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As soon as he tasted it, Min-joon frowned momentarily. He really could not enjoy it. The deep-sea scent of the scallops and the meat scent of the veal, mixed with the slightly astringent quality unique to potatoes. He felt like Deborah wanted to bring out the taste dramatically, so she could display her cooking skills as much as she could, and the results were good.
Although he felt its taste was rather ambiguous, he still thought it was delicious.
But Rachel reacted differently.
“I really can’t eat this. This is…”
Rachel took a bite and put her fork down as if she couldn’t eat anymore. The other chefs and servers next to her looked embarrassed. Min-joon looked at her fork for a while then broke the silence by saying, “Why can’t you eat it?”
“You probably know why I hate eating this, right?”
“Yeah, I can feel it, but I’m not so sure if this is really a good dish or a bad one. Well, I wonder if I’m qualified to judge it in the first place.”
“Well, Anyone with a tongue has the right to judge cooking. And I can say clearly that this scallop is not for serving the customer but just pompous cooking to prove and show off one’s cooking skills. Look at this clumsy combination. I can fully feel the chef’s intent to avoid its fresh and general taste in this dish.”
Rachel raised her head. Then she stared at Deborah, who happened to come and stand next to her. Rachel opened her mouth in a growling voice.
“Even you served us a dish that you are not so sure about. Did you take any chances?”
“Oh, what I…”
“I don’t want to hear your excuse. Since you have been serving this kind of dish to the customers, it’s only natural that you keep worrying about losing your Michelin one star.”
Rachel now spoke in an angry voice. Deborah bit her lips firmly with her head down as if she had nothing to respond.
Min-joon quietly pondered over what Rachel just said. ‘Dishes that she was not even sure about.’ It seemed that even he could not be sure whether it was good or bad if he made this kind of dish.
‘Yeah, its taste is too vague.’
Certainly, the dish tasted delicious. However, it was unclear whether the taste of the ingredients matched each other or not. Perhaps, this kind of incongruous taste might stimulate the sensitive tongues of gourmets. But the general public would not taste the same way. It would be hard for them to figure out what it tasted like. Probably, they would leave with the impression that ‘a high-end restaurant is not my type’ because of the strange taste.
Of course, it wasn’t a bad thing to make dishes that could satisfy gourmets. Min-joon thought that aside from a bonus menu, making a regular menu as complicated as this was basically disrespectful to customers
“What should I do?” Deborah asked in a desperate voice.
Knowing that Rachel’s advice couldn’t solve her problems, she prayed for and longed for that miracle.
Rachel said to her miserable student with sympathy and regret in a heavy and strict voice, “Reservations for dinner today are full, right?”
“Yes, it is fully booked.”
“Well, our time is not enough, but that’s okay. Deborah, you are going to be my sous chef, not head chef this evening. I’ll try to work with you after a long time.”
“Are you going to control my kitchen staff?”
“I know you’re a great chef, but you can’t grasp everything in this kitchen in one day! You’re not familiar with the kitchen here. It’s impossible to understand our kitchen staff in less than a day, or even half a day…”
“Are you sure I can’t?” Rachel asked in a calm voice.
Deborah flinched but could not reply. With her head down, she could not see Rachel face to face. But Rachel looked at her with her head down. Her eyes were trembling and her lips turned white and said calmly, “You shouldn’t put the dish on the tray when you’re not sure if it tastes delicious. You might have forgotten who I am because you haven’t worked with me for a long time, but I’ve never served customers any dish that I am not sure of.”
Rachel picked up the napkin and wiped her mouth.
Then she said in an elegant voice, “I’ll teach you again how you can be sure of your dish.”
When Deborah heard Rachel would teach her again, she couldn’t respond at all. She just clenched her fist. It was terribly distressing to know that she still needed Rachel’s teaching, but at the same time, she was so moved by Rachel’s willingness to reach out to her.
“I’m not going to teach you right now. Let me try all your dishes first.”
“Are you serious?”
“Did you want me to stop trying your dishes halfway? No way. So just go back and do your work. Don’t make the same mistake like this.”
Looking confused for a moment, without knowing what to do, Deborah hurriedly headed to the kitchen. She wanted to concentrate a little more and make the right dishes. She bit her lips, entering the kitchen.
