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Off the Menu

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,285 ratings  ·  202 reviews
As the executive culinary assistant to celebrity Chicago chef Patrick Conlon, Alana Ostermann works behind the scenes—and that’s just the way she likes it. But with developing recipes for Patrick’s cookbooks, training his sous chefs, picking out the perfect birthday gifts for his ex-mother-in-law, and dealing with the fallout from his romantic escapades, she barely has a p ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Berkley
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The Blue Bistro by Elin HilderbrandAppetizers by Ivan RusilkoLicking the Spoon by Candace WalshEntrée by Ivan RusilkoHome Cooking by Laurie Colwin
Culinary Goodness
66th out of 114 books — 37 voters
My Life in France by Julia ChildSeriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneresEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertOut to Lunch by Stacey BallisOff the Menu by Stacey Ballis
Childfree Fiction/Memoirs
5th out of 25 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

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Amy Hatvany

10 Reasons Why I devoured OFF THE MENU

#1. The protagonist, Alana, is smart, sassy, and endearingly authentic.

#2. The cover has chocolate cupcakes on it!

#3. Stacey Ballis's writing style is self-assured and wickedly funny, filled with one-line zingers that made coffee shoot out of my nose.

#4. The relationships Alana has with her family and friends are so lovely, so intimately drawn, you feel as though you could walk into any of their houses, take your shoes off, and prop your feet up on their c
This was a book that caught my eye standing in line at the library. It sounded the perfect combination for me. Foodie meets chick-lit? Sounded like the perfect vacation read for me. Sadly no. Her writing is redundant. I found myself groaning, "You already said that!" The perfect example is in the first few pages where I'm sure she wrote two different descriptions of her dog, couldn't decide on one, so used after the other. When writing for characters with accents, it was a tad overdon ...more
Alana is a production assistant for Patrick, a famous television chef. He takes up all her time and doesn't understand boundaries. Her job leaves her with little time for herself, friends, family or to find herself a boyfriend.

I can't say I didn't like it, because I finished it. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is no conflict or actual story. The romance was unrealistic and irritating. A lot of the book seemed liked a list of famous chefs and pop culture references. I like most
One of the least enjoyable reads of all time for me. There is no plot, nothing of interest happens and the main character is one of the most annoying characters of all time. The plot: 40 something woman with perfect family, job and life finds, in the most undramatic way ever, the perfect boyfriend (who is so unreal I fully expected him to reveal himself as a serial killer) and her perfect life only gets even better. Has a slight panic deciding between 2 perfect jobs but then decides she can do b ...more
Let me begin by saying that I really wanted to like this novel. Recommended by Jen Lancaster, Off the Menu features a great setting (Chicago), food & foodies, an adorable canine named Dumpling, and a little romance. What’s not to love?

Well, if I weren’t from Chicago, I’d be annoyed by the setting and the author’s constant geographical references (for insiders only). If I weren’t a devotee of Top Chef and all of those food and cooking networks, I would not like this novel. Finally, if I were
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a fun, easy read with vibrant characters you can't help but root for. I will now immediately go and find the rest of the Ballis catalog and read them all. And there are recipes at the end of the book! Bonus!

My enjoyment of this novel was increased by first reading "Jeneration X" by Jennifer Lancaster (which is totally not necessary, I've just been a Lancaster fan since 2008.) Lancaster writes mostly memoirs and she and Ballis are friends IRL. In "Jener
First, let me say that chick-lit is not my favorite genre. I seem to read plenty, but I'm mostly disappointed. This book was no exception.

The main character works for a celebrity chef. This is in the description of the book so it's hardly a surprise. Therefore, you would assume that anyone reading this book would probably have an interest in cooking and, most likely, watching cooking shows on The Food Network. (I do.) In the first couple of chapters, the author basically insults most tv hosts of
This book was disappointing. It started off really well with sassy Alana-assistant to a celebrity chef and then just ended up a mess. I found the dialog with RJ stilted, her relationship with Patrick preposterous, and was insulted with the protrayal of Maria (all those rrrrr's-really?). Not really sure how such an independent woman would put up with Patrick's 24-7 neediness and demands. And RJ was more than just a little too perfect. It had its moments but I should have stopped reading when Alan ...more
The first Stacey Ballis book I read was Out To Lunch, which I enjoyed, though there were a few things that annoyed me. I'm not a huge chick-lit fan, but because I am recovering from surgery and I don't have a lot of brain power right now (and lots of time on my hands), I decided to read Off the Menu. I felt even more irritated with this one. I can't stand authors who basically write the same character over and over again. I felt that her political comments that were in both books were gratuitous ...more
I did not enjoy this book. There are so many peripheral characters I had a hard time keep of track of who was who. At a time when most of the world is suffering from an economic depression a book featuring a woman that is having a hard time fitting in a love life with a wonderful man in to her busy schedule at a very well paid job that she loves and a demanding boss just doesn't seem to click. There is no drama at all. Everyone in the book is successful and doing what they love. Her wealthy circ ...more
The word for this book is definitely “intimate”. The characters and the settings were so easily relatable and the main character, Alana, was the best of all. She had such a charming disposition and was such an easy going person; I feel like she and I are really good friends. Her life is so organized and even though it got to be a little chaotic at times she was more than capable of keeping her ducks in a row. She had a wonderful career and a huge, loving family; what more could she need? Oh, and ...more
Overall I enjoyed this book and I think Ballis is one of the best writers in "chick lit" today.

