'…..There is no fox like the teacher.'
Dave was filled with admiration. Although he didn't know by what process Jo Minjoon was put in charge of molecular cooking section, he was certain of one thing. The section, which Rachel wanted Jo Minjoon to take charge of, was most likely the molecular cooking section.
There was no section like that, in terms of providing growth as a chef, rather than as a cook.
"I'm sick to my stomach."
"Why while enjoying such a delicious food like this."
"Have you seen an apprentice that Chef Rachel had given such consideration? I am about to feel jealous. When my mom was pregnant with me, my older brother felt threatened and jealous, now I understand that feeling."
"How did you think about your brother at that time?"
"I thought he was being childish for his age. However……"
Dave blurred his speech. But he didn't need to continue to speak. Deborah felt like she knew what Dave wanted to say next. His thoughts were her thoughts. No, perhaps, it was the same thought that many of the chefs here had. It is same for everyone to want to be treated with the utmost respect by someone who loves them.
After the sensation of bacon foam over the potato soup has passed, the next in line was snapper ceviche carpaccio. Placed on the dish were round, thinly filleted snapper, radish, similarly shaped jelly and salad. By having the snapper deeply soaked up the aged lime based sauce, there wasn't any hint of fish smell at all.
Combined chewiness of the jelly and crunchiness of the radish richly added the taste and as if snapper broth has been absorbed, the jelly had a delicate flavor and the scent of the sea. Furthermore, together with the clean taste of olive oil splattered over the salad and refreshing radish made one to think whether there could be any other ceviche dish that can be prepared any better.
"…..Gosh this is just right for someone who has never had raw fish before. Any objectionable aspect has been perfectly removed."
"No matter who makes it, anyone can follow a recipe and make ceviche sauce. Of course, the issue would be with the ingredient's quality….. In the kitchen, run by Rachel, that wouldn't be a concern."
Someone, like Rachel, wouldn't amateurishly pick out ingredients. Getting good ingredients is one of the basic virtues of being a chef. Taking two pieces of jelly, radish and snapper into her mouth at once, Deborah smiled happily. Dave stared at her, with half closed eyes.
"That's not a very chef like decorum, is it?"
"This dish doesn't make one to become formal. Cuz it's very delicious. I just want to suck them all up."
"If you really do that, you know that it will lose its taste."
"No, not losing its taste. It will be only that I won't be able to focus on the details of its taste. However, when someone is served a dish, whether to focus on the taste or simply be immerged under the happiness from it will depend on the choice a person makes, isn't it?"
"I, for sure, like to be focused. Most likely, Minjoon would be too."
"You're subtly linking yourself with the ultimate palate?"
Dave smiled mischievously as he took a piece of the jelly. The jelly was surely made by a god. The downside of ceviche was the fact that the sauce would be deeply absorbed into the fish, such that the true taste of fish would be blurred. However, the jelly, next to it, had absorbed the original aroma and light taste of the fish broth, that…it complimented each other's tastes.
"…..Certainly, there is a need for studying molecular cooking. It allows one to achieve something that the traditional way of cooking can never allow. It's like arrival of olive oil to the world with only salt and pepper."
"I like that analogy. But, the use of gelatin has been around for a long time. It's only a current trend to make sauces like jelly. In fact, you never know should some of the current cooking methods were to be modified, it could lead to birth of a dish by an entirely different way of cooking."
"That's called molecular cooking. In fact, every dish is from molecular cooking. Today however, people recognize cooking as molecular when some special ingredients or tools are applied, but….. As a matter of fact, making bread is also a very complicated and scientific cooking. It's just that it is only very familiar."
Deborah took in the last piece of the snapper instead of responding to Dave's comments. She opened her mouth, displaying both happy and aching expression on her face.
"It's been a while since I felt so sad about finishing a dish. It will be great if the customers that come to my own restaurant could feel such an emotion."
"One star is sufficiently a good rating for sure. I'll bet that there are a lot of chefs who adore you?"
"Those chefs weren't Chef Rachel's apprentices. After watching Chef Rachel from so close for many years, but unable to go beyond one star….sometimes, I feel ashamed."
While Deborah was feeling melancholy, the next dish was delivered. Without any error, the dish was placed on the table. Although his restaurant also provides the same service, it wasn't very often to be treated to that type of service himself. Not because he didn't have money of course. Even if it was a run of the mills type of restaurant, the salary of the head chef, at such a restaurant like Rose Island, was high. On top of that, to be able to manage and maintain three stars with stability like David….talking was not necessary.
