Chapter 11: Chapter 11: Grand Chef Preliminaries (1)
He assured Jessie that he would leave soon, but even after getting his new cards, he didn’t leave Lucas’ house. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to. Rather, Lucas held on to Cho Min Joon, and so did Jane. At first, he tried to find a hotel, but what Jane said made Cho Min Joon stay.
‘Please become a bridge for Jessie to get closer to his father.’
Who could leave after hearing something like that? Jessie made it seem like she didn’t like it, but Cho Min Joon didn’t see it that way.
And just like that, 2 weeks passed. On the morning of the preliminaries, Cho Min Joon stood still in front of the cutting board at Lucas’ house. Well, that’s how it seemed at least. However, Cho Min Joon was actually looking out the window.
[Your predicted cooking score is 5.]
This was a new function after reaching cooking level 6. It was a feature that predicted what a recipe would score by just thinking about it.
It was useful in many ways. Actually, it was more than that. If he followed the recipe, there was no way he would fail. And that would help him shine in a competition like Grand Chef. Many contestants were disqualified from making a mistake in starting a dish. As long as there were no mistakes in the planning stages, the chances of success were high.
‘And I’ll also spend less on ingredients.’
Once you were relatively skilled, there was something called sense. This gave a cook the ability to estimate how much to add without measuring. So, it was less likely to fail when trying out a new dish. However, it just turned out so-so. In order to produce the best flavors, a recipe was needed. And there weren’t many people who had good enough judgment to come up with it all on their own. There were only two types of people who could do that. Either masters or geniuses.
Well, Cho Min Joon was neither. However, he was able to borrow some of that ability. He didn’t have his own inspiration or artistic talent as of yet though…
‘Effort will solve it.’
That’s what Cho Min Joon believed. Cooking wasn’t just pure talent. Of course, talent helped them progress faster, but in the end, the end result was similar. The rest was just a difference in individuality.
Cho Min Joon had a lot of thoughts while helping Jessie with her jelly. What Jessie poured into the bowl wasn’t average jelly. Her way of cheering for her father was inside that jelly. For that reason, that jelly was more meaningful than anything.
He realized that simply putting food on a plate wasn’t what made a dish. Then what should also be added? The hope that they’ll enjoy it? That was too formal.
He thought about it, but he couldn’t come up with an answer. However, Cho Min Joon didn’t feel desperate. Just like Jessie had said, cooking was an internal fight.
“I should cook first.”
In return for staying at Lucas’ house, he offered to take care of the meals. But truthfully, they were being considerate to each other. Jane was being understanding of Cho Min Joon’s circumstances, and Cho Min Joon wanted to pay for his stay while also practicing cooking.
For the last 2 weeks, Cho Min Joon prepared every single meal. Mainly, the meals he made were American food. Even the Jambalaya, Jane’s Mac and Cheese, and hamburger steak. He attempted everything he knew and didn’t know.
Even when making Korean food, it was different when using American materials. The rice that was commonly eaten was stickier with a heavier scent. Also, the rice commonly used in America was 70% Indica rice.
As for the remaining 30%, it was Calrose rice. It was appropriately sticky and fragrant. That was the rice that Cho Min Joon worked with these past few days.
Calrose rice was right in between Indica rice and Japonica rice. It needed less water than Japonica but more than Indica rice. Since there were such differences, it was important to understand American foodstuffs.
Cho Min Joon was confident. For the last 2 weeks, he only used American ingredients. He didn’t cook all of the ingredients, but most of it was inside his head. He believed he could do it.
“I’m sure I”ll pass the preliminaries.”
He had to. He wanted to.
“Should I make cheese risotto for breakfast?”
Since it’s sticky, I’m sure everyone will be all over it.
“…You idiot. I can’t believe you got indigestion from the food you made.”
They were inside the car on the way to the preliminaries. Jessie looked at Cho Min Joon as if he was pathetic. Cho Min Joon sighed with a tired look on his face.
“I’m not good with cheese…”
He didn’t hate the flavor of cheese, but every time he ate it, he got sick. Cho Min Joon closed his eyes. He didn’t want to look out the window and get carsick. Lucas, who was in the driver’s seat, worriedly said, “Are you okay? Are you going to be able to do the exam?”
“Oh, I’m fine. It’s just that’s my stomach…”
“Sigh…try to feel better. I feel bad now.”
In response to Lucas’ worried face, Cho Min Joon smiled.
There were around 1000 people at the exam. They were only chefs from New York, and there were multiple time slots, but there were still this many people. But of course, many of them were probably friends and family…
“So only a few of these people will survive, huh?”
“Yeah. They only pick around 5 from each state…”
In that sense, it was a great accomplishment to even pass the preliminaries. Cho Min Joon looked around in nervousness. The cameramen were going here and there, interviewing the contestants. This was no ordinary cooking competition, it was Grand Chef.
The way Grand Chef worked was simple. First, they held preliminaries in each state. The first stage was purely interview. The detailed information was always a little different, but it was normally a way of testing your understanding of food.
And while everyone waited, people went in and out every 5 minutes. To be more exact, it was a maximum of 5 minutes. There were those who came out after a minute, which meant that it didn’t go well. They probably got kicked out after just a few exchanges.
‘I’ll just have to survive for 5 minutes.’
In other words, he had to talk about cooking without being criticized for his understanding.
“591! Number 591!”
“Go on in.”
The staff made it short. Cho Min Joon nodded and headed toward the interview room.
Inside the interview room were 3 familiar faces. That was when Cho Min Joon fully realized that he stepped into the Grand Chef that he watched on TV. Allen Graig, who got Michelin 2 Stars before 30 and 3 Stars before 40; Emily Porter, who was respected as the best chef in Europe; and also, Joseph Vincent, who had Michelin Star restaurants all over the world.
The one who had the most right to make remarks was Joseph. The other two were very qualified as well, but Joseph was on a whole different level. For that reason, Cho Min Joon felt an aura behind Joseph. Joseph then spoke.
“Min Joon. I see you came from Korea.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Why did you come to a foreign country for this?”
He knew that was a question he had to answer. Cho Min Joon did his best to answer it well. However, some nervousness could be heard in his voice.
“I”ve dreamt of becoming a chef since I was little. And when I went into college, my dream got even bigger. I decided not to put it off any longer. I also wanted to prove to my parents that I’m a good chef… Grand Chef is the best place to do that.”
“I’m not so sure. There are those who come here thinking that it’ll be their grand debut, but end up getting cussed out instead.”
“I hope that doesn’t happen,” Cho Min Joon answered calmly.
After seeing Cho Min Joon, Joseph smacked his lips. Cho Min Joon’s slow and deep way of speaking made one want to focus on what he was saying. Also, he didn’t know what Asians thought, but Caucasian people thought of his looks as quite charming. He seemed to have star-like qualities. And the story of coming all the way from Korea to pursue his dream left a strong impression as well.
‘But it all depends on the fact if he has the talent.’
They could put off the anticipation until after the interview. Joseph looked over at Allen and Emily. Emily then spoke afterward.
“Let’s test you on the basics first.”
“What’s the difference between slicing onions horizontally and vertically?”
Cho Min Joon smiled.