<Healthy Flavor (2)>
Deborah looked at Justin with a bitter look. Collapsed? The man was talking with her just a few minutes ago. But Justin didn’t seem to be joking. He looked nervous, his voice shaking violently as he spoke.
“I ran over when I heard chef Maya scream… and I say chef Minjoon down on the ground. And…”
Deborah jumped out of her seat even before Justin finished. The hall was lively with voices as well. ‘Chef Minjoon collapsed?’ ‘That’s what I heard, yeah.’ Among those voices, Annie and the other waitstaff tried to calm the customers down.
‘…Feels like I’m at a warzone, all of a sudden.’
To think the hall would look this creepy so suddenly… Deborah stepped into the kitchen. Anderson was carrying Minjoon on his back. Deborah turned around. She walked over calmly and gripped onto a trembling hand. Rachel’s weak, wrinkled hand.
“…Don’t worry, teacher.”
Rachel didn’t respond. But it was obvious to see what she was thinking. Her face was pale, eyes shaking nervously. Deborah brought the woman into a hug. Her cold body was so small and weak in her arms, just like a small child. Deborah hugged the trembling woman harder. Only when Rachel warmed up a little bit did she open her mouth.
“I’m fine. You can let go now.”
It wasn’t hard to see that Rachel was still shaken, despite her firm voice. Deborah slowly let go, watching the older woman look around the kitchen silently. Anderson came back after loading Minjoon onto Justin’s truck.
“Get back to work. The customers are waiting,” Rachel said.
Watching a coworker collapse right next to them was jarring, to be sure. They tried not to show it. They didn’t want Rachel losing her cool even further.
Even Maya was gritting her teeth through it. Rachel looked around the kitchen one more time before letting out a sigh.
“…It’s a good thing Ella isn’t here. This would’ve been traumatizing for her.”
“But what about you, teacher?”
“Oh? You’re worrying about me?”
“Of course I would. Who else would take care of you then?” Deborah responded with a joking tone. It was painfully obvious that she was trying to lighten up the situation.
“Stop it with the pointless words. You’re going to sub in for the molecular gastronomy section.”
“You’re going to work me for free?”
“I’ll give you that answer.”
Deborah’s eyes widened. Rachel continued with a calm voice.
“I’ll teach you how to get out of that slump of yours.”
“I know you weren’t going to turn me down regardless.”
Well, she wasn’t wrong. Deborah shrugged.
“And stop it with trying to cheer me up. It’s almost starting to get annoying. I’m fine. I’ve gone through worse things than before. I’ve been hurt a lot. Do you think it’d really matter if a beat up person got hit one more time? I’ll be fine.”
The woman kept adding words as she spoke to try to calm herself down. Deborah came across a small revelation as she walked over to her station.
‘…wait, doesn’t getting hit on the same spot from before hurt even more?’
Justin and the cameraman both sighed in relief. It was incredibly shocking to see Minjoon walk around energetically and then collapse in the next second. At least with overwork, Minjoon would be fine with some rest. Justin collapsed back on the chair in relief.
“That’s a relief…”
“No, it’s not. Minjoon needs to rest without doing anything strenuous for some time. He’s seriously overworked his body… It’s almost insane to look at.”
The doctor stayed telling the two of them off for a while before disappearing. Justin looked over at the cameraman in confusion once the man left.
“…Why am I getting told off about chef Minjoon?”
“That’s just how life is. It’s unfair.”
“Well, it’s still good to know that it isn’t anything serious.”
“You must like chef Minjoon a lot. Especially since you looked so relieved overhearing he was fine.”
“Of course. He’s the one person out of the demi chefs who takes care of me the most.”
Justin sounded completely honest. It was as clear as day to see how much the man cared for Minjoon. The cameraman slowly panned over to Minjoon. The sleeping man reminded him very much of a sleeping princess.
‘…I guess all he needs is a prince to wake him up.’
There were probably a lot of people who would be willing to line up for that position. Even the intern Justin cared this much.
“When was he expected to wake up?”
“The doctor said it’d be better for him to stay sleeping for as long as possible. Even if he wakes up, the doctor asked us to tell him to go back to sleep,” Justin said, still a tinge of worry in his voice.
The doctor mentioned that the sudden change in lifestyle was what hurt Minjoon the most. As soon as the strenuous part of his life passed, all the accumulated stress came crashing down onto the body. The cameraman spoke with a conflicted look on his face.
“So it’d have been better if he kept overworking?”
“It would’ve exploded even worse than it did today, then. This is fine. He’ll recover well after this.”
“Who knows. He might be hurting for a while even after he recovers.”
“…Do you really have to say that now?”
“Ah, I’m sorry. Just a force of habit.”
The cameraman smiled. Justin didn’t. He didn’t want to make light of Minjoon’s collapse. The cameraman scratched his cheek out of awkwardness.
Minjoon didn’t open his eyes for a while. During that time, the internet started heating up over news of his collapse. A few of the customers had posted the fact after their meal, and it didn’t take a long time before the news spread.
It got to the point where people who didn’t even know who Minjoon was knew about the news.
‘This might become a bigger deal than I thought.’
The filming should’ve ended by now, but the cameraman ended up getting a message to keep filming for a little bit longer. He would have to get Minjoon’s permission after the man woke up, but that shouldn’t be so hard. He could also just delete it if Minjoon didn’t give the permission.
But the more time passed, the more the cameraman didn’t want to delete the video files. He was getting too many good shots.
‘Chloe, Kaya, Marco, Anderson, Rachel… Well, it’s obvious that these people would come. Emily and Sera too. But…’
The crowd didn’t just end there. There were plenty of people who weren’t very famous that dropped by, but virtually every star chef and TV show host stopped by to check up on Minjoon. There were even actors and singers who peeked in through the window for a second.
“…Why are there so many people coming up to check up on a collapsed chef of all people?”
The cameraman asked with an annoyed look. To think even everyday customers would stop by so often… The answer, unexpectedly enough, came from Deborah.
“Chefs get the most visits in a hospital, usually.”
“It’s hard for people to forget about those who feed them.”
It didn’t really make sense, but it still resonated pretty well. Deborah continued calmly.
“Good food leaves an impact on you. And that feeling stays, too. Even when I was sick, customers I wouldn’t even remember would…”
Deborah turned back all of a sudden. A stranger had stopped by to leave a basket of fruit by the door.
“He gave me a flower. Just like that person over there.”
“…Chefs are loved, aren’t they?”
“As long as they’re good.”
Did she say that as a self-confidence boost, or as praise for Minjoon? The cameraman was curious, but didn’t bother asking. There were too many people focused on looking at Minjoon. Kaya and Rachel, in particular, looked almost scary with how strong their gaze was.
‘…Maybe it’d be better for him to stay asleep.’
He didn’t even want to think about what would happen when Minjoon would wake up. But avoiding what was about to happen would be impossible, unless Minjoon decides to stay asleep forever. Right then, the crowd around Minjoon started to get lively. Minjoon was moving around with a frown on his face.
“Kaya… Why did you turn the lights o…”
His sentence didn’t continue. As soon as he woke up, he started looking around with a confused look on his face.
“It’s night,” Rachel responded.
<Healthy Flavor (2)> End.