Jo Minjoon gulped. Honestly speaking, he thought that there would be no way that he would get eliminated, but even so, he couldn’t stop his heart from beating.
He slightly glanced at Marco, and he didn’t look too good. Hugo that was next to him patted his back without any words. Emily said with a calm voice.
“After we announce the results, you will be divided in two classes. The surviving people, and those who couldn’t. Is there anyone that thinks that they would get eliminated?”
At Emily’s question, nobody replied. Because they didn’t want to show an unconfident look. Emily nodded. For there to be silence at this kind of question was an obvious thing. It was at that moment when she was going to turn her head. Marco carefully raised his hand. Emily looked at Marco’s face that didn’t have a trace of laughter. Marco hesitated and said with a voice so low he seemed to be whispering.
“I think that I’ll get eliminated.”
“It’s not that I’m not confident in my tiramisu. But everyone else are also good chefs. I don’t think that I would get more votes than them. More than anything……..”
Marco smiled bitterly. He forced to speak with a calm voice.
“In the first place, I think that only half of the people that came ate it. And deducting the people that repeated it, they wouldn’t even be half of the half. I can’t help to think that I got more votes than them, from that minority.”
To tell him to get more confidence, it was really clear that he was acting really pessimistic. Emily’s light in her eyes subsided. The voice that came out from his mouth was even lower compared to usual.
“I understand that you are feeling down. But if you can maybe survive, how will you feel then?”
“First, I would feel good. And……..”
Marco stopped his words for a moment. He looked at the other participants. At Kaya, Jo Minjoon, Anderson…….. Only after he looked at each of them one by one, he barely opened his mouth.
“I want to keep being with them. They were really good people in my life.”
“…….I also hope that you are able to.”
After Emily’s regretting voice, the conversation ended. Joseph coughed and looked at Alan. Alan looked at the card that was in his hand.
“Before announcing the results of the votes, and the amount of times your food was eaten, we will first tell you the ones we voted for. First, I will tell you who I voted for.”
Alan hesitated for a moment. Jo Minjoon thought that at that moment, he had made eye contact with him, but the one Alan named wasn’t him.
“Kaya. It’s you.”
Kaya raised her brows. She looked at Alan as if it was unexpected. Alan said with a calm voice.
“I’m Italian. I know better than anyone else the flavor frittata originally needs to have. Kaya, you made me feel my hometown in this far away land. Honestly speaking, I’m surprised. You didn’t get taught by an Italian chef……No, thinking about it, you wouldn’t even have gone to an Italian restaurant. I’m just surprised because you know what the ideal flavor of frittata is.”
Kaya silently listened to Alan, and then asked.
“You talked for really long so I didn’t understand, but you praised me right now, right?”
The corner of her mouth raised. It was a provocative smile. ‘Nowadays teens are difficult.’ Alan thought like that and let out a sigh inwardly. He remembered his childhood. Would the people that were looking at that time be feeling like him?
The atmosphere got awkward for a moment. Joseph slightly opened his mouth.
“It seems that it’s my turn. I have thought a lot between two people. It’s Sasha and Marco.”
A faint smile could be seen in Marco’s mouth. Joseph smiled brightly and continued saying.
“You too have cooked really good dishes. And it also suited my tastes. As I aged, I got to like more food that exhausted your jaw less. Sasha’s strawberry chiffon cake and Marco’s tiramisu. The point that both of them were soft was really good for me. The balance of the flavor was also perfect, and it didn’t feel excessive. Honestly speaking, these are difficult dishes to say what’s the better one. And the genres aren’t even the same.”
Jo Minjoon nodded involuntarily. Both of the dishes were 8 points. Of course there were small differences in it, but you could see the overall level of it to be similar. Joseph continued speaking.
“However Marco, the refreshing feeling your tiramisu gave me was less compared to Sasha’s dish. Her strawberry chiffon cake had lemon juice in the cream, and the sourness of the strawberry itself cleaned your tongue. But your tiramisu was just sweet. Of course, for a tiramisu, I couldn’t see many things to point out……Sorry. My vote went to Kaya.”
Sasha replied with a plain voice. She wasn’t so tactless as to express with a happy voice when right next to her, Marco was putting a dark expression.
