Ren Baqian dashed towards the other caretakers and cupped his hands in salute. He shouted for a few odd-job workers to shift a cart load of ice chunks and followed the soldiers into the palace.
There was a passage between the palace door and the beast park. After checking through the ice chunks and the identities of the few of them, they were admitted into the palace.
The previous time Ren Baqian came, his mind had been filled with thoughts on how to save his own life and, as such, did not have the mood to look around the palace.
This time round, he was much more relaxed.
In short, the buildings in Dayao looked boorish. The buildings in the palace were mostly made from rocks. There were also some simple engravings on them which served to make Dayao's boorishness even more prominent. But, Ren Baqian actually found them interesting.
After all, that type of exquisite garden was in abundance on Earth. This type of boorish and exotic scenery of an alien land was a fresh experience for him.
They arrived at the entrance of a palace hall, and the few of them waited outside. The soldier who previously escorted them went ahead to announce his arrival to the higher-ups.
Shortly after, that soldier dashed towards everyone and waved his hand. "Deliver the ice inside."
Then he instructed Ren Baqian, "Follow me."
After leaving the other people, that soldier only then said to Ren Baqian, "Her Majesty wants you to prepare some exotic dishes. Do it well."
"Many thanks!" Ren Baqian cupped his hands in salute. "Brother, how should I address you?"
"My surname is Shi, you can call me Shi Hu." The soldier smiled.
"Is Brother Shi and Caretaker Shi from the same family?" Ren Baqian asked with curiosity.
"We are from the same stronghold."
Both of them chatted for a while, and Ren Baqian suddenly recalled, "Other than Her Majesty, who else resides in the palace hall? As I was walking in the palace hall, I could barely see a single soul."
"There are also a few palace maids, odd-job workers, and soldiers like us," Brother Shi replied.
Ren Baqian was slightly taken aback. To his great surprise, there were no eunuchs in this world.
After walking for more than ten minutes, only then did they arrive at a big courtyard with over 10 people busy working.
This was the imperial kitchen of the imperial palace, specializing in preparing food and drinks for the empress. If there were any imperial households or any other guests, this imperial kitchen would be in-charge as well.
The food and drinks for the guards, palace maids, and the odd-job workers were prepared elsewhere.
The imperial kitchen's caretaker was a tall and huge fatty. Ren Baqian did not know if all cooks were like that, but a majority of them were.
Especially the cooks over here. They researched all kinds of cuisines and tasted all sorts of food daily. It wasn't odd that they were fat as they had to try every single dish.
"Caretaker Gou, this is Ren Baqian from the beast park. Her Majesty's appetite isn't good today, please allow him to prepare some exotic dishes," Shi Hu introduced Ren Baqian to the imperial kitchen's caretaker.
After hearing Shi Hu's introduction, that fatty's face exuded a distinct displeasure. He flared up on the spot. "Since when did people from the beast park get to prepare meals? For whom is this meal intended?"
"Caretaker Gou, speak cautiously," Brother Shi warned in a deep voice.
Caretaker Gou only then realized that his words seemed to give the impression of scolding Her Majesty. He hurriedly replied, "It was unintentional, I hope that you will not blame me."
"The weather has been blistering hot these two days. Her Majesty lost her appetite and did not eat much during lunch today," Shi Hu continued.
"It's my fault!" Caretaker Gou lowered his head. Whatever the case, Her Majesty's bad appetite was definitely the imperial kitchen's fault. The hot weather doesn't justify our poor performance."
"Caretaker Ren is from a foreign country and he is proficient in cooking. Thus, Her Majesty wants him to prepare some exotic dishes for her."
"The imperial kitchen accepts the order," Caretaker Gou cupped his fists and replied.
Then, he rushed towards Ren Baqian and said, "Come over, use whatever you need. Let's see what kind of exotic dishes can you whip up. "
Ren Baqian could see that even though Caretaker Gou had verbally accepted the order, he still felt resentment deep down. After all, the imperial kitchen was his territory and he had absolute faith in his own culinary skills.
If it was another top chef who was displaying his culinary skills, he might be willing to take a look and learn from him.
They did not feel well having a caretaker from the beast park cook for the empress.
Ren Baqian previously saw that he did not quibble and acknowledged his mistake immediately, and therefore, his impression of him was actually rather good. However, the other party wasn't fond of him, so he, therefore, did not see a need to be on good terms with him.
It would be fine as long as he prepared something that satisfies the empress.
