Jasper felt his heart skip a beat right then . It wasn’t made by her? Was she joking? No, she looked far too serious to be joking about something like this . A part of him wanted to ask if she was lying, but he was in front of a camera . Doing so would just be digging his own grave . Instead, he decided to repeat what she said back at her .
“It isn’t . That dish was created by Javier and Minjoon . ”
“Amazing . You have wonderful students . This doesn’t even feel like a dish that could be made by someone so young . ”
Insulting the two right now would just harm him more than anything . It would be smarter to just praise the chefs instead . Jasper continued slowly .
“With something as good as this, it’s inevitable that I’d get the wrong impression . I’ll have to try your dish now to see . ”
It seemed far too obvious that he was trying to change the topic . But with how nervous he looked, no one in the room even bothered to tell him that .
Jasper quickly took a bite of Rachel’s scallop . The jelly on it seemed to be some sort of a Japanese soy sauce . As it melted, he could feel the sauce seep into the nooks and crannies of the scallop to make the meat even more savory and flavorsome . His brain even stopped working for a second from just how tasty the dish was .
‘God damn it, did I make a mistake?’
It was too late . The dice was already thrown, and he was already deep in enemy territory . Right now, depending on what he did, he could either go straight to heaven or fall straight down to hell . It was completely up to him for him to become a third-rate, or a critic of the century .
Jasper decided to smile .
“Ah, I can tell now what was different . This has a perfect balance between molecular gastronomy and traditional cooking . As expected of you, Rachel . I should’ve tried both before saying anything . How silly of me . ”
“So, do you think you can get the next one right, then?”
“I said just now, didn’t I? What I wanted to criticize wasn’t being able to distinguish between your food and their food . It was all about who made the dish . ”
“In that case, what was that thing just now about ‘this is your dish’ that you said only seconds ago?”
“…I was just excited . From the… Ah, the flavor explosion in my mouth . The excitement just rendered me completely unable to think properly . ”
Rachel sighed inwardly . And here she thought that the man would at least have something up his sleeve…
‘What an idiot . ’
Even she felt like an idiot for playing along with his game . She wouldn’t even have done all of this if she didn’t see Minjoon’s hurt face .
It only felt like a day ago when she started cooking herself . But to think she already had disciples… None of it really felt real sometimes . Rachel turned to look at her demi chefs .
“I’m sorry . You ended up making a dish for ten days only to serve… this guy . ”
“There are no bad guests, as the saying goes . It’s fine . ”
“Some people don’t come as guests . In those cases, you’ll have to make something different from food you serve guests . You’ll see when you start handling real critics . ”
Minjoon couldn’t really relate . After all, he’s never met a critic who hasn’t tried to get on his good side so far .
By this time, the main dish was served . The first was a sea bream served with a sauce made of green curry and goat cheese, and the second looked like a pair of human lungs .
“This… Is this a baby bird?”
“Yes, a baby pigeon . We cooked it on the pan . The savoy cabbage is seasoned with black garlic and truffle salt . And the ingredient next to it… Would you like to guess? You seemed to be a fan of guessing games . ”
Rachel asked casually . Jasper looked at the dish carefully . There was a reddish-brown sauce below the entire dish . He grabbed his spoon nervously .
‘There’s mushroom… and the meat… A stew . Right . What was this called again…?’
He was feeling so nervous that it was almost surprising that he could taste anything at all . Right now, guessing wasn’t important to him . He could always just make up an excuse for guessing wrong .
‘Damn it, I shouldn’t have tried to act smart a moment ago .
He thought he could just take the woman by her blind side since the dish was so Rachel-esque . But as it turned out, he was walking straight into a trap . He definitely should’ve tasted both before giving his answer . Ah well . It was too late to regret his decisions now .
“Ah, ah! I was just thinking for a moment . There’s a dish that resembles this in France . Salon?”
“Stews from most countries resemble each other . But you still got it . Though you got the name wrong . It’s salmi . It’s a type of a bird stew . ”
“I know . It happens to be one of my favorite dishes . ”
“Was it, now? I thought you didn’t like it since you got the name wrong . ”
Jasper’s face reddened in embarrassment once again . He barely managed to crack a smile as he responded .
“Sorry . I have memory problems . ”
“Tragic, especially at such a young age . Here, continue . ”
“Sure, sure . ”
Jasper started cutting away at the meat with trembling hands . He dipped the meat with the sauce, and took a bite . He had to admit, it was good . Good enough to make him forget what kind of situation he was in .
“How’s the taste?”
“Amazing! The bird and the sauce works in perfect harmony with each other . It’s very honest, and yet very complex . I can feel the depth and the experience that…”
Jasper realized in the middle that he was just parroting what he said with his first dish . He quickly corrected himself .
“It’s amazing . That’s all I can say . ”
“So, can you tell who made it?”
“…I’ll try both dishes this time . ”
Rachel smirked . It was obvious how nervous the man was . It was pitiable, really . Jasper wiped the sweat off his brows as he moved to the next dish .
‘…This looks traditional as well . ’
The sauce looked sort of science-y and weird, but the dish itself was made with traditional technique . A beautiful fish steak . It looked almost like an art piece to him . Of course, the flavor was just as beautiful . The flesh softly separated in his mouth, and the crunchy coating gave away with an oily flavor .
The green curry was almost infuriatingly good as well . Combined with the goat cheese, Jasper felt happiness and anger at the same time .
‘Who the hell made this thing?!’
He wouldn’t feel this bad if these dishes were just ‘alright’ . But these dishes were almost unspeakably good .
“Can you tell who made the dish?”
His time was already up . Jasper still didn’t have an answer . To him, the pigeon dish from earlier seemed to be Rachel’s, but he really had no idea if he was right or wrong .
But he still needed to make a decision . He looked over the two dishes, then eventually pointed at a dish . He was pointing at the fish . Rachel smiled .
“Do you think you got it?”
“…Who knows . I don’t think getting it right is the important part, though . ”
“Of course it is . That’s what you tried to lecture us on in the first place . ”
“What I said last time was…”
“Ah, listen to the results first . The fish dish wasn’t made by me, it was made by the chefs . ”
Jasper wasn’t even disappointed . The situation was already irreversible . He didn’t even expect to get it right to begin with .
“You’re serious? It was made by the demi chefs by themselves?”
“Do you think I’d joke about such a thing?”
“No, it’s just… you must’ve taught them . That’s why the dishes must’ve resembled many of your other work . If that’s the case, then weren’t you practically the one who made the dish?”
Maya burst out laughing right then . No one stopped her, though . After all, practically everyone in the kitchen was trying to hold in their own . Rachel looked almost disgusted at him .
“So why did you criticize the dishes that I practically made, then that case? By your logic, the dishes that you criticized were mine, wasn’t it?”
Jasper looked almost confused . He clearly didn’t even know what he was saying at this point . The sweat on his brow turned into a stream, and his face had paled more than ever before .
He started clapping . Then, he put his hands over his mouth and started to laugh . By the time the laugh sounded more like a sob, he took off his hands to reveal a reddened nose .
“Please…” He began with a voice of a scared child .
“Please let me go, just this once . ”