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<A Chef's Greed Has No End (2)>
The cassoulet was art. But the scotch egg wasn’t great. Minjoon wasn't the only one surprised by this. As a matter of fact, pretty much everyone in the kitchen were making a surprised face.
Minjoon tried a bite of the egg without saying anything. The texture of the breading tickled the tongue a little bit before revealing the cassoulet inside. The egg broke away like tofu, coating the tongue with the sauce.
It was delicious. How was this worse compared to the cassoulet? Minjoon thought as he took a bite of the cassoulet by itself. His eyes widened in surprise.
"Like you said… The cassoulet by itself is better."
Surprisingly, it was. The scotch egg was pretty fun to eat with its texture. It tasted pretty high-class as well. But the cassoulet itself was neither fun or high-class. It was just tastier.
"The idea is noble. An improvement from the standard scotch egg. But it feels like you're just mashing two things together here. We can't sell this."
Minjoon lowered his head sadly. She was right. He didn't think about improving cassoulet when he first started with the dish. He only thought about making a new "scotch egg".
The cassoulet just kind of came up in the middle of it. Now that he thought about it, that was where everything went wrong. He should've thought a bit more about if cassoulet really was the right choice to use with the egg.
"Are you feeling hurried?"
Rachel's question came to Minjoon rather strongly. She was right. It's already been a month after Jo Reggiano. It wasn't like he wanted to make something that popular again. To begin with, the dish itself only got that popular out of chance. Rachel muttered with a bitter face.
"A dish from a restaurant has to be different in one way or the other. All chefs and critics say this. But that precise sentence can choke us at times. After all, it restricts us from making something normal. Making dishes from around the world is difficult enough."
Minjoon and Anderson nodded. They felt this multiple times during Grand Chef. After all, people kept trying to critique their food as if they were in a high class restaurant. Rachel continued.
"I'm not saying that's bad, no. Improving in just one area does make you an expert in that field, after all. But… Going too deep can sometimes leave you with stranger results. Here, take a look."
Rachel pointed at the naked baby angel fountain in the middle of the hall. Occasionally the restaurant would get customers who would stare at the fountain for several minutes instead of eating the food.
"What if someone tried putting baby clothes on that angel, saying the original sculpture was incomplete?"
"Uh…. It'd look really cheap."
"That's exactly what this is."
Rachel pointed at Minjoon's dish.
"You were being a bit too greedy by using cassoulet here. You wanted to show off. Because this is a restaurant."
"But taking off its clothes… Is also hard, isn't it? Like you said, this is a restaurant. The dishes here require something special. What should I do?"
"Let's say a woman came out into the streets wearing only her underwear. People would call her crazy, no matter how beautiful she was. But what if she was taking photos for a magazine? What do you think the woman would be then?"
"Beautiful… I suppose?"
"That's what the plate is. Depending on how you plate your cassoulet, any rustic dish could become a beautiful one."
Minjoon recalled something Rachel said in the past. That the most important part of food was its presentation. Seeing that her plating level had reached ten, her words didn't seem so empty to him.
"So you're saying this cassoulet can get on the menu if I present it right?"
"Who knows… Depends on how you plate it. It tastes amazing. Almost as good as restaurants that's been making the dish for years. But plating isn't just about that. Once you understand the artistic nuances that come with it, you'll find your answer."
Minjoon lowered his head. Not because he felt sad or anything, though. His eyes were focused right on the cassoulet in front of him.
"How long have you been playing around with that now?"
Kaya shook her head in disgust. Minjoon looked quite strange messing with clay in front of him. Kaya put her arms around him and reached for the clay pile.
"Can you actually practice with this stuff?"
"It costs too much to use actual ingredients. I have to make do with this."
"Ask him to sponsor you. Jeff, was it?"
"Jefferson. I wonder if he calls himself Jeff sometimes? Don't call him that, though."
"I don't like you calling other people by their nicknames."
"You're like a kid, aren't you?"
"Don't even. How would you plate this, by the way?"
"You sure you want my help here?"
"It's best to get help from others when you're stuck."
"Are you sure you're the same guy who said stuff about 'breaking through challenges by himself'?"
"Words are meant to be changed on the fly."
Kaya tickled Minjoon's side. Minjoon twisted a little and the dish under him escaped the table. Shatter! The dish broke after colliding with the marble floor underneath.
Minjoon looked at Kaya with a tired look. Kaya took her arms off of him and looked somewhere else. She couldn't ignore him forever, though. She dropped her shoulders when she still felt Minjoon's eyes on her.
"I'll take care of it."
