He thought that one day, he would have to go through it, but he never thought that the day would come so fast. Jo Minjoon went back to his countertop with his tray on his hand. He could see Marco’s worried expression. Marco said something through mouths shapes, but he couldn’t know the meaning behind them. Jo Minjoon smiled without a word and looked at his cooking.
It is close to a family meal. Jo Minjoon, when he heard those words, realized something. That he ended up overlooking something.
There was no dish that was captivating enough in his cooking. He needed to make some special dish or had to make many garnishes to take advantage of that richness. But the dishes that were on the tray were only those four dishes. Gamjajeon, miyeokguk, bibimbap, and cabbage roll. There wasn’t a characteristical korean richness, nor charm in these dishes.
When he heard that this was a well made family meal, he couldn’t think of any words to refute. Certainly, you wouldn’t know if it was a menu from a town restaurant that costed a thousand wons(TL:korean currency. 1000won=1 dollar aprox.), but this wasn’t something to be presented in a good restaurant. He also wanted to win through an exotic flavor, but the result wasn’t that good.
But why could that be? He wasn’t feeling that bad. Was it that he didn’t feel anything about him being an eliminated candidate? No, that wasn’t it. It was different. He did get angry. And it also bothered him. He felt sorry for cooking something that was only that much. But the words of Joseph, kept ringing in his mind. That it was the best cooking he had made so far.
It was his first dish. Not made as a participant, but as a chef. And Joseph didn’t mind the level of the cooking. With that, he felt that one of his guesses were right. The cooking score was of course an important thing, but it didn’t determine everything.
Just knowing that, he felt warmer. A bitter smile could be seen on Jo Minjoon’s face. It was a smile that was hard to notice unless you looked in detail, but the cameraman that was next to him closed up on his smile.
It was a strange feeling. The regret and sorrow for becoming one of the eliminated candidate, and at the same time, happiness for his dishes being recognized. The scale was balancing more toward the happiness, but he could do nothing about the bitterness.
The evaluation continued. The people Jo Minjoon looked closely were three. Anderson, Kaya and Marco. And those three passed splendidly.
From the three dishes, one particularly touched his heart. Anderson’s. Thinly sliced mozzarella cheese scabbed in eggplants. When the judges took a bite of it and the cheese inside the eggplant stretched, Jo Minjoon gulped having forgotten his own situation.
The evaluation all ended. From the 21 people, 13 people passed and all went upstairs. And the remaining disqualifying people were 8. Maybe he could say that he was fortunate, but there was no one close to Jo Minjoon among them.
Jo Minjoon looked at the second floor. And made eye contact with Kaya. It was a sharp and ferocious gaze as usual. Kaya opened her mouth. It seemed that she was going to say something, but ended up saying nothing. Jo Minjoon put on a light smile. Even if she did say something, they were on a distance where nothing could be heard. And knowing Kaya’s character, she wouldn’t even make a sound.
Marco, that was next to Kaya, gripped his fist as if he was making a ‘fighting’ posture. Jo Minjoon faced that fat fist, and made an okay sign. It was at that moment. From the side of the casting crew, a loud voice was heard.
“The eliminated candidates will be having an interview before the losers mission. Come to do the interview in the order you were evaluated.”
Jo Minjoon was the second. After waiting for a while, Jo Minjoon went in the interviewing room. Martin was smiling as usual. At the same time Jo Minjoon seated in his place, Martin asked.
“How are you feeling right now?”
Jo Minjoon said briefly. At that moment, Martin thought that it was because he was bothered by that question, but soon changed his mind after seeing Jo Minjoon’s expression. To say that he was in a bad situation, he had an excessively calm face. How could he be like that? Martin thought of Jo Minjoon to be a greedy participant. Of course, there would be no greedy participants but, at least, he wasn’t like a taoist that didn’t dwell in front of victory.