‘At least one’
She wanted to hear from Rachel that her teacher enjoyed at least one of her dishes. She was grateful for Rachel’s reassurances about her coaching once more, but what she needed the most right now was Rachel’s appreciation of all the efforts she had made until now. She wanted to hear from her teacher that she had been pursuing her cooking career diligently instead of encouraging her to fix her mistake and move on because it was not too late. She wanted her teacher’s recognition of her dedicated effort. Someone might blame her, saying she wanted to hear her teacher’s praise alone, but what was wrong with that?
Deborah looked down at her chef suit. At first glance, her chef suit, which looked white and shiny, had some dirty spots of splattered spices on it. She had lived like that until now.
She became the head chef of a Rose Island branch when she was in her 30s. While she was the head chef that lots of chefs were coveting, her life had never been so easy and splendid.
‘You’ve been serving as head chef for 15 years. You can’t keep crawling like this forever.’
She looked around the kitchen, pulling her chef suit firmly. When she put the frying pan on the stove, the scallops made a scratchy noise on the pan whose coating had been removed a long time ago. Watching her silently, one of the chefs under her command had sweat on his forehead.
She tried to open her mouth. But at that moment, she realized she had nothing to say. She didn’t know what to say or where to look. She felt like she was spaced out. She curled her toes while standing. The toenails that she had not cut felt tight when they were stuck on the soles of her shoes, but she couldn’t feel it.
‘I’m losing my voice…’
“You’re kinder than I think. Oh, should I say you are strict?”
Raphael grinned at Rachel, who then looked at him curiously.
Raphael dipped black Foie gras in the puree made with blood oranges then put it in his mouth. After he swallowed it, he replied, “Well, given that you want to comfort your poor student, Deborah, and control her kitchen staff on her behalf, you look definitely kind and considerate. But given that you want to take over as the head chef and manage her kitchen staff, you are cruel to her at the same time. This is not just overprotecting your student, but punishing her because you give the impression that she can’t even control the kitchen properly.”
“You don’t have to preach to me for a long time. Deborah was a kid who was fully ready. But she has lost her way now. When you are lost, there is nobody who can tell you that since you’re an adult, you have to find your way back on your own. Adults or children, when they need help, you have to reach out.”
“That’s good. And this is…”
Raphael looked down at the Foie gras then made an ambiguous expression.
So, he opened his mouth as if he was curious.
“Well, it’s the first time I’ve realized today that you can see the chef’s heart in his or her cooking so clearly. I feel like how nervous Chef Deborah has felt.”
When he said that, Min-joon silently put Foie gras in his mouth. On the plate were figs cooked with the Sous vide technique, blood orange puree made with honey, and small arugula and well-cooked Foie gras.
The cooking score was 8. But the taste was…
‘It doesn’t taste good enough.’
Min-joon looked at the plate quietly. Deborah’s cooking level was 9. Even if her cooking level was 9, there was clearly a difference between her and Rachel. Nonetheless, Min-joon thought that Deborah made this dish because she could not make a better one.
‘What the hell is the problem?’
Min-joon closed his eyes then relished in the aftertaste of Foie gras in his mouth. It wasn’t tasteless. Min-joon felt Deborah was afraid of revealing her skills rather than showing it off while making this dish. Since everything was hidden like a woman who covered her whole body with thick clothes, he could not figure out what taste was hidden in it.
“Why did she hide it?”
By the time Min-joon noticed that he just spoke out what was in his mind, Rachel and the others were already looking at him.
Raphael asked in a strange voice, “What am I hiding?”
“Ah, cooking skills. You know Deborah’s cooking skills are much better than this. This isn’t tasteless. The recipe itself has a neat and tidy taste. But that’s it. She could definitely have added some more, but she didn’t. I feel like I saw a good sketch, but the painter didn’t do anymore.”
When Min-joon said that, Raphael smiled and turned to other demi chefs.
“What do you think, guys?”
“Well, I think I know what Min-joon is talking about. It’s definitely delicious, but I think it lacks a really key message.”
“Then, what would you do and how?”
“Well, if you want me to answer right away, it’s hard for me to give you an accurate answer, but I would add some other ingredients or use a little more skill. The current dish itself tastes rather bland. Of course, I think there are not many people who clearly say they like this dish or dislike it,” said Janet.
Like or dislike? Min-joon was surprised at Janet’s mention of that wording. He suspected that Deborah made this dish, conscious of something, so he became clearly convinced of that when Janet mentioned it. Deborah didn’t want to be hated by anyone. So, if she made an indistinctive dish like this, she would not be blamed or criticized for it.
‘If she doesn’t make any distinctive dish, it will be her shortcomings, after all.’
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