< Everyone’s Story (4) >
“…What was that?”
Javier looked at Minjoon dumbly . Minjoon’s eyes curved up with mischievousness . Maya, looking at this, simply let out a deep sigh .
“You’re seriously joking about this right now? I ended up doing your job for you today . ”
“You did well . Good job, Maya . ”
“That’s all you have to say to me after all that?”
“…You sound quite rebellious today, don’t you?”
“Look . ”
Maya extended her hand out towards him . Her tiny hand was trembling, as if she was holding something heavy .
“Now do you see how tired I am?”
“Oh dear, you must be very tired . How about you try going to the hospital? You don’t have to worry about the kitchen . We can always get new recruits . ”
“Ugh, do you really have to respond like that?”
“I’m really good at arguing with people, you know? So stop trying to pick a fight and just go back to the jellies . ”
“Aren’t we working with too much jelly here? It almost feels like I’m in a jelly factory . ”
“That’s just what molecular gastronomy is like . What, you bored?”
“…You’re going to make another speech if I say yes, aren’t you? Fine, I’ll go back to work . ”
Maya pouted and went back to her station . Anderson watched all this with a bit of an annoyed expression .
“Aren’t you being too lax on her?”
“What? What do you mean?”
“She’s too relaxed around you . ”
“We’re family inside the kitchen . It’s better to be relaxed around each other . ”
“And here I thought Asian families were strict . ”
“It’s case by, cough, case . Our family isn’t strict . ”
Minjoon coughed a few times as he spoke . Anderson looked over him with a worried face .
“Are you really alright? You sure you don’t need some rest?”
“I’m good . I’m already giving the poor thing too much work by being sick . Don’t worry about me . ”
“How can we not? Kaya’s going to try to nurse you the moment you get back too . To think you’d get sick right after Kaya… Dear god, you two were born for each other . ”
“And here I was thinking you were being nice for once…”
Minjoon shook his head in annoyance . Javier handed him the crab cake .
“They say crabs are good for the cold . ”
“No . I have no idea, actually . But food is always good for the cold, you know?”
Minjoon took his mouth off to take a bite of the crab cake . He immediately shook his head . It was 6 points . A clear failure .
“The crab cake itself is well-made, but the salsa is too weak . This is tomato and pomegranate, right?”
“Yeah . Is that weird?”
“Right now, yeah . I can’t taste much of the pomegranate . It’s kind of pointless as a sauce . ”
“Gotcha . Thanks . I’ll think about it again . ”
Javier went back to his station to work . Break times were the only time when the chefs could spend some time on their recipes . Minjoon slowly began to think about the direction to take with his food .
‘Kaya’s family has a lot of wounds . But they don’t even have any memories that would really tie them together either . What should I do to fill the gap between all of them?’
The first thing he thought of was something homely . But with Minjoon’s skill, it was hard for him to create something fit for a high-class restaurant with homely food . Plus, he’s never had good luck with it even during the competitions . Even Chloe failed in the competition trying it . It was really no wonder that he would feel a bit hesitant .
‘There was that weird turkey dish, too . ’
Turducken . It was a dish made out of a turkey, duck, and a chicken . One would put a duck inside a turkey, a chicken inside the duck, and cook it in the oven . It was a dish befitting the Americans’ love for meat .
‘The first time the family meets is during christmas…’
Other demi chefs just had to make food that would fit the holiday theme, but Minjoon had to make Kaya’s family happy on top of that . It just made Minjoon’s job harder, but Minjoon didn’t really mind it .
A theme . It was practically the first time after the competition that he had to work around a theme . All the other food he made after the competition didn’t really have any theme other than ‘make the customers happy’ . Janet walked up to him right then .
“Yo, try this . ”
“…You guys think I’m some sort of a tool for measuring the power level of food?”
Janet looked as if Minjoon had said something incredibly strange . Minjoon sighed, and looked over Janet’s dish . There were quite a few things on it . A piece of turkey whose skin was glazed with honey . Cannelloni filled with shrimp, and some braised beef . Who would think to put those three things all in one dish? The only problem was…
[Roasted asparagus, roast turkey, shrimp cannelloni and the braised beef’s harmony score is 10 . ]
It got quite the score despite such a strange combo . The food score got a 9 as well . It was probably the best Janet could do for now . Minjoon picked up a fork .
“Is there an order I need to eat it in?”
“Try the cannelloni first . I put shrimp in it . It should help get the saliva flowing . Then try the beef, then the asparagus, and finish it all up with the turkey . It’ll leave a nice aftertaste on your tongue that way . ”
“Gotcha . ”
Minjoon put the cannelloni in his mouth . Cannelloni was a type of tubular pasta . It seemed to have been baked in the oven, based on its crunchy texture . The shrimp inside complemented it well . And the aroma…
“You used saffron, huh . Planning on getting the customers’ attention with it?”
“You can tell?”