But in Jo Minjoon’s face couldn’t even be seen a trace of despair that normal losers should have. So did he have to interpret that as something good? Maybe it could be seen that he didn’t hold any grudges. But Jo Minjoon wasn’t that kind of participant. The cameraman, normally follows him around only on broadcasting days, but the camera installed in the kitchens and other places were always running. And what the camera recorded was that Jo Minjoon was one of the participants that practiced the most in the kitchen.
Because of that, he couldn’t say that Jo Minjoon didn’t hold any grudge. Martin asked in a rather calm voice.
“Contrary to saying that it was regretful, you seem quite calm.”
“Yes. Did you maybe get through it?”
“I wonder. It’s difficult to say that…… But I’m not feeling that good. The words Joseph told me, that it was a good meal stays in my heart.”
Jo Minjoon replied like that and smiled faintly. It was a smile that wasn’t made up. An honest one. Martin thought that it would be good material and asked.
“If you get to disqualify in this mission, then will you be able to smile like you are right now?”
Jo Minjoon didn’t reply for a long while. When Martin started to feel frustrated, Jo Minjoon replied in a low voice.
“What did I tell you the first time we saw? That I wanted to confirm whether I should be cooking or not?”
“Yes. And that the winner was going to be Kaya, if there were no upsets. And if there was, that upset was going to be you. You also said that.”
At those words Martin said jokingly, the smile in Jo Minjoon disappeared instantly. Jo Minjoon opened his mouth. A loud and hard voice was heard.
“The words I said at that time, I will have to cancel them.”
“I understood this time. That I don’t like losing nor getting eliminated. The participants, they cook and I also do. Their dishes are delicious and so are mine. I won’t keep saying that it is something unavoidable. I will reach the highest I can. I won’t stop for myself.”
His determination was transmitted in those words. It seemed like he was chewing each of the words and spitting them out. Maybe, if this was a movie, Martin’s role would just be to admire him at those words. But this was an audition program. It was an interview. Martin couldn’t help but throw another question at him.
“But what are you going to do if a huge wall stands in front of you? What if you end up falling?”
Jo Minjoon replied without hesitating.
“I’m going to cry. I’m going to shout and yell. But….. in the end….”
Jo Minjoon rested for a moment. And Martin gulped. The cameraman that was next to them, and the broadcast writer were looking at Jo Minjoon’s mouth nervously.
“I will have to stand up. Because that’s what I have to do.”
Everyone’s interview ended, and the 8 participants stood in front of their countertops. The judges looked at the disqualifying candidates warmly. Alan stood in front. He had his fingers intertwined and said severely.
“You people are about to get eliminated right now. There will be three people eliminated among you, and perhaps, even more so.”
A heavy atmosphere presented for a moment. Nobody could open their mouths. Even the participants that passed and were on the second floor, and the disqualifying candidates.
They couldn’t help but get closer in the time they were together. They knew that they were competitors, but they got along all the days. On top of that, they had the same hobby of cooking, so it was hard not to get closer between them.
To open your mouth in front of those participants and the heavy atmosphere, it would be a difficult thing to do so even if you were a judge. Alan opened his mouth, when he did so, his eyes were sunk really deep.
“I will announce the elimination mission.”
It wasn’t a loud voice. But it couldn’t be helped but to be heard more clearly than ever. Jo Minjoon just looked at Alan. Alan brought a big wooden box to the table where the judges were. When he opened the box, a groaning sound could be heard from the participants. Because they could deduce what the theme would be just by looking at that.
“It will be a tasting mission. The fried tofu pockets that are in front of you each contain different things. The ingredients that are contained in a pocket are twenty. You will have to say what those twenty ingredients are and guess the contents. The three that guessed the least amount of ingredients will be the ones to get eliminated, and if there is someone who didn’t even get one right, will also get eliminated if there are already three eliminated people.”
Jo Minjoon just looked at the wooden box. There were 10 pockets inside of it. And they were all numbered.
At the same time, Jo Minjoon could confirm. That he would be winning this mission. He couldn’t help but think like that. Because he had the strength of the system. He was confident on being able to guess the ingredients better than anyone in the world. If they didn’t have an absolute taste like Kaya, it was impossible to name all of the ingredients as precisely as Jo Minjoon.
