“Oh, it looks like the two of them are going to cook.”
“……I’m right here watching too.”
Janet responded in a sassy voice. Kitchen. Was it to demonstrate? Jo Minjoon and Anderson stood in front of the countertop. Jo Minjoon spoke in a low and clear voice.
“There are only two dishes you will be making. Tomato spaghetti with shrimp and scallops, and salmon steak with velouté sauce on top of fried radish. Here are the recipes.”
“Minjoon and I will now show you how to cook both the pasta and steak. If you can’t get a feel for it with the recipe alone, figure it out by watching us cook. Then……we will begin.”
Before the applicants could ready their minds, they started to cook. Anderson was cooking the tomato spaghetti and Jo Minjoon was cooking the salmon steak.
Neither was a really complicated dish. However, that definitely did not mean that they were easy dishes to make. What people tend to misunderstand often is that they think a simple recipe meant the difficulty was lower. But that was not the case.
There are people who would fail at grilling salted fish. Many would either burn the skin or have trouble with controlling the flame that the fish would stick to the pot. That doesn’t pertain to only the beginners. Chefs. Even well-known chefs could easily burn fish if they lost their focus.
Tomato spaghetti was similar. For the pastas that use a tomato sauce as the base, the majority face challenges while making the tomato sauce. The reason was simple. It was hard to bring out the flavor of the tomato sauce.
When you are stir-frying chopped tomatoes on top of the flame, the hardest part is determining how cooked the tomato is. Crushed tomato tend to be surrounded in water, so it is hard to determine it visually, so you have to rely on your tongue. But that wasn’t easy either. To continue to smell the fragrance of the tomato with your nose and then accurately determine the taste with your tongue was not easy.
Of course, intuition developed from years of experience, as well as cooking with accurate timing could be used as well. However, the keyword there is years of experience or being a genius with absolute taste like Kaya. That was why the smartest method the applicants could choose right now was figuring out the amount of time needed to cook the sauce.
‘Yes, that’s how applicants should be.’
Jo Minjoon had a sharp gaze in his eyes. The recipes were both 8 point dishes. Rachel’s recipes were simple. Start with a vegetable broth then pour thyme, fresh cream, and lemon zest to make the velouté sauce. Then, you put the radish that was coated in cornstarch and fried on top of the sauce. On top of that, you put the salmon that was marinated with lemon salt and pepper, grilled on a frying pan, and then flambéd with white wine.
It was a great recipe to test someone’s foundation. Although they may be used to frying things, it was normal to be nervous when frying an ingredient you’re not used to handling. Radish was such an ingredient. Grilling salmon should be more familiar in comparison, but that didn’t matter. They were also looking to see how well you could cook something you were used to in such a tense situation like this one.
Jo Minjoon first prepped the ingredients. He started with the vegetable broth. Jo Minjoon put the pot on top of the flame and lifted up his knife. Jo Minjoon did not hesitate for even a moment. The vegetables on top of the cutting board started to get chopped up into pieces the size of a baby’s hand.
After putting the vegetable broth ingredients on the flame, it was immediately time for the velouté sauce. Jo Minjoon melted the butter and flour to make a roux. It wasn’t that hard until this point. The problem was adding the ingredients like the vegetable broth and letting it reduce without burning. That was the hard part. If you did not stir it diligently, it would burn easily.
That is why even if you were to start working on other tasks, your attention had to still remain on the velouté sauce. That was the difficult part of this test. Of course when they were serving customers, the velouté sauce would already be prepared, but in this instant, they had to personally do everything from one to ten. It was natural for your attention to get diverted and for the quality of your dish to fall.
If it was anybody else, that would be the case.
However, Jo Minjoon did not falter. He cut the radish and coated it in starch, fried it, and then ground the lemon peel with salt to make lemon salt. Jo Minjoon wasn’t nervous even as he poured olive oil on the frying pan and placed the salmon on top of it. His presence in the kitchen made it feel like there were at least two people working in the kitchen.
“I thought his cooking was extravagant on Grand Chef because it was a broadcast…..but is that really someone with no experience in the professional kitchen?”
“……I finally understand what a genius is.”
“Anderson at least had experience working at his parents’ restaurant, but ……”
The applicants were looking at Jo Minjoon and whispering in astonishment. He looked so perfect that it made them even feel a bit depressed about their own abilities. But that was obvious. Every time Jo Minjoon survived one of the Grand Chef missions, he had put his soul onto the countertop.
The situation there was clearly different than in a kitchen. They had limited time, and often an unfamiliar topic. It was not only once or twice that he had to show concentration levels reaching the limits of human potential. Jo Minjoon most definitely did not forget any of the lessons he learned from that type of experience. He stood in front of that countertop many times to remember the feelings that he had, even while losing time to sleep.