The main component of the imperial kitchen was the enormous room inside. There were also two slightly smaller rooms by its side.
Ren Baqian walked into the largest room and took a glance. There were all sorts of vegetables which he had both seen and not seen before. There were also various types of meat to the side of the kitchen.
The first thing that caught Ren Baqian's attention was the spices.
One by one, he tasted the salt, brown sugar, a type of fruit kernel which was sour and sweet, a kind of spicy fruit, and a ginger-like stolon. In addition, he also tried a jar of an odd-tasting meat sauce. These were all the spices that could be found in the imperial kitchen.
It was far more lacking than what Ren Baqian had expected—far more.
He reckoned that any commoner's house in China would definitely have more spices than this imperial kitchen.
Just like that, that gang of cooks from the imperial kitchen looked at Ren Baqian with a little arrogance. They wanted to see what could he actually do.
Ren Baqian prided himself as someone with ordinary culinary skills. He definitely could not prepare anything tasty only with these spices.
As for fully depending on the taste of the ingredients, Ren Baqian was not even familiar them. What could he do with the ingredients?
"How are things? What are you going to prepare?" Caretaker Gou replied in a condescending tone.
Ren Baqian was a little disappointed. "There are only these few spices. It's not even sufficient to cook a bowl of zhajiangmian."
Upon hearing what Ren Baqian said, Caretaker Gou flared up on the spot. "There are only these items all over the world. Even in the palaces of Great Xia, Yun Nation and Chen Nation, they only had these spices. Don't find fault with our things when you are not up to standard."
Ren Baqian grinned, there was nothing great about his culinary skills. But, if all these items were ordered by him, there would be more choices.
Moreover, Great Xia, the Yun Nation and the Chen Nation palaces only had these stuff? Ren Baqian truly could not believe it.
You are only a cook from Dayao palace's imperial kitchen. How would you even know what type of spices the other nation's palaces have?
Additionally, it was said that there were still other countries in existence west of Great Xia and south of the Chen Nation. These countries might be able to obtain more spices from other regions.
Even though Ren Baqian did not say anything, his expression from declining to say anything made Caretaker Gou unbearably angry.
You are from the beast park, yet you came to the imperial kitchen to prepare a meal for Her Majesty. Furthermore, you even think that our items are incomplete? It's practically too exasperating.
If you have the capability, come and take care of the imperial kitchen.
Caretaker Gou forcefully kept his cool and coldly replied, "What do you want?"
Ren Baqian shook his head slightly. He naturally could see that Caretaker Gou was unhappy. But the spices they had were incomplete, there was simply too little.
Caretaker Gou got even angrier when he saw Ren Baqian's response. "As long as whatever you need exists, I would definitely find it for you. If it doesn't exist, just sincerely admit that your culinary skills are not up to standard and scram back to your beast park."
"Is there MSG? Pepper? Chinese anise? Cumin? Sesame sauce? Ground pepper? Cinnamon…" Ren Baqian counted seven to eight types of spices as he folded his fingers. Then, he raised his head and asked, "Do you have these spices? It will be okay if you provide at least one of them."
Caretaker Gou was stunned and after thinking for some time, he asked Ren Baqian, "What are they?"
Ren Baqian roughly described the taste of the spices he mentioned above. Caretaker Gou was furious after listening to his explanation. "Are you kidding me? A bunch of baloney. All those items are unheard of and absolutely do not exist in the world. If Her Majesty wasn't waiting for you today, I would have thrashed you out."
"That's why I said, your items are incomplete." Ren Baqian still shook his head and gave a your-knowledge-is-limited-and-I'm-not-wrong look. This immediately pissed Caretaker Gou off.
"You take these items out for me to see if it's real as what you claimed. Otherwise, I'll get you for that. Even if I have to report this to Her Majesty, I will definitely not let this go," Caretaker Shi raised his voice so loudly that dust from the roof was being jolted down.
The other cooks from the imperial kitchen followed suit and scolded him as well.
"Where are you from and why are you talking rubbish? Don't think you can ride on Her Majesty's order for you to come and start criticizing in the imperial kitchen."
"The things which you have mentioned does not exist."
"Babbling nonsense in the imperial kitchen without knowing what the people over here do every day."
"A caretaker of the beast park knows how to prepare a meal?"
Their temper was irascible, and they started to swear at him.
The things which Ren Baqian mentioned were completely unheard of in their world. It was natural for them to believe that he was babbling nonsense. On top of that, his unconcerned expression indeed provoked people to hate him.