Published at 15th of November 2020 02:25:22 PM
Chapter 289: Types of Attention (2)
“Oh, you’re right, Min-joon . I remember that!”
“I feel a bit awkward to speak with you informally like this . ”
“Me, too . ”
The two looked at each other with an embarrassed expression for a moment, smiling at each other gently .
Min-joon asked in a calm voice, “How come you contacted me out of the blue?”
“Sorry . I know I’m not close to you enough to give you a call like this, but I suddenly wanted to tell somebody about my complaints . So, when I thought of someone who could understand me the most, you came to mind . It’s funny, isn’t it?”
“It’s not funny . I’m rather grateful that you contacted me because that means you think highly of me . ”
“Who would not think highly of you? Even during your school days, you always had a good name among our friends . ”
“How did you feel about my school days?” Min-joon asked curiously .
Min-sok’s middle school days were over only eight years ago, but it was almost 15 years ago for Min-joon . So, Min-joon had a faint memory of his middle school days .
Min-sok looked embarrassed for a moment as if it was hard for him to respond then slowly said, “You were unusual . You were ordinary like the others, but you didn’t get easily excited or overdo it like other kids . I would say you looked like a typical Korean nobleman . So, I wasn’t surprised at all when I heard you made a big success because I thought you would do well whatever you do . ”
“Thanks for your praise, but I feel embarrassed to hear that . ”
“I know, but at the end of the day, you have made it . People in the world listen to you when you say something . Do you know what happened to my restaurant when you posted a comment about it? My restaurant was fully packed with customers after that . They even stood in a line for their turn . ”
“I really enjoyed your Pyongyang cold noodles, and they will duly appreciate its true value . And I believe so . ”
“I believed so . I believed,” Min-sok muttered with a bitter voice . He stared at the table for a moment then opened his mouth in a voice mixed with helplessness and agony .
“But that’s not what happened . People don’t appreciate the taste of the noodles, to my surprise . Even those who think they know its taste are often wrong . Only a few days ago, most of the customers said something like, ‘I really don’t know what Pyongyang cold noodles taste like . ’ Do you know what kind of feedback comes up on the internet right now after you visited my restaurant today? They are now saying things like, ‘Wow, Min-joon has found a good hidden restaurant!’ They are showing reactions like that now . ”
“Don’t you think customers will come again because they really recognize that the cold noodles at your house are delicious?”
“Well, a gourmet once visited my restaurant . ”
Min-sok continued in a calm voice, pretending to be calm and subdued, “The gourmet visited my restaurant after my mother passed away . Then he said that as a young successor to my mother, I could not revive the authentic taste of the noodles that my mother had long developed, adding the taste of the noodles was gone, even though I used all the same recipe and the cooking method that my mother used to . After the gourmet posted his feedback about my restaurant, even those who said they enjoyed the noodles until yesterday suddenly changed their attitude and spread baseless rumors, saying recklessly, “Oh, that restaurant? The taste of the noodles really sucked after the restaurant changed hands . Don’t go there . ’ Min-joon, do you know how angry I was to read such comments?”
“I know . When it comes to bad comments, I’m as sick and tired of it as you are . ”
“To be honest with you, I’m still not that confident . What they trust is what you say, not the taste of my Pyongyang cold noodles . When I think about that, I just wonder what the hell I’m doing now? I was proud of my chef career, and I wanted to be proud of my job, but I can’t because nobody really appreciates its true taste . What the hell am I doing?”
It looked like Min-sok was about to cry anytime . Perhaps if he had drunk alcohol rather than coffee, he might have been crying since his face was turning reddish .
Min-joon quietly put his hand on his shoulder and said, “I know . ”
“What do you mean?”
“I know the true value of your cold noodles . It’s too beautiful a treasure for you to let go of it . I know it’s more artistic than a painting of tens of millions of dollars . ”
Min-joon smiled at him, feeling sorry for his current situation .
“Isn’t that enough to encourage your pride?”
“How should I respond, Min-joon?”
“I’m sorry . I feel like I was trying to cheer you up . ”
“Thanks a million, Min-joon . ”
When Min-joon raised both his hands, he shook his head with an uncontrollable smile .
Looking at him quietly, Min-joon asked in a calm voice, “What do you think about the prospect of your Pyongyang cold noodles business?”