“Of course . You’re being too obvious about it . I like it . It’s really good . ”
He nodded, and put the other ingredients in his mouth . The beef’s tenderness and the vanilla’s fragrance carefully covered up the aftertaste of the shrimp . He washed it all away with a bit of asparagus, and put the turkey in his mouth . Minjoon subconsciously found himself nodding when he did so .
“I thought the honey on the skin wouldn’t do too much, but it really adds a lot . It makes you salivate a bit more, and makes you feel a bit satiated as well . It’s awesome . …Why are you working as a demi chef? You might as well become a sous chef with your skill . ”
“Hmph, stop it with the pointless compliments . ”
“No, seriously . ”
Minjoon wasn’t the type to lie about stuff like this to begin with . Janet knew this as well . Her face had a light smile because of it . An equivalent of a very, very big grin on any other normal person . Janet coughed a little before continuing to talk .
“So, what do you think Rachel would say?”
“I’m not her, but… If I was a judge…”
Minjoon smiled brightly .
“I’d fail it . ”
“…You know that face of yours is completely different from what you’re saying?”
“But people smile when they eat something tasty . ”
“It’s tasty, but it’s not menu-worthy?”
“You know it too, don’t you? This would be amazing in any other restaurant . After all, it’s tasty, and it’s new . But how should I say… It doesn’t have that oomph . It just makes me think ‘wow, that combo works?’ and nothing else . And…”
Minjoon stopped for a second . He put a hand on his forehead, and put his mask back on . He let out a cough immediately .
“Sorry . I almost got you with me . ”
“It’s fine . Keep talking . ”
“It’s nothing special . I just wanted you to remember that the food of Rose Island is Rachel’s food . If you’re going to make anything, it has to be something as good as what Rachel would make . So… Cough . Mm . My head hurts . ”
“Alright . I get it, so you go rest . You look like you’re about to faint . ”
“Being sick is pretty nice, huh? I get to see Janet actually worry about someone . ”
Minjoon teased the woman a little bit . He found it a little strange to see her worry about someone like this . It was almost like seeing Kaya change a long time ago . But Janet was different . Kaya would’ve acted angry, but Janet just spoke up with a low voice .
“I know a person like that . A person who ended up suffering a lot because he kept working so hard . ”
“It’s nothing . Anyway, you need to take care of yourself . Your life might go to shit in an instant otherwise . Thanks for tasting my food . ”
Janet left Minjoon’s station immediately afterwards . Minjoon decided to leave it, as well . He turned to Maya to ask for a favor .
“Maya, I’m sorry, but I think I’m going to need to take a nap for thirty minutes . Can you wake me up later if I don’t come back? I’ll be at the break room . ”
“Yup, sure . Hope you feel better afterwards . ”
Maya responded with a worried voice . Minjoon turned to walk towards the break room with a tired face . By the time he was about to lie down on the bed, though, he ended up stopping . There was someone there before him .
Ella was waving her hand at him with a smile . Next to her was Lisa, sleeping soundly on the bed . When Minjoon sat down on the sofa, Ella tried to sit next to him . Minjoon quickly waved her away with a quiet voice .
“Don’t . You’re going to get sick . ”
“I only get sick once a year . I got sick this year already, so it’s all good!“
“When did you last get sick?”
“That’s almost a year . Don’t . ”
Ella lay down next to Minjoon’s spot with a sad face . Minjoon glanced over at Lisa . Seeing how she didn’t even wake up when they talked, she must be in real deep sleep .
Lisa was the one person suffering the most in this kitchen . After all, not only did she have to run her own bakery, she also had to work in Rose Island full time as a baker as well . This was the only time she had in the entire day to rest… It made Minjoon feel sorry for her .
“I could play with mommy a long time ago, but she just sleeps now . ”
“Good of you not to wake her up though . ”
“She’s tired . I don’t want to trouble her . ”
“Ella, what do you want from Santa this Christmas?”
Ella started thinking for a hot second . She grinned happily when she made up her answer .
“I want to see mom smile . ”
It was an unexpected answer, to say the least . Minjoon was expecting something a little more… Childish . Something like food, or a doll, or even a dress .
“Mom just doesn’t laugh anymore . But the TV said laughing lets people live longer . I want to live with mom forever . ”
“So you want her to laugh?”
“Yeah . ”
“I hope santa helps you out . ”
“…He might not . I cried a lot this year . ”
“It’s ok, Ella . I can talk to Santa . I’ll tell him you’ve been a good kid . ”
“Yeah, really . ”
“Thanks, uncle . You’re the best . ”
Ella looked up to Minjoon with bright eyes, then lay down on his lap . Minjoon put up his hands with a panicked face . He was worried that she might get sick, but maybe this much was alright? Minjoon slowly closed his eyes .
“Ella, do you have anything you want to eat for Christmas?”
“Mm… Candy! And Jelly!”
“That’s more for Halloween than…”
Minjoon’s eyes lost focus right then . He had thought of a recipe . He could see where he should go with the dish .
‘Right, with this…!’