Emily coughed. She slightly looked towards Jo Minjoon and Chloe.
“I tell you this beforehand, but this is simply my tastes. Rather than as a judge, as a customer. And recently, I got more interested in Asian food. A foreign flavor and aroma. Nowadays, I needed something with a different colour.”
Her mouth opened. Emily pointed her tongue with her finger and said.
“And this tongue told me. That both of the dishes said that it stimulated it in a long while. But of course, I did eat dak galbi and mapo tofu several times…… I can tell you this certainly. It was one of the most delicious dishes I have tried.”
Jo Minjoon smiled faintly and replied. Chloe just had a confused face as if she also had to reply or not. Emily talked faster than her being able to finish her thought.
“Chloe. I was worried because you put peanut butter in your mapo tofu…… But that was your joker. A soft feeling was added on top of the spiciness. And Minjoon, I felt that your dak galbi was in the middle of ginger fork and dak galbi. Could it be called a fusion?”
Jo Minjoon and Chloe didn’t reply and just looked at Emily. Maybe she was burdened by their sights, but Emily laughed awkwardly and continued speaking.
“It’s rather awkward to praise you like this and make one of you fall, I’m sorry. But even so, I wanted to tell that I ate really well. And……The person I chose is Minjoon.”
In that instant, Chloe’s face shook. She too, forced down her regret and applauded while smiling. Jo Minjoon too wanted to bow unconsciously, but then opened his mouth.
“Thank you for eating deliciously.”
“I don’t just eat any food deliciously. Minjoon, you have grown up so much in this competition that we could clearly see it with our eyes. At first, it wasn’t this delicious……..”
Jo Minjoon replied back with a smile. Emily looked at him as if she was looking at her grown up cousin and said.
“Just keep it like this. If you keep cooking like today, perhaps, you will really be able to win. But then, my plans to recruit you as an epicurean will crumble……. But I will keep cheering for you.”
“Is there something to hide? You will probably be the most promising epicurean in this country, no, in all of history.”
Making him stand out was also bothersome if it was this much. Jo Minjoon stepped back along an awkward smile. Alan said with a loud voice.
“The votes of we, judges, is merely one vote of the customer. There’s no need to feel so disappointed because you couldn’t get chosen by us. First, I will announce the dishes the customers emptied. Well, I think that you too have vaguely guessed it.
If you cooked once, you could vaguely serve 20 dishes. Hugo, that refilled 5 times, would have emptied at least a hundred dishes. And in the case of Jo Minjoon that refilled 4 times, it was around 80 and 100 dishes. And the only one that refilled twice was Marco. Alan opened his mouth.
“The one with the lowest score is Marco. You made fifty dishes, but only two of them emptied it. What do you think is the cause of your defeat?”
“It’s a relief that you know it. However Marco, the tiramisu itself was fine. There’s no need to get that dispirited.”
The announcing continued. Hugo got 1st place with 113 empty dishes. Second place was Kaya with 93 dishes. And the next one was right.
“Minjoon, you are third place. You emptied 92 dishes.”
It was Jo Minjoon. He put a faint smile and hit Kaya with his elbow. Kaya sharpened her eyes as if she was asking why was he hitting her. He whispered in a low voice.
“It’s only one dish of difference.”
“There’s no need to shorten it if it’s only one dish. It’s about the same.”
“I wonder. Aside from that difference, there’s no athlete named Usain Belt.”
“Hmph, then you don’t know about him. Stupid. To be so in the dark in world culture.”
He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t Belt, but Bolt, but Jo Minjoon stood it. The judges were looking at them with eyes telling them not to keep talking. He remembered his school days when he got reprimanded by the teachers. Kaya grumbled with a voice so low it couldn’t be heard, and dropped her head.
The announcement of the dish scores ended, but there was no one that reacted to that. Because it was just as they had imagined it. The important thing was the votes. Depending on how many points they got, it would decide everything. Alan said with a calm voice.
“We will immediately announce the results of the votes without wasting any minute. I will say it in the order of the ones that had higher scores in the dishes. Hugo, 7 votes. Kaya, 17 votes.
