”

“Bars,” Du replied.

“Okay,” said Patrick, getting up to leave. “Sounds like a silly, stupid idea.”

The show only lasted one season and the pub remained open for another six months after that. The producer took Doe’s name and kept it away. When Patrick finally mercifully closed the pub, Doe stayed in New York and wrote the book that would make him famous. Patrick returns to Boston. Everyone assumed he would lick his wounds in the ise’s kitchen. But this did not happen.

With no real warning to employees or investors, Boston native Patrick Áise closed up, packed his things, sold his place in Weymouth, and moved permanently into his Vegas home (which an intrepid local reporter discovered was not owned by Frank Sinatra. But, in fact, It was built by actor Corey Feldman in 1991 with money made from voicing Donatello in the original live-action. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie). Then something even more amazing happened. Chef Patrick Whelan just… . . Stop cooking.

At first, it was explained away. He was bringing a cookbook. And judge the cooking show. Plus, he had his own Vegas restaurant! Definitely cook there. And for years, there was a rumor, started by Patrick’s team, that he would do an entirely new concept “unseen in North America” ​​and once again blow the roof off the culinary world. This bought him some time. So he made a copy of Atkins’s book for his cookbook. And one based on the South Beach Diet. and keto. and paleo. And somehow, the master cleared up.

He had a cookware set, ready-to-eat frozen dinners, and a four-leaf clover health powder that he was sued when it was discovered that it wasn’t actually made from four-leaf clover but only spinach. He’s had two cooking shows, one of which, ironically, has been judging Irish pubs in America. But as the original Áise became a distant memory and Restaurant Paragon slipped from high-profile status to a place routinely frequented by bargain-seeking tourists with tattooed calfs from California’s Inland Empire, Patrick began to feud with the food world.

The man who once knew what it was like to be a perfect sphere of hot plasma of fame, heated to incandescence by enthusiasts and advertising campaigns, felt himself drifting out of orbit, so far up the planetary hierarchy of fame until he was essentially Pluto. , is no longer classified as something to watch out for.

But with the death of John Doe, the door to relevance and fame opened a crack. And Patrick Whelan was determined to do anything to get himself back.

Adapted from Lemonby S.E. Boyd, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by The Christmas, LLC.

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