But there were some flaws. It's really slow to start, heavy with back story/exposition. It felt like the plot didn't really start going until about 40% into it.

The guy she meets online is far too perfect to be believable in the end. She does a good job of addressing how starry eyed he is over her and how that gets a little dose of reality when he sees a side of her he hadn't. But it doesn't get revers
This book is enjoyable and is a good summer/beach/vacation read. I really like this author's voice, and enjoy the food twist she has put into the 'chick-lit' genre. I have to make sure I am not hungry when I sit down to read her books (See 'Good Enough to Eat').. Also, this author knows her subject matter, having at one time been a special correspondant for a brief few episodes on the Racheal Ray show early in the first season. My one criticism though is that everything about this story and Alan ...more
Amy Reichert
Wow, this book is full of great food! and it's nice to have a love interest who is generally an awesome guy - and that's not where the tension of the story is.
Carolyn F.
2-1/2 stars. This book had such a wonderful beginning that I didn't understand why everyone was giving it such terrible reviews as the romance being unrealistic. The early descriptions of men who seemed to her to have potential but didn't think of her that way were realistic. And then RJ comes along.

They know each other from online talks that led to telephone calls. So, I thought he's probably already feeling things (although I've never met a man who goes that fast) when he says, "I just have t
Kristin Shelburne
I started out really liking this book. Sassy, strong female character making her way in a male dominated world, funny, supportive friends, yummy food, etc. I even liked how Alana and RJ met and developed their relationship. Then it got sappy. No one talks the way RJ does unless you are Brooks from Real Housewives of Orange County giving Vicki her daily affirmations or a love starved teenager high in first love. If you can get past that, really good book!
Maybe more like a 3.5

I've read one other book by Stacey Ballis and have always heard of her through her friend & author, Jen Lancaster.

While I liked the idea of the story line, and I really liked the main character, and I completely LOVE that there are recipes in the back of the book for all of the main dishes that were talked about... there were still a few little things that kinda drove me nuts.
The dialog between the two main characters felt so forced and not like the way anyone really ta
If you can get past several political jabs, this is a decent book. (Usually I prefer my chick-lit to be politics-free, but a liberal can never resist an opportunity to get in a good jab!) The food angle always fascinates me and that is Ballis' trademark. However, this whole book seemed to kind of rush through a series of events and sometimes became tedious. Definitely not as good as her last book.
Ket Lamb
Off the Menu is an easily digestible, flawed souffle about Alana Ostermann, an executive culinary assistant who wants it all. If you devour the Food Channel, you'll probably relish Alana's struggle with Patrick Conlon, a celebrity chef who is also her boss. This palatable read is set in Chicago, but you'd barely know it. Stacey Ballis fails to season the story with any entertaining insights that ground it in the Windy City. She also whips up Alana's romance with RJ so perfectly, you keep waiting ...more
Shelby N.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I wanted to like this one more, but the plot lost me. I kept waiting for another shoe to drop or some big dilemma, but there really wasn't any. And then there were 40+ pages of recipes at the end, which made me originally think there was more to the book.
This book was cute and light. The characters were likeable and the plot easy to understand. I enjoyed it. The only issue I had was the more than occasional referral to gastro-intestinal problems of the characters. Really TMI!
Michelle Lynne
So, I'm at this point in life where if a book doesn't grip me from the first chapter or two, I will ditch the book. There are just too many books to read to be spending my time on the ones that I can't get into. Oh well!
Emily Klossner
Recommended by my favorite author Jen Lancaster and it did not disappoint! A main character who is vulnerable, but not pathetic. Some funny lines and great recipes at the end. So glad I bought this one!
Very fun premise and snappy writing. It's easy to like the strong-minded Alanna; but I would have liked more emphasis on her romantic conflict and (dare I say it?) less about her dog.
I really enjoyed this book. I like that it was about a 40 year old woman falling in love. And that it involved food! The only downside was that it all seemed a little too perfect.
The romance in this novel is a little saccharine for me, but I enjoyed the main character and I'm definitely a sucker for a novel that comes accompanied by recipes.
Oh, boy. I read another book by this author and enjoyed it. This one, even though I persisted and finished, was grating. The main character, Alana, is approaching 40, has a fabulous, well-paying job, and gets a boyfriend. That's kind of it. The romance with her and her boyfriend was so couples talks to each other the way they do. She also has every argument perfectly laid out for every situation...she can explain her way out of everything. Finally, the way that accents are portr ...more
Malika Horton
a tad boring, great writing but the storyline lacked excitement. It was very cheesy reading conversations between RJ and Alana and just didn't feel realistic. towards the end I was basically praying the book would end because I hate to not finish a book. the main conflicts were with Patrick who though important made no sense for her to be spending so much time worrying about. at first I thought she was going to end up with him but when I realized she wasn't i couldn't for the life of me figure o ...more
just ok, Not really sure what the story was. It was just kinda there. No big laughs or excitement
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“But I had learned long ago that you actually probably don't want to know what kind of guy your besties think you ought to be with. It always says as much about what they think of you as what they think of him, and I find a certain comfort in being ignorant of what my pals might envision for me.” 0 likes
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