"It's fine, so just bring a bag and some gloves."
She couldn't say much. By the time she arrived with the tools, she noticed something was off. Minjoon was just staring at the broken glass.
"Is something wrong?"
"…No, it's nothing."
Looking at the shattered glass reminded him of something, but the thought went away as quickly as it came. Minjoon picked up the pieces with the feeling of wanting to sneeze but not actually being able to.
That feeling lasted for several days. Even Ella began to get worried because of this.
"Here, have this, uncle."
"Uncle looked hungry. You aren't?"
"I'm not very hungry…"
"Just take it, here."
Minjoon reached for the jelly on Ella's hand with a smile. That tiny piece of candy looked quite adorable in the girl's puffy hands. Minjoon's hand ground to a halt right there.
"What is it, uncle?"
"…Ella, could you hold that pose for a second?"
"Ella's arm hurts though…"
"Don't worry, I'll hold it up."
Minjoon stared at Ella's hand carefully. Does that piece of jelly have a plate right now, or does it not? Could you really call someone's hand a plate?
But at the same time, there was no better plate right now than Ella's hand. The jelly looked its best on her hand. Minjoon grabbed the jelly and took a bite. The flavor of blueberries coaxed his tongue gently with its sweetness. Ella looked up at him hopefully.
"Yes. Very tasty."
"No, Ella, that's your snack."
"But uncle gives Ella plenty of snacks too."
"So that's why you're giving it to me?"
"Mhm, mom said I should give back to people all the time."
"Good girl, you're actually keeping your word."
Minjoon poked Ella's cheeks as he said this. Ella nodded with a wide grin.
"Ella, you just gave me a great gift. Don't worry about giving anything back to me."
"What did Ella give you?"
"…Ella's hand isn't for eating."
"I'm not eating it."
Minjoon answered her with a smile. He didn't think of anything too strange from it. He just realized the importance of dishes. He's realized how much food could change depending on how it got plated.
'What plate should I use, then?'
That's what he needed to think about now. But right then, he heard someone walk in through the door from the parking lot. Minjoon stood up in surprise.
"Yo, Minjoon. It's been a while."
"How did you come here? What about your restaurant?"
"It burned down."
Minjoon frowned with visible worry, but Deborah dismissed him with a grin.
"Just a joke. Don't make that face. I'm just doing some renovations over there. Do you know where Rachel is?"
"She left because the person in charge of the noodles got sick… Did you contact her?"
"No, I tried to surprise her. Though now that I think about it, she wouldn't even have gotten surprised… Oh, hello, Ella! What are you eating?"
Deborah started talking to Ella. Minjoon used this as a chance to escape back into the kitchens. He laid out all the dishes there, and started staring at it carefully. Maya looked at him confusedly.
"Chef, what are these?"
"I'm looking for a dish that would fit the cassoulet nicely."
"…Do you really have to? It looks like a pain to make."
"I told you not to worry about it. Someone else would be in charge of it."
"Oh, right. But still, testing it's going to take so long. Can't we do something else?"
Minjoon didn't respond. Maya sighed in defeat. Right then, Deborah walked up to them from the back.
"Working with plating?"
"Ah, yes. I'm trying to look for something that I can wow the guests with even with cassoulet."
"Ah, I see. Hm… Minjoon, are you any good with art?"
"Sort of. I got A's occasionally."
"Good enough, I guess. You should be able to figure it out, then. You sound like you have the sense for it."
"No, for being able to see what's pretty or not."
Deborah looked down at the dishes. She continued with a calm voice.
"I told you, right? I did all sorts of stuff to try to get two michelin stars, but that never happened."
"I don't think it was because my food wasn't tasty. It would be strange if a michelin starred restaurant wasn't tasty. But those guys don't just rate you on the flavor. Flavor is subjective. So they give you a lot of points on service and decor as well. Even location has a factor in it. Plating is quite important as well, of course. Minjoon, you're a first gen immigrant, right?"
"Yes, I spent decades in Korea."
"This is the difference between the West and the East. The East focuses on flavor. Interior and decor are just secondary. But the West is different. They care a lot more about looks. You could either use overwhelming flavor to beat down any critics, or you could make something pretty and delicious. What do you think?"
Minjoon began to think. Flavor or looks? Where did he really want to focus on? Minjoon opened his mouth slowly.
"I remember getting a question like that in the past. I don't quite remember the answer back then, but… My answer this time would be…"
Minjoon sounded incredibly stiff and serious.
"Can't I just do both?"
<A Chef's Greed Has No End (2)> End.