At Kaya’s score, an exclamation saying ‘oh’ was heard. If you added the votes of the judges and the customers, the total number of votes numbered to only 103. But if she got 17 votes, it was almost twice the average. Perhaps, Kaya could get first place in the votes. It was at that moment when Jo Minjoon was also admiring her.
At this moment, contrary to what he had said of not wasting any more time, he shut his mouth. He continued speaking with a certainly trembling voice.
Someone cursed. But nobody blamed him. Because they were all feeling the same. Just how could he get 24 votes. Alan’s eyes became sharp. He thought that it wasn’t simply because his dish was delicious.
‘Starship. Fandom. That will be the biggest reasons.’
It was unavoidable. Not even a quarter of the customers that looked for the restaurant were proper epicureans. Most of them thought that because it was famous and others also said that it was delicious, they also believed that it was truly delicious. Also in the case of famous restaurants, depending on how a famous epicurean evaluates it, the reactions of the customers also changed. Even if they presented the same dish, it was felt more deliciously, and at other times, more disgustingly.
That’s why the thing called brand was important. It wasn’t because a chef like Dave didn’t open his own restaurant, or he worked in one of Rose Island’s branches as a head chef because he didn’t have the capital to make his own restaurant.
Even if Jo Minjoon opened a restaurant with sloppy skills, he would be boasting about all the customers he had. Because his absolute sense of taste would give them confidence, just like a Michelin three star. Perhaps, it wasn’t only between the epicureans, but the cooking business circle would value really sweetly the card named Jo Minjoon. Because if they put him in their menu development team, or even if they don’t and sell a Jo Minjoon’s menu, it would attract a lot of customers.
Emily’s voice woke up Alan from his imagination. Alan continued speaking with an awkward voice.
“I was in a loss for words because I was surprised. I will continue. Chloe, 10 votes. Anderson, 12 votes. Sasha, 9 votes. Ivanna, 6 votes. Olivia, 5 votes. Joanne, 6 votes. And…… Marco, 7 votes.”
7 votes. Taking into account that the people that took Marco’s dish wasn’t even 50, it was a really outstanding number. While the participants were calculating in their head, Joseph said with a calm voice.
“I will announce the first place for this mission. The first place got a total of 332 points with 92 points in the dishes, and 240 with the votes. ……..Well, you have faces as if you had already expected it. You are right. It’s Minjoon. Minjoon, you will get a special privilege in the next mission.”
Jo Minjoon replied with a bewildered face. He liked winning, but for it to be 24 votes? Was his dish that allowed him to get such an overwhelming victory? He could only think like that.
2nd place was Kaya. She didn’t get as much as Jo Minjoon, but the amount of votes she got was also overwhelming compared to the others. He didn’t name the next places. Because, it was meaningless. And the lowest score was announced.
“I will announce the lowest score. It’s 121 points. This person got 5 votes, and emptied 71 dishes. You have done well. Olivia. Please, leave Grand Chef’s house.”
Suddenly, Olivia started to cry. Jo Minjoon just looked at her. Although he couldn’t get close with her until the end, she was a hispanic girl that had brought her dish and asked him the cooking score. Chloe hugged her with a face as sad as hers.
As Olivia left the kitchen, nervousness surged up again. 2 people were going to get eliminated in this mission. Who was going to be the next one, Jo Minjoon didn’t calculate in purpose. He didn’t want to.
“The second eliminated one got 52 empty dishes and got 7 votes. Compared to the empty dishes, the amount of votes was really fine. Marco.”
At that moment, an awful silence fell. Joseph didn’t get dispirited at that silence. He continued to say with a calm voice.
“Your tiramisu was really good. You have done well. Keep cooking in the future. Your bread was so excellent to the point I would serve it in my restaurant.”
Marco didn’t cry unlike Olivia. Although his voice was wet, maybe he didn’t want to also tear up his eyes.
Looking at Marco’s back leaving the kitchen, everybody just looked at him without any words. Before he left the kitchen, Marco turned back. Although they didn’t know who Marco was looking at, he thought that all of the participants would be looking at him.
“Win! Without fail!”
No one could open their mouths and say that they were going to.
< Unexpected collaboration (4) > End