Her words felt oh so sweet to him . The happiness of customers was important, sure, but nothing made him happier than Rachel’s praise .
Minjoon turned to look somewhere else for a second . He could see Lisa make the cassoulet at the oven . He felt sorry for giving her so much more work, but the oven was her area to begin with . He didn’t want to intervene in her area of expertise . Minjoon looked down at his gel . He was supposed to wrap vanilla cream and crushed peanuts inside it to make dumplings . He grabbed one of the dumplings and popped it into his mouth .
‘Tastes good . ’
No matter how tired he was, eating something tasty made him feel way more energetic . Minjoon turned to look at the hall . He could see a couple of people eating his cassoulet sandwich . Watching their confused faces turn into a happy one made Minjoon smile along with them .
Annie smiled as she watched Minjoon .
“You’re a total weirdo, Minjoon,” she said .
“That’s a compliment, right?”
“Of course . Geniuses are all weirdos . Like Einstein and Beethoven . ”
“It’s embarrassing being compared to people like them, please stop . ”
“It’s very charming, you know that?”
“You know I have a girlfriend, right?”
“Eh, you’re not even married . ”
Annie smiled when she saw Minjoon’s confused face .
“Don’t worry . I’m not gunning for you or anything . ”
She walked away back into the hall . Minjoon looked at her a little bit nervously before turning back to his station . There was no reason for him to get occupied by random thoughts like this . Especially not when he was losing so much focus to begin with . Maybe that was why he got scolded by Rachel later in the day .
“Minjoon, come here . ”
“What do you think about this here?”
Rachel was pointing at the soy sauce jelly on top of foie gras . Minjoon peered into the jelly before letting out a small moan . The jelly had little bits all over it .
“I’m sorry . I’ll make a new one right away . ”
“What happened to you? Usually you’re really good with catching this kind of stuff . ”
“I think I just lost focus . I’m sorry . ”
Minjoon lowered his head heavily . Rachel looked at him with strange eyes before patting his shoulder .
“We have a lot of orders . Go back . I trust you won’t make this mistake again . ”
“Yes, of course . ”
Minjoon stopped himself from bowing like usual and turned away biting his tongue . He could see the jelly on top of the stainless steel plate . It was beautiful enough to make him feel excited, but it also somehow made him sleepy .
He was tired . Maybe that state of his reflected almost too clearly on his face? Rachel looked very uncomfortable looking at him . There didn’t need to be another person collapsing in the kitchen from overwork . Deborah peeked her head out from the office to comment a little .
“Hey teach, that guy might actually fall over at this rate . Shouldn’t you give him a vacation or something?”
Rachel didn’t respond . Not because she was ignoring Deborah, but because she was thinking of so many things at the moment .
Deborah turned to look at Minjoon . The man had clearly lost weight from stress . It was a tiny bit better than him gaining weight from stress eating, but… It felt bad to look at nonetheless .
Rachel probably felt even worse than her . After all, the head chef had to send her own husband back into the kitchen . There were many articles of praise about Daniel spending his last moments in the kitchen, but… it left Rachel all by her lonesome .
‘Try not to hurt Rachel so much, Minjoon . ’
Deborah turned to look at the hall . She noticed that every single table in the hall were colored with happiness . Looking at it just made her sigh in disappointment .
‘…I guess I’m not in a position to worry about others . ’
Annie immediately noticed that the napkin on Jaina’s lap had fallen down on the ground . She was only in her twenties, but she wasn’t amateur enough to miss something like that . Especially not as the most talented server in the crew .
She took away the napkin and brought Jaina a new one on a plate .
“Your napkin, miss . ”
“Ah, thank you . ”
Jaina smiled back politely, which sparked a thought . Was she getting graded based on her service?
Annie did recall hearing something about the Michelin inspectors . Some stuff about how they graded service and whatnot . She didn’t know if it was a mere rumor, but perhaps these two were…
‘I guess I’ll let Rachel know for now . ’
Not that Rachel would really care . The head chef wasn’t the type that gave tasters special treatment or anything . She treated every customer equally, with the best service and food that she could offer . That was Rachel’s motto .
“So this was made by the demi chef as well…?” Jaina asked just then .
“Yes, this was made by chef Javier . Would you like an explanation again?”
The two of them had finished the dish already, but originally there was an arancini on their plate . A fried ball of risotto, that is . It was decorated with a sauce made with asparagus and ricotta . It was creamy, cold, and almost like yogurt in texture .
“This was a very modernistic dish . Felt very… young? On the tongue . ”
“Isn’t it surprising? Chef Rachel’s dishes are rooted in the past . At least, her past glory is . Despite that, she’s still bold enough to put modern dishes on the menu . ”
“But these were made by her disciples . ”
“That’s the amazing thing . Didn’t you often complain about dishes that weren’t made by the head chef in other restaurants?”
“Because they were bad . Almost incredibly so compared to the head chef’s dishes . ”
“What about here, then?”
Rachel let out an exclamation of surprise . She realized what Paul was trying to get at .
“Right, the dishes here don’t drop in quality or anything . Is this because of chef Rachel? Or her disciples’ talent?”
“There are plenty of people who want to work at Rose Island . Finding talents out of these people isn’t that difficult . But that isn’t the problem . Do you think anyone with talent can make dishes like this? No, that’s a bad question . Do you think the dishes made by demi chefs in other restaurants were bad because they weren’t talented?”