That is what made him the person he is today. That is what made him the person he is right now. After all that, it was obvious that there would not be any faults in Jo Minjoon’s cooking. Among the applicants, an Asian teenager with shaved black hair took turns watching Minjoon’s hands and eyes before swallowing his spit.
‘As I expected ….. he’s so cool.’
The young man named Gerrick, was watching Jo Minjoon with envious eyes. There were many times he thought about giving up on becoming a chef, but it was then that he learned about Jo Minjoon. The beginner cook who stood proud and became prominent on Grand Chef among the nation’s best amateur cooks. Also the owner of absolute taste.
Other than the fact that they were both Asian, there was too much difference in their abilities to say he felt a lot of similarities with Minjoon. But it wasn’t his skills that made Gerrick think Minjoon was cool. Attitude. It was his attitude. His expression and the movement of the tips of his fingers each and every moment he was treating his ingredients……and his heart that he poured onto his dishes. Love, or maybe commitment. All of that reached over to him across the tv screen that he could clearly feel it, so we don’t need to even talk about how he was feeling standing in front of Minjoon right now.
Gerrick was not the only one feeling that way among the applicants. It was not only Minjoon who was like that; Anderson’s attitude was the same. They were sure the food the two of them were making were the dishes the applicants will be preparing, but there was a power of will going on between them as if they were in a battle.
Cooking. If you think about it, it is a job with an extremely wide range of topics. That also means that it is a job that makes it difficult to concentrate. Even chefs often say something like this: I’ve been cooking my whole life, but I still don’t know what cooking is. They were not saying it to be modest; they really didn’t know.
Some people may say that using a knife, lighting a fire and sprinkling seasoning is cooking, but that was an answer no chef would be satisfied with. What they had been chasing after their whole life was not how to use a knife, how to properly use a flame, or even how to handle seasonings. They were chasing after cooking as a whole. The subtle difference that makes……that would come from the fundamental mindset you have about cooking.
They could see that Jo Minjoon and Anderson were full of conviction. They were certain about the job they were doing and the path they were walking. They knew about cooking. They had to. Otherwise, they couldn’t show such loving expressions as they cooked. You can’t love something you don’t know.
‘My supposed disciples……are actually the ones teaching me.’
Rachel smiled gently while watching them from a distance. The path that she had forgotten, she felt like she could slowly start to remember while watching the two of them.
The cooking was finished. Jo Minjoon looked at his dish with a satisfied expression on his face.
In the middle of the velouté sauce that enveloped the plate like a lake, the fried radish sat on top of it like an island. And the salmon steak placed on top of that was glistening pink with a crispy skin. The point was 8 points. That meant he did not make any mistakes.
Anderson also finished without making any mistakes. The scallops surrounded the edge of the plate like flower petals and in the middle of it was spaghetti that was rolled into a circle with a shrimp looking like it was twisting around on top of the spaghetti. Anderson started to speak.
“What do you think? Were you able to get a feel for it?”
“Yes, we got it.”
“You can’t have gotten a feel for it just yet.”
After one of the applicants answered, Jo Minjoon quickly interjected. He hit the plate of salmon steak with a fork as he continued.
“The core is always in the taste. Each and every one of the movements I made while cooking, no matter how tiny it may have been, it is currently contained in this dish. So you have to taste it.”
Jo Minjoon started to cut the radish and salmon into small pieces. It was not enough for fifteen people to eat, but it didn’t matter since they were just going to get a taste. Anderson’s dish was the same. With his dish, all they had to do was taste the sauce. Other than the recipe, the only thing they needed to know was how long they needed to cook the tomatoes in the sauce to make it perfect.
Gerrick placed Minjoon’s salmon in his mouth with an excited expression. The size was no bigger than his thumb even with the radish and salmon combined. But it was the moment his teeth pierced through the crispy coating and crushed the moist texture of the radish. The sweet and smooth taste of the velouté sauce sprinkled with lemon zest traveled from his tongue to fill his mouth, and the piece of salmon on his tongue was so soft and melted in his mouth almost as if it was ice cream made with drugs (TL: … that’s… an interesting comparison)
They could hear moans starting to come out from everywhere. The taste was so fabulous that it made them forget about their tension and nervousness. They looked at Minjoon with surprise. Honestly speaking, there were some people there who thought the only reason Jo Minjoon was given a demi chef position was because of the broadcast and the positive brand image he developed for having absolute taste.
But they could no longer feel that way after tasting his food. There was not a single person who could confidently say that their skills were better than Jo Minjoon’s. They felt that he definitely had the qualifications for them to work as his assistant.
