First Steps (4)
Ten points . Even Joseph, who rarely got surprised over food reviews, turned up his brow at this . He made an enthusiastic face as he looked up to Rachel .
“Oh . As expected . If I remember correctly, he only gave one dish ten points back when Dave was running the restaurant . I wonder just how many dishes here have the full ten now?”
“I was actually rather curious as well… But Minjoon seemed a little hesitant talking about stuff like this . I’ve only heard that the potato soup got ten points from him, and nothing else . ”
Sera looked around in confusion .
“Wait, why? I’m sure there are tons of people waiting for Minjoon’s score… I’d try super hard to get anything out of him, you know?”
“He has realized just how much weight his words hold . I’m proud of him for realizing that so quickly . He’s trying to stay as humble as he can . ”
“I feel like I’m stereotyping him, but I do feel like a lot of Asians tend to be like that . Pretty humble most of the time . Though, you could also say that they’re cowardly . ”
“You ARE stereotyping him . ”
Rachel shook her head at Jeremy . She gave the rest of the tables in the restaurant a quick glance before starting to make her way out .
“We’ll have to end the conversation here, unfortunately . I’ll return after another quick round of the kitchen . You can come visit the kitchens after the customers have left, of course . Ah, is there anyone who has to leave soon?”
The table was silent . Rachel nodded in satisfaction .
“Good . I’m sure there are quite a few people in the kitchen who’d like to greet you three . I’ll see you later . ”
Rachel made her way back in with just that . Even during that short walk, Rachel had to stop a few tables from trying to applaud her . By the time she re-entered the kitchen, her face was completely dotted with exhaustion . Raphael smiled upon seeing her tired face .
“You’ve gotten even older after going out, huh? You look like you’ve aged a good ten years . ”
“Stop it with the jokes . I’m already tired enough as it is . ”
“How was it? Were your first customers in a decade worth greeting?”
Rachel paused . A good few seconds later, around the time Raphael was beginning to regret asking the question, Rachel parted her lips .
“Yes . They were . They even looked as beautiful as a flower . Every one of them . I’ve only realized how boring the last ten years of my life have been after seeing them . ”
“Where there’s a famine, there’s a plentiful harvest . Things can only go well for you from now on . ”
“Do you really think so?”
“Who knows? But I think you deserve a compliment nevertheless . ”
“…You’re kind of bad with compliments . ”
“Well, I’d rather not let anything get too sappy for too long . ”
Raphael shrugged his shoulders jokingly . Rachel decided to ignore him, and turned her attention to the kitchen . Anderson and Janet from the appetizer and pasta section were cleaning up their stations . Javier from the main dish section was just about starting with clean up . The only one really busy at this point in time was Minjoon . He still seemed more than just a little busy with plating . Janet couldn’t help but stare at the man work from her station .
“…He looks like he’s having a lot of fun . ”
“Yeah . He seems like the enthusiastic type most of the time anyway, but whenever he cooks, he almost looks too happy . Almost like he’s savoring each second at work…”
“Don’t fall for him just because of that, yeah? He’s gonna end up giving you a loooot of trouble if you do . ”
“No worries . I’m not interested in love . Especially if the person in question already has someone . ”
“I was joking, you know?”
Janet turned to glare at Anderson, who promptly pretended to ignore it .
“Didn’t he complain a lot about having to do molecular gastronomy back then?”
“Dunno . He didn’t complain to me . ”
“…I guess I just look too easy to everyone, huh? Damn it . I would never have thought about being treated like this anywhere else . ”
“Your parents seem to think of you as an easy target as well . ”
“That’s something else entirely, alright?”
Anderson let out a deep sigh . Only then did Janet make a small smile and extend her hand . Anderson looked at that hand of hers with a confused expression .
“The hell is this?”
“A hand to shake . First time you’ve seen one?”
“…I never thought you’d ask for one . ”
“Why would you think I wouldn’t even shake hands with people?”
“Because you’re antisocial?”
“You know, you should work on that a bit yourself . Being social . ”
“Maybe . ”
Anderson smiled a little as he grabbed Janet’s hands . After a curt one-two shake, the two let go .
“Congrats, Anderson . For being able to stand in the kitchen for the first time . This is the first time you’ve been outside your parent’s arms, hasn’t it?”
“I would never have imagined being congratulated by you . Are you sick or something?”
“It’s just a give and take thing . Come on now, I congratulated you, so now you congratulate me . I want to feel accomplished . ”
“…Congratulate you for what?”
“For being able to prove myself . Just say that . ”
Anderson’s face instantly scrunched up . Saying something that embarrassing…? He’d much rather die a horrid death than have to do that . But after a lot of hesitation, his lips parted just a little bit to let out his tiny voice .
“Good job . ”
“What the- that’s it?”
“Shush . If you want embarrassing compliments, go ask that kid over there . He’s good at that . ”
“…You’re embarrassed? Over this?”