The reason for him not going to other restaurants was due to lack of time. It wasn't that his restaurant opened every day. Sunday was a holiday. However, for a head chef, even a holiday couldn't be a holiday. Time passes by and connoisseurs hoped that there would be at least a change in the menu every month. In order to satisfy their expectation, holidays are, in fact, spent spinning his head in developing new menu, so the restaurant is like being opened without actually being opened for business.
Hence, going to other restaurant was meant to perform secret study and analysis, rather than spending holiday time. What is service like, what new methods are applied to plating, what kind of ingredients are used for a dish. Basically, all these things are possible because of the love of cooking, but at the same time, he couldn't deny the fact that it was also exhausting.
Therefore, he liked this moment so much. Dave carefully brought a steamed scallop, topped with caviar to his mouth. Then only after he had put it into his mouth, he came to the realization that the caviar topping wasn't really caviar. Was it a sauce made through a reification technique.
He sensed the olive scent softly permeating, and beyond that, he felt some unknown ingredients. What was interesting was that it wasn't overpowering the smell of the scallop. Having a harmonious mixture of aroma isn't as easy as talking about it. In fact, it is a very difficult task, but….. That was what was happening in this particular dish. And very perfectly, too. Dave smiled lightly.
"A thought came to my mind as I'm having this. I'm wondering whether I had always taken cooking as homework or not. Definitely she is a teacher. Teaching us a harsh lesson like this. Isn't cooking the most enjoyable when it is being enjoyed for sure?"
"…..I know that, but could my own customers experience such feeling?"
"If you make a dish with fish, whatever it is, it ultimately becomes a fish dish. Likewise, if we make dish with joy, wouldn't the resulting dish be also enjoyable to the customers? And Deborah, have some confidence. When the customers go to your restaurant, 'they don't say this is not a two star or three star, but only a one star establishment.' They don't have such thoughts. They will just think that this is a good place that received a one star rating."
"Thanks for that. It is somewhat comforting."
The next dish to be featured after scallops were foie gras vous vide along with creamy bisque soup and grilled asparagus. It could be considered the most molecularly cooked dish among all the dishes featured so far. Dave looked in the direction of the kitchen. In the open kitchen, Jo Minjoon was busily operating various, complicated looking molecular cooking machines. On a quick peek, it was a scene of a scientist in some futuristic setting, rather than a chef.
'Perhaps, it has been less than three months…..'
It wasn't a simple accomplishment to become so familiar with molecular cooking in that short period of time. Although what Jo Minjoon was doing was characterized as cooking and managing cooks, still, even that was excellent. After all, he was managing all those responsibilities with only 3 months of experience.
"I think that guy is very smart."
"Although short, he did go to college for a little bit. He is certainly smart."
"Would I be as smart as him had I gone to college myself? How can he operate all those complicated things and not make a single mistake."
Reducing mistakes, in the kitchen, came down to either one of experience or focus. Most likely, it would be the latter case for Jo Minjoon. It is because even for a genius, it was impossible to demonstrate maturity from his short tenure.
Deborah sighed. She murmured as if she was envious.
"It seems that no matter what you do, if you want to stand out, you must be smart first. The gap between smart and not smart people really isn't small."
"Don't worry. No one will call a one star chef a not smart individual."
"….. I wasn't particularly saying that I wasn't smart."
Putting behind Deborah's gripes, Dave enjoyed the aroma from the foie gras. Actually, the basic taste of foie gras itself was close to a salty blob of grease. The problem was how to complete the dish by inter-mixing which kind of ingredients with the abundance of the greasy smell…..The solution that this dish proposed was bisque cream and asparagus.
"The meeting of vegetables, sea food and meats……"
"Besides the vegetables, sea food and meats weren't often used as part of the combination. Yet, it was done very well."
"Come to think of it, haven't really challenged to this type of action recently. As everyone is busy chasing things that will be well accepted by the majority….."
Dave murmured in bitter voice. Achieving three stars is not the completion of the journey, but a beginning of the true struggle. Each arrival of recertification season means continuation of daily anxiety, and should there be a loss of a star, the disappointment could not have been described in words. Even those customers, who only had good words to say until just yesterday, would often say 'hm, no wonder he lost a star' in a condescending way, had it been lowered to two stars.
Deborah didn't say a word to Dave. She even wanted to ask him why he was being so dramatic, as if he was the target of a great misfortune, before a one star chef, yet she knew that everyone's concerns were unique and not comparable.