It was the same for Anderson’s tomato spaghetti. Each time they chewed on the noodle, the taste felt like it was warming their body and made the wonder if a tomato was an ingredient that had such a clear sweet taste.
‘Am I …… really going to make this?’
Once he became conscious of that fact, his heart started to beat wildly. Gerrick clenched his fist. Could I do it? He wanted to do it and even got a greedy desire to successfully make it no matter what. Then he wanted to stand behind Jo Minjoon. He wanted to be Minjoon’s assistant. Of course, the largest jewel of this restaurant was Rachel, but he wanted to follow after the footsteps that were right in front of him. (TL: I wonder what Gerrick’s cooking level is, and really? The two asians are working together? I hope if Gerrick gets picked he works with Anderson to throw a curveball.)
As the fifteen of them stood in front of the countertop, the feeling coming out was different. Did she say there were twenty-five people in the kitchen in the past? Jo Minjoon walked back and forth watching all of them cook.
The first dish was Anderson’s pasta. As expected, all of them were struggling while making the tomato sauce. Jo Minjoon looked at the people who seemed to be cooking pretty steadily. The people who you could tell were doing well were of course people with level 6 cooking levels.
However, it wasn’t a walk in the park for them either. That had to be the case since the expected cooking score was 8 points. Not everyone could use that recipe to make a 8 point dish.
‘……Now that I think about it, since when did I find it so easy to make level 8 dishes?’
Of course it was difficult to create a recipe. But recreating it was easy. Even in most restaurants, the people actually making the 9 point and 10 point dishes were demi chefs and prep cooks with cooking levels of 6 or 7……but it was only possible because they repeated making the same dish over and over to the point their hands moved like the head chef’s.
He now knew that a dish with more points wasn’t necessarily the better dish, but there were no easy dishes that could get a lot of points. It had to go through all sorts of complicated procedures and you needed to meticulously focus to get more points. Even this spaghetti that Anderson made, it looks simple but everything, including the sauce, was made from scratch.
He felt that he improved really quickly over the past few months. It was only a bit more than half a year, but there was a lot that he learned and ingrained in his body.
They were done making the spaghetti. As the applicants immediately started to focus on the salmon steak without rest, Jo Minjoon quietly looked at all of the spaghettis. And then he saw it. Just one dish. Only one dish came in at 8 points.
How much must he have focused while cooking that dish? Jo Minjoon put Gerrick’s spaghetti in his mouth.
Then he nodded his head while whispering to Anderson.
“Hey, this one tastes pretty similar to yours.”
“……The one I made is a bit tastier.”
“Do you really need to focus on your pride even now?”
“Hmph, if your pride falters depending on the situation, can it really be called pride?”
“I guess you’re right. I accept your reasoning.”
As they were finishing grading all fifteen plates of spaghetti, the prep cook applicants were starting to grill the salmon on the pan. Jo Minjoon frowned while looking at one of the applicants. Maybe it was because he was nervous, but the fire surrounding the frying pan was too strong.
Even though he should leave them alone for the test, he couldn’t let the salmon suffer like that. Jo Minjoon headed over to Rachel and pointed at the applicant.
“Should I leave that alone?”
“Take some points away and tell him. If he continues like that, only the salmon will suffer.”
After getting Rachel’s permission, Jo Minjoon nodded with a happy expression. As chefs, they could not accept ingredients being wasted in terrible form. Jo Minjoon headed in front of that applicant and started to speak.
“What are you thoughts about wasting ingredients?”
“It’s something all chefs must look to avoid. The first pillar of a kitchen is the customer’s satisfaction, and the second is financial well-being.”
“Then what are you doing right now? Can’t you hear the salmon screaming?”
The applicant was surprised at Minjoon’s words and quickly flipped the salmon. That was not the end. Jo Minjoon continued to walk around the applicants taking points away. It was very different than Anderson who was standing on the side with his arms crossed.
“We said to make a velouté sauce, not a lava sauce. Turn down your flame.”
“You must like melo movies. The salmon and the frying pan are stuck together more than most couples.”
“I thought we asked you to flambé, when did we ask you to make a wine reduction?”
As he walked around like that, they could see the applicants get nervous whenever Minjoon walked by and swallowing their spit. Rachel looked at Minjoon as if it was unexpected. She thought he would be soft and have a hard time saying difficult things to people, but he was unexpectedly harsh.
That was actually the role she expected from Anderson. As this was not something she expected, Rachel spoke to Anderson in a somewhat nervous voice.
“I’m surprised Minjoon actually has some charisma. I thought he would be a softie.”
Anderson shrugged his shoulder as he answered.
“He is tinkerbell raised in the wild.”
<The Friendly Judge (3) > End
Translator : Miraclerifle
Proofreader : Miraclerifle
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