“…That’s a hard question . I don’t grade chefs, I can only grade dishes . ”
“This is what makes chef Rachel unique . She’s not necessarily the most talented when it comes to cooking . But in terms of leading the kitchen… Teaching them, and helping the chefs… She’s definitely the best in the world . ”
He sounded almost certain of it . Jaina asked a question with a curious look .
“Do you happen to know chef Rachel?”
Paul closed his mouth . Not because he was fixated on the new dish in front of him . He just refused to answer the question, it looked like .
The next dish was something that was based on Rachel’s recipe . Oysters wrapped in lobster jelly with cauliflower cream, and a cannelloni made with smoked oysters . Cream of oyster soup topped with lemon extract, and a mini oyster waffle topped with various herbs . Paul looked at the dish with a nostalgic look after the server left them to eat .
“Daniel loved dishes like these . Dishes that expressed many aspects of one ingredient . Kind of like Minjoon’s Jo Reggiano . Rachel probably felt the same way as me as she reviewed the dish . It was almost exactly like something Daniel would come up with . ”
It also served as an answer to Jaina’s previous question . She answered with a lowered voice .
“Sounds too weird to be a coincidence . ”
“It’s almost as if it was fate, isn’t it?”
Paul raised his spoon with a smile . He dipped into the soup first . It was a cream soup, but it wasn’t too creamy or fatty at all . As a matter of fact, the fruit flavors came forward even more prominently than the flavor of the cream . The oyster tasted almost like a seafoody mushroom rather than something fishy as well .
“…Gosh, I want to cry . I’ve missed this quite a bit . ”
He almost looked like he was eating his mother’s food after a decade . It was almost jarring . But Jaina couldn’t disagree with Paul’s statement .
“But we can’t come here for three years now . ”
“It’s fine . It’s fine to let others come here . You seem to be regretting your decision already . ”
“I’m going to eat with as much focus as possible . I don’t want to forget this flavor . ”
Jaina said as she took a spoonful of soup herself . She closed her eyes . She was almost swept away by the flavor of the dish .
‘It’s like the other dishes, but… As expected of chef Rachel, it tastes more aged and whatnot . ’
She savored each and every bite of it . Every dish was art, and she truly felt like she was at the height of her life eating .
They were pretty slow at eating because of that . Tasters had a reputation for eating slowly, but they stayed long enough to be the last customers in the entire hall .
“Here’s your Jo Reggiano . Chef Minjoon used five different cheeses to…”
After Annie finished her explanation, the two of them raised their forks with an expectant look . Their stomachs were close to exploding at this point . It was hard to finish all the food restaurants usually gave them . Even when the dishes weren’t their to fill them up, but to help them experience new flavors .
In that sense, Jaina looked incredibly confused . Each bite of the dish made her look more and more confused .
“So you felt it,” Paul smiled .
“There’s no way . This tastes completely different compared to what I had at other restaurants . Did Minjoon hide something in his recipe?”
“Yes . ”
“He knows exactly what the dish is supposed to taste like . He can’t describe that in just words . ”
“But… that alone is enough to make it this different?”
It wasn’t just a ‘little bit better’ . Minjoon’s Jo Reggiano was far more tasty than any other version she’s tried so far . Almost good enough for her to doubt if all the other versions she’s had were fakes . Paul continued in a calm voice .
“It’s just like bread . It can taste completely different just based on who bakes it . ”
“…This is so sad . I can’t eat this for three years?”
Jaina looked almost depressed as she left the hall . Right as they stepped out of the door, though, a familiar voice stopped them from the back .
“It’s been a while . Did you enjoy the meal?”
“…Rachel . ”
“You should’ve told me you were here . You can’t just leave like that . ”
“Jaina, please wait for me in the car . ”
“Ah, yes . ”
Jaina stepped in the car with a perplexed look . This didn’t seem like something she could butt into . Rachel opened her mouth with a smile .
“I remember trying to stop you adamantly when you told me you were going to become a taster . At least you got a nice girlfriend out of it . ”
“Stop it with the stupid jokes . That girl is just my… disciple . ”
“Tasters have disciples too?”
“As you can see . ”
Rachel shrugged . Paul continued as he looked down at the marble floor .
“The food was spectacular . Including your disciples’ . Especially that Minjoon’s dish… it resembled his dishes a lot . Was that intentional?”
“I was surprised too . I didn’t think it’d be that similar . Maybe supertasters just all end up like that?”
Rachel looked at Paul directly, who just kept on evading his gaze .
“It’s good that you came back though . You stopped coming even before I retired, didn’t you?”
“…I didn’t have the heart to see you again . ”
“Like I said before, you don’t need to feel so bad over it . Jerome’s incident… was my fault for not raising him harshly at all . ”
Paul didn’t respond . The two eventually looked over at Paul’s car for a second . Jaina looked away hurriedly when her eyes met with theirs .
“My husband died in the kitchen . The customers quite literally killed him . But we don’t call the customers a murderer . It’s the same thing, Paul . You were just doing your job . Jerome just couldn’t take the pressure . That’s my fault . ”
“…You’re still cool as always, Rachel . ”
“I wouldn’t be Rachel Rose otherwise . ”
Rachel smiled . Paul could see her old confidence in her eyes . She’s become quite a woman . Paul looked at his shoes with a bitter look . He’s waxed it just this morning, but it already looked pretty worn .
“Your disciples are quite a piece of work as well . I really enjoyed their dishes . ”
“Please come again . You’re welcome anytime . ”
Paul smiled . He couldn’t come back for three years, but he couldn’t dare say it .
“Sure . I will . ”