The next to be served was pasta. What was interesting was the fact that as far as the pasta was concerned, there wasn't any trace of molecular cooking at all. Deborah's spaghetti was wrapped around chopsticks and the spaghetti was topped with deep fried snapper scale, tied with green onions. Snapper broth puree made up the sauce.
Dave's fusilli was as wide as basketball, but the area that actually held the food was placed on a plate that was smaller than a fist. Artichoke, peeled layer by layer, was wrapped around by individual fusilli and maybe as decoration, olive puree was sprayed next to it.
The first complete dish was being served. As they placed their own into their mouths, they both realized. Dave said with admiration.
"Certainly, this Anderson fellow is great. Just being a bulk chef at Rose Island is admirable."
"I know. It is difficult to expect anything more than this cooking skill."
Pasta is a dish that more extensively goes through the hands of people, actually cooking, than the head chef. Furthermore, there wasn't any single trace of mistake in Anderson's pasta. Of course, other dishes would not have any mistakes either but…. there were even some signs of master's touch in his dish. The chewiness of the pasta, absorbed saltiness, and further, none of the accompanying ingredients were overcooked, not even a bit, creating a perfect harmony.
"This fellow would have been very threatening should there has not been Minjoon."
"It seems there are many geniuses among the youngsters these days. In the old days, I just needed to compete with those in my age, but now, I must compete with kids as well…. Hugh, this is tough."
The next to be served were refreshing sherbet and the main. Likewise, the main dish did not have any faults. The steamed meatball had brought about the chewiness and chewy texture of the jelly and had perfectly controlled the unique fat smell of the cattle head.
However, the best one was the duck leg confit that Deborah ordered. Like elasticity of the pasta, the tender texture of the meat, which didn't feel like meat, has stimulated the lips and the taste buds, and the accompanying soy sauce based watery sauce added to the taste by controlling the saltiness from damaging the taste of the duck.
After closing her eyes, feeling deep in the lingering imagery, Deborah slowly spoke.
"This is certainly a main and in reality confit is sous vide, isn't it. Did Minjoon make this? Or Did Javier."
"Do you need to clarify that now? Whoever did it, it is excellent. It was really a very good dish."
Soon, separately ordered dessert followed before their eyes. First to be served was nitrogen chilled ice cream over candied apple, served on tart. Then next to it was strawberry tiramisu.
"I have felt it earlier with the bread….. The patissiere does not play around at all. At this level, I am sure that she has had a lot of love calls, so how did she operate her own independent bakery until Chef Rachel called on her?"
"Must have rejected them. Chef Rachel's proposal would…. certainly be meaningful. To her father, Jack, and to herself."
It was when Deborah turned her head. Her eyes met the two rounded eyes that were staring right at her. To be more precise, their focus was on the dessert. Giving a big smile, Deborah spoke.
"Kid. Do you want to try this? It is really good."
"My mom told me to not to bother the grown-ups……"
"It's no bother. Here."
Deborah scooped up the tiramisu with a fork and held it out. Ella played with her hair in hesitation, then holding her hands together, she slowly walked. Ella took it in one bite and shook with a timid smile.
"Yes. Really, really delicious! My mom made this?"
"Yeah. You have a great mom."
Deborah gave a big smile. She wasn't just saying it out of courtesy. What Chef Rachel has now is the ultimate dream team even at the consideration of the main restaurant's history. The team that will achieve no matter what it was that was wanted.
Rachel came out of the kitchen. She smiled softly as she dried off her forehead of perspiration.
"I'm worried that I may have bothered your taste buds with my once retired hands. I'm sure it won't happen though. How is it, I hope everyone have enjoyed the time, have you?"
There was no need to respond. It was the time for the meeting of the foods, has been enjoyable as well as it being a learning experience. The overwhelming completeness sowed goals in them, rather than lassitude and helped them see what to chase after as well.
'If I can stand in that kitchen again….. I'd like to do that.'
It has been a long time since having the feeling of regret while being tied to the head chef title. Then someone clapped. It wasn't a very loud one. The sound was rather calm and just enough for everyone to hear.
However, it was enough to serve as a momentum. The sound of the applause from the 36 people was directed to Rachel and to her kitchen.
It was the applause of appreciation for the lessons, congratulatory of the teacher's return and of an acclamatory one.
And the flame of the applause did not wane as long as the fires remained in their hearts.