Bloom and Chef’s Kiss both cater to fans of cooking and young adult romances, so reading them back to back makes a delicious afternoon.
Young adult graphic novels have no shortage of coming of age stories, especially in regard to queer focused narratives. Whether it’s one of the DC young adult titles, like I Am Not Starfire, You Brought Me the Sea or Galaxy: The Prettiest Star in the Galaxy, or an independent title, like Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me or Cheer Up!: Love and Pom Poms, queer, coming of age stories are seeing a boom in comics. Many coming of age stories, especially those featuring queer narratives, tend to tackle similar themes and — at times — beats, but the individual book can make this formula its own while appealing to fans of similar titles. One such case is for the books Bloom and Chef’s Kiss.
Bloom — by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Gancheau — is about Ari, a high school grad ready to move to the big city with his friends, but he has to break it to his parents that he doesn’t want to stay trapped at the family bakery; however, things change when he meets his potential replacement, Hector, and as the two grow closer, Ari wonders what does he really want after this summer. Meanwhile, Chef’s Kiss — by Jarrett Melendez, Danica Brine, Hank Jones and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou — is about Ben, a college graduate determined to make it big as a writer, but when he faces the reality that life after college does not guarantee a career in your field of study, he finds a job as a cook, and what he originally considered to be a temporary position actually proves to be his true passion, and in the midst of all this, he develops serious feelings for his co-worker, Liam.
From their plot summaries, one can notice the similarities. Both stories focus on male leads who are gay and trying to figure out exactly what they should do with their lives despite feeling pressure to pursue something that may not truly be their passion; meanwhile, they are also developing romances for men in their lives who remind them of who they really are and what they really love.
Of course, the plot of Bloom and Chef’s Kiss — a person trying to figure out what to do with their life while developing romantic feelings for someone — is also something that is a staple for countless coming of age narratives for a reason. This is something almost everyone has gone through, so the stories are inherently relatable.
That is not to say Bloom and Chef’s Kiss are carbon copies of each other or the numerous coming of age graphic novels out there — it is saying they will appeal to audiences who are fan of this genre, and they will certainly appeal to fans of one another. Along with that, there are plenty of differences that make them stand out on their own and in the coming of age genre at large. For instance, while there has been a boom in queer coming of age graphic novels, these are still underrepresented stories in the larger pop-cultural zeitgeist.
On top of that, Bloom and Chef’s Kiss also step outside the traditional high school romance. Bloom — while it does cater to fans of the summer romance genre — is a workplace romance, and the specificity of it being at a bakery makes for an even sweeter story. There is such a love for baking in this book, and it can be seen with characters, like Hector and Ari’s parents. It also captures the dedication, love and fun that can go into creating something with one’s hands, especially when it’s something to share with others.
Similarly, Chef’s Kiss captures that love for food and creating; although, it goes beyond just baked goods here. It’s not just what keeps Ben afloat financially, it’s what connects him with his friends, it’s what sparks his romance with Liam and, most importantly, its both his escape and passion. Not to mention, like Bloom, the back of Chef’s Kiss includes a handful of recipes, so the creators of these books, as well as the characters, share even more than just their stories with their readers.
Plus, the two books tackle the similar problem of figuring out what one should do with their life, but they focus on different periods in one’s life. In Bloom, it’s a traditional scenario for many young adult, coming of age books — what do I do now that I graduate? Where it differs from other young adult graphic novels that tackle this problem is Ari starts off knowing what he wants, but he realizes, now that adulthood is no longer a fantasy, what he wanted, what he wants and what he needs can all be different things.
Meanwhile, Chef’s Kiss is about a twenty-something-year-old coming to terms with how, despite following the path he was promised would lead him to a stable career and a happy life, that there are no guarantees in life, and what we are told will make us happy can be different from what actually makes us happy. It also shows that even when one is an adult, you are still growing.
Both books have similar plots and themes, from the queer romance, to the importance of cooking and baking, to the lessons about how what one truly wants in life can differ from their original goals and aspirations. Because of this, fans of Chef’s Kiss should give Bloom a try, and vice-versa. However, while they are similar on the surface, they both bring something of their own to the table, thus making these graphic novels a delicious pairing for pride month and beyond.
Caitlin Sinclair Chappell is a writer turned editor at CBR. What started as a love for comics, film and television turned into a career after graduating with honors from Lewis & Clark College. Along with her work for CBR, she edits the in-development comic series Half-Dragon, and she read her short story, “The Kabbalist and the Golem,” at the 2021 National Queer Arts Festival. Beyond writing and editing, she was the Film School Director at River Way Ranch Camp and the Assistant Director on the play Famous. She can be contacted at email@example.com, and her social is @comiccookbook.