“Well, right now, customers are coming back, but…” Min-sok blurred as if he felt embarrassed .
He couldn’t say he would change his mind and keep running the restaurant just because of Min-joon’s favorable feedback . He already had a lot of things on his mind, and Min-joon didn’t want to complicate his thoughts anymore because that would be too harsh for him .
So, Min-joon said simply, “I hope you won’t close the shop . ”
Min-joon could have said that his business would pick up soon, but he said instead he didn’t want Min-sok to close his restaurant .
Without making any eye contact with him, Min-joon continued in an apologetic voice, “I know that it’s too irresponsible for a third party like me to say this, but honestly, I’m not saying this for you . As a customer who enjoyed your noodles, I feel it’s so regrettable to see your restaurant disappearing . ”
“You are telling me that as if you are my regular customer . ”
“If I had lived in Korea until now, I would already have become your regular customer . ”
Min-sok Kim smiled lightly with mixed feelings at his casual response . Then he put the cup of Americano coffee to his mouth, which he already drank . Then he looked at Min-joon blankly, holding the cup, and said, “My elder brother cried . ”
“As I told you, he’s devoted himself to keeping the tradition of Pyongyang cold noodles his whole life . If you know how to imitate Pyongyang cold noodles, my brother really knows how to make it properly . Nonetheless, he had to be blamed as a phony Pyongyang cold noodle maker, let alone being despised by customers . But your feedback has changed everything,” he said feebly without any energetic zeal .
It was natural Min-sok thought so . But he was sick and tired of the reality that while he and his brother were not respected for their lifelong efforts to serve delicious Pyongyang cold noodles, Min-joon who gained fame and success abroad was instantly respected in Korea . Although that reality was painful to him, he didn’t feel it was strange . He slightly crumpled the disposable coffee cup in his hand .
“Don’t you think there is something wrong here? My brother has devoted nearly 20 years of his life to making noodles . In some respects, my brother is also a master chef . Even my brother, a master noodle chef, says his own noodles taste delicious, but the careless negative feedback by customers almost ruined our restaurant . Do you think this makes any sense? I just can’t understand that many years of our efforts to make delicious noodles are not better than your feedback…”
Min-sok glanced at Min-joon then said cautiously, “I’m sorry . I’m not upset about you . I’m just angry about the reality . ”
“I understand . I would certainly have been as upset as you if I had found myself in the same situation as yours . ”
“Koreans call you a chef or cook when you work at a high-end restaurant or a Korean traditional restaurant even if you have about one year of experience . But cooks like me who work at a noodle restaurant or those restaurants specializing in potato and pork rib stew, loach soup, seaweed rolls, or chopped noodles are just called merchants, not cooks . You know what?
When I see my friends, they hardly use the word cooking . They don’t ask me if my cooking is good or if it is not hard for me to cook . They just ask me how my business is doing or whether it is not hard for me to do business . ”
Instead of answering, Min-joon put his hand on his shoulder .
Min-sok said, growling with an angry voce, “Min-joon, I have never been engaged in what they call business . ”
“I know . You are a cook . Your brother is also a cook . ”
“I hate the word ‘high-end restaurant . ’ It doesn’t make any sense that just because my menu isn’t more expensive than theirs, my restaurant is not better than them . ”
“You’re right . ”
Honestly, Min-joon had never given serious thought to it . In fact, he was currently working in a restaurant that people call a high-end restaurant . He could not afford to think about the agonies of the chefs working at other restaurants .
“I’m sorry to tell you about my complaints like this when you’ve come a long way here to help me . But I’ve realized that you’re the only one who wants to understand me because you’re a chef and a good one at that . ”
“Thanks for your kind words, Min-sok . Well, all I can do for you is to listen to you . So, what are you going to do with your restaurant?”
“If I can, I would like to keep it open . My brother feels the same way . But can I make it?
“Well, I think they have changed their perception of your restaurant . If you and your brother keep making good cold noodles, they will recognize you at the end of the day, I think . Good cooks like you who make delicious food should receive dull treatment and rewards . If you can’t…” Min-joon blurred .
He glanced at Min-sok’s hands with lots of scars .
“If you can’t, there must be something wrong with our society . ”