Janet shook her head in disappointment before turning back to the hall . Really, there wasn’t any need to get a compliment out of Anderson . After all, what better compliment could there be than the smiles of the customers in the hall? Their smiles were all whispering wonderful things into her ears . Good job, Janet . Very well done . Janet, for a second, put one hand over the other . She took it off when she felt a searing pain in her chest . Did her immense happiness materialize in the form of pain? Just as this thought ran through her, Rachel walked up to her .
“Good job . We’ve ended up taking a rather nice first step . ”
“Thank you for your hard work, chef . ”
Rachel smiled brightly . By then, Minjoon was approaching the crowd after having finished up at his station .
“How was it, teacher? Was it satisfying for you?”
“Yes . It really was . But this isn’t over . We need to keep getting better every day . This restaurant won’t get better without having all of you getting better by each day . ”
“Is there even room for us to improve? I can’t really imagine a restaurant better than ours . ”
“Even adults have hairs growing on their heads . If there’s still room for us to grow anything, we should utilize it . ”
“Ah, I understand . ”
As always, Minjoon understood Rachel’s words in a flash . Rachel was always quite fond of that . She took a deep breath before looking over the hall one more time . The customers were just about finishing up . Some of them left right after finishing, and a few enjoyed their last few minutes even after finishing the meal . Quite a few people gave Rachel a glance or two from their table . They seemed to want to talk to her, but seemed hesitant to do so .
“Looks like I need to talk to a few people still . I’ll be right back . ”
Rachel walked out into the hall one last time . Minjoon was looking at Rachel’s back quietly . All the attention in the restaurant was directed at her . Everyone seemed to crave her attention .
Some might call it popularity, but Minjoon had to disagree . Rachel’s food was perfect . Everything from her recipes to her chefs . Each one of her words had enough power to completely change the quality of a dish in the span of minutes .
“Do you think she looks cool?”
“Ah, sorry Lisa . Did you say something?”
“Rachel . Do you think she looks cool?”
Minjoon couldn’t answer . The answer was easy enough . She was cool as hell . But he was a little hesitant to say those words in front of Lisa .
Thankfully, Lisa didn’t seem to have expected an answer out of him .
“I dislike that woman quite a bit . She ruined my father’s dream . She crushed it to pieces with her own feet . But even so… I think she looks cool . Isn’t that strange?”
“Even parents have times when they hate their own child . But behind their anger, there’s always love hiding beneath . ”
“…You always speak weird . Almost like a novel . You said you wanted to be a teacher, didn’t you? Is that why you talk like that?”
“Sorry . I’m just boring by nature, I guess . ”
Minjoon smiled awkwardly . He didn’t really want to talk the way he did either . It was purely out of habit by now . He did consider trying to fix it at some point, but gave up after realizing that’s just who he was as a person . Lisa smiled faintly towards him .
“But Ella doesn’t find you boring at all, you know?”
“Ah, what’s she up to, by the way?”
“Sleeping in the office . It’s all thanks to her having a bad mom . She should be out playing about now…”
Lisa didn’t look too good . Her face seemed colored with worry . Though Minjoon himself felt very sorry for the situation, there really wasn’t much he could do .
“Is it hard for Jack to look after her?”
“She’s a kid . She’d hate having to stay in a house all day . And it’s not like her father can take her out much either . ”
“How difficult . ”
“It really is . You should really be careful yourself when you end up having to make a decision someday . Hard times can sucker punch you out of nowhere . ”
“But we’re still young . We have plenty of time to fix things . Don’t be so depressed . Ah, did I sound boring there too?”
“Don’t worry about it . Thank you for your words . I appreciate them . ”
By the time the two finished talking, the trio from the hall entered the kitchen . Sera put on a wide grin on her face as she hugged Minjoon and Anderson .
“It’s been too long, the two of you! I’ve been dying to see you . ”
“You should’ve called . ”
“Don’t say that . I still messaged you, you know?”
“I’m just joking . It’s good to see you again . Have you been well?”
“Yes, but not anymore . I’m going to miss the dishes here for a long time . Anderson, Minjoon, and… um, the rest of you here, I’m very jealous . You’ve secured yourselves quite a job . ”
“I’ve realized why all the head chefs in the branch restaurants of Rose Island never decided to go independent . It’s a name worth being proud of . ”
Joseph grinned .
“It’s good to see that you’ve been doing well . But I was surprised! I would never have thought you’d end up working with molecular gastronomy . How do you like it?”
“I was a little lost at first . I’ve never done it after all . But I’ve started liking it as of recent . ”
“It’s the soup, isn’t it?”
Minjoon’s eyes widened .
“How could you tell?”
“Potato soup is more of a family thing than a restaurant thing . Something like that came out as an appetizer in Rose Island of all places . It ended up becoming the most popular, too . All because of that bacon foam . Plus, I’ve remembered how you were always bothered by that border between family food and fine dining . ”
“…Yes, you’re right . I’ve learned a lot from this soup . ”
Sera butted in with a curious face . Minjoon put on a light smile in response .
“That with normal cooking techniques, family food can only go so far . But with molecular gastronomy added in the equation…”
Minjoon paused . He seemed overwhelmed by his own excitement .
“We can easily jump over our limits . ”