The cooking score of the fried tofu pockets varied. They were mostly 5 points, but there were also 4 points. It seemed like they focused on the ingredients inside of it rather than the flavor. Alan elevated his tone of voice.
“Pick your fried tofu pockets. The turns will be decided with the order of the numbers.”
At those words, the participants approached the pockets and picked a number. The first thing that disappeared was the number 1 pocket. It was understandable. Because in these kind of missions, it would be more comfortable to go first. Because in the end, they just had to wait for three more people that got a lower score than them. It was better to know their own score early on. But of course, if a situation occurred where they got 2 ingredients right, it would be a completely meaningless election.
Because Jo Minjoon didn’t hurry, the remaining numbers were only 8, 9 and 10. Jo Minjoon picked the number 10 calmly. Alan glanced at Jo Minjoon and then, opened his mouth.
“It would be better to go first. Why didn’t you hurry?”
“Because it’s meaningless.”
He didn’t know how he would interpret that, but Alan stared at Jo Minjoon for a while. But fortunately, he didn’t extend the conversation. As Jo Minjoon got back to his place, Alan looked at the participant with the number 1 pocket and said.
“Selena, come out and try your fried tofu.”
Selena. The one who claimed to be a housewife was wearing her apron and walked forward with a faint smile. After she ate it, she started to name the ingredients in a rather bright voice. But when she got the first one wrong, the second, and also the third one, her voice became clearly more unconfident.
In the end, the ingredients she guessed right were five. 5 out of 20. And the next participant didn’t do much better. Six. The one who did the worst was the sixth participant. A white man that was over his sixties, Dan, could only get three ingredients right. It was understandable. Because the older you got, your sense of taste got duller. Even if he tried to do his utmost to sense the ingredients, there was a limit to it.
The seventh participant was a food stylist, Danny. He got eleven ingredients right away and got the admiration from the people upstairs. But after that, he got it all wrong. But of course, it was a really good score getting 11 right.
And then, Jo Minjoon’s turn came.
“Come to the front Minjoon.”
Jo Minjoon walked with a calm face. And didn’t hesitate for even a minute and put the fried tofu pocket in his mouth. It happened so fast, that Alan got perplexed. Jo Minjoon chewed a few times and gulped it down. And then closed his eyes. A window appeared in that darkness.
[Fried tofu pocket]
Origins: (Too many ingredients to show)
Cooking score: 4/10
The flavor was only eatable. But the most important right now wasn’t that. Jo Minjoon removed the setting of the hidden ingredients. And at that moment, all of the ingredients that contained showed up. Jo Minjoon said in a calm voice.
Jo Minjoon kept naming all of the ingredients without stopping. Duck eggs, pistachio, chaga mushrooms, squash. And he also guessed the unexpected ingredients like front pork leg, octopus body, herring body fat. And the only thing Alan could reply was ‘there is’. When Jo Minjoon got 17 ingredients right, the people in the second floor were filled with amazement. It was a shocking thing.
And Alan was no exception. He was forcing to look calm, but his eyes were twitching a little. Even he was only confident in guessing 12 right, if he was asked to do so. But right now, in front of him was a young asian man getting all of the ingredients right.
‘What is this cursing sense of taste……’
No, it wasn’t just the problem of tasting. He had to eat and feel what the ingredients were in order to differentiate them with all of the food in the word. If he didn’t incorporate it in his tongue, it was an impossible thing to do. He wondered if it was a humane ability to be able to guess the parts of the pork or octopus that only a bean size of it was used. Jo Minjoon opened his mouth once again. It seemed like it was bothersome to name each of the ingredients, so he named the remaining three ingredients at once.
“Ground cherry pepper, dang noodles (당면), tofu.”
Jo Minjoon said that and slowly opened his eyes. He said in a rather cool voice.
“That’s the end.”
And then Alan replied.
“……. I will get crazy.”
< Absolute sense of taste (1) > End