Jo Minjoon’s memories weren’t wrong. At midday, the staff called all the participants. In the kitchen, there were the long-awaited judges standing. When the opening words ended, Alan announced the theme.
“The theme of this mission will be ‘buffet’.”
At Alan’s plain voice, Kaya raised the corner of her mouth as if she had won. And it was understandable because when you said buffet, it gave you more of an impression that it was going to be a team mission. However, Alan didn’t finish speaking.
“You will each have to make one dish. Tomorrow at night, the townspeople will come here to eat, and you will have to make a dish that catches their hearts. So you will have to get their, and our votes. The food will not be served by the customers, but you will have to serve the quantity we fixed. 10 points for one vote, and we will add that to the amount of times your food was served. The two with the lowest score will have to part with us.”
Kaya’s eyes were filled with disbelief and just stared at Alan’s mouth. At that time, Alan looked at her eyes and flinched. He didn’t know why but her eyes were so savage she seemed to be looking at an irreconcilable enemy. Alan looked away. Joseph laughed and opened his mouth.
“What you have to take into account in this mission will not only be the turnover. Probably you will realize that before you leave. You are free to cook whatever you want. You should have felt it in the food truck mission, but for these kinds of missions, the first button has to fit well. Because according to what you have planned, at that time, the victory and defeat would already have been decided.”
“Think smart. At the same time, aside from the mission, remember the customers that would eat your dish. I hope that it doesn’t become food for the mission, but a dish meant for them. I will pray for a good fight.”
With Emily’s words, the announcement of the mission ended. Jo Minjoon pushed Kaya with his shoulder. Kaya looked at him up and down with sharp eyes. He didn’t really like that eye motion, but he didn’t know why he didn’t detest it.
“Well? It seems like you are also going to make lunch for me.”
“……..Shut up, pig.”
“Why are you calling me pig again? Last time you said that I was too frail.”
“If you eat lunch with breakfast then you are a pig.”
“I think that you, too, ate your three meals.”
Kaya didn’t say anything and just poked the floor with her feet. Jo Minjoon smirked and said.
“If you really not want to, then I can take it back?”
“Who asked you to do so? I lived without much, but I have never lived breaking promises.”
“Aside from that, today’s breakfast was too poor.”
“You woke up way too early.”
Kaya said with a discontent face as if it was unfair. She started to count with her finger and soon opened her mouth.
“It’s been 21 times. I couldn’t make you breakfast at the team mission because I was busy, I could only not make it to you at the food truck mission, so it’s 21 times. I have cooked for you 21 times. So didn’t I treat you well if it’s this much?”
“Yes. Good job.”
“…….Always assenting so usually like that.”
It also felt good that she was biting her lips as if it was vexing, because she felt like a child. Of course, she usually didn’t show an adult side, but taking into account that she was a teen was a really cynical feeling. It was at that moment when Jo Minjoon was smiling. The staff yelled loudly.
“It’s the time for the middle interview! If you are named, then immediately come to the interview room!”
It didn’t take long until Jo Minjoon’s turn. Because he was the first to be called. In the interview room, Martin was smiling and looked at him.
“Have you been well?”
“Yes, well. It’s also hard to not be well if you had a pantry like this.”
A place with many ingredients was like heaven for people that knew how to cook. Martin nodded as if he understood.
“What do you think about the mission?”
“I did think that the buffet will come out at least once. I’m not that surprised.”
“Did you think of what you are going to cook? Oh, was it too short for you to have thought of something?”
“I did think of something. But i’m not certain yet. My choice will also change depending on what the other people cook.”
At those words, Martin smiled meaningfully. Jo Minjoon wasn’t a chef that simply had a sensitive sense of taste. He knew how to think. Because not too long after the mission was announced, he had already figured it out.
“You are intelligent. I really didn’t think that you will be able to understand this mission so soon.”
“Because it’s simple. Customers don’t only eat my food. They eat the food of the other participants, and although we are not a team, I have to look for a combination among those.”
Normally, what people looked for the most in a buffet was meat. Be it fish meat, or normal meat, it didn’t matter. However, what would happen if 9 out of 10 dishes had an oily meat in it, and in the remaining one a dish with clean vegetables? Although it will get less votes compared to the meat, the speed it gets empty will be faster than any other.
And it didn’t take long for everyone to notice that. But it wasn’t that they noticed it either. After the interview ended, Sasha gathered everyone to the 4th floor lobby. She had a ring shaped pad on top of her dark skin and had long hair. Sasha opened her mouth.
“I think that we need have to have a discussion.”
“What kind of discussion?”
“About the menu. If we decide on the menu without any discussions everyone can present pasta, or a situation where 10 desserts are presented can also happen. And maybe, even the cooking can be similar. Don’t you think that those kind of things shouldn’t happen?”
Jo Minjoon nodded and said. As he looked at his surroundings, it seemed like there was no one who was opposed to Sasha’s words. Sasha took in a breath as if she was a little nervous and continued speaking.
“I’ll tell you beforehand that I’m planning to make a dessert. Strawberry chiffon cake. Can you all tell me what you are going to cook?”
Some were hesitating for a moment, but they couldn’t be silent by themselves. Everyone opened their mouths and started to think the dishes they had thought of. Mapo tofu for Chloe, tiramisu for Marco, and eggplant lasagna for Anderson. The others named their dishes as if they didn’t decide it yet. Jo Minjoon too opened his mouth.
“I’m thinking to make a chicken dish. But I haven’t decided on what.”
Precisely speaking, he was thinking about making fried chicken and dak galbi. He felt it in the food truck mission, but the viewers had a tendency to expect Asian foods. It couldn’t be helped because Jo Minjoon was still Asian. He wasn’t Asian American, but a person that really came after living there, so it wasn’t excessive asking for foreign cooking.
However, being foreign and suiting their tastes at the same time wasn’t an easy thing to do. Being foreign meant that they weren’t accustomed to, and being not accustomed to meant that it would be easier to feel rejection. Wasn’t pasta in Korea made with cream sauce rather than oil or cheese? If they presented traditional pasta, the flavor was too clean and simple or flat. Or if there was too much cheese, it felt too greasy.
With that in mind, thinking about making fried chicken or dak galbi was quite the problem. It wasn’t a problem suiting the tastes, but the problem was in which side could give a deeper and charming flavor.
‘……Should dak galbi be better?’
In the first place, the experience was different. He hadn’t cooked much in his house because the oil was fastidious to handle. In the other side, he made and cooked dak galbi whenever he thought of it, so the experience could only have a great difference.
As he looked at the other participants, they were trying hard to not present a dish with sauce for it not to overlap with the other dishes. What was fortunate was that among the ten people, only he wanted to cook a chicken dish. Chloe glanced at Jo Minjoon and asked.
“You still haven’t decided?”
“I have. I’m planning to go with dak galbi.”
“Oh, I also like that. It would be fine. How are you planning to make the sauce? With soy sauce or Gochujang?”
“There’s already a spicy sauce in your mapo tofu. So if I put in gochujang the flavor would overlap a little. What I’m thinking is putting apple vinegar and ginger, simmering the chicken in soy sauce, and giving it a spicy flavor with chili powder. Of course, if you just eat it alone the flavor would be too strong, so i’m planning to also serve rice.”
“Ugh, just listening at it makes me drool.”
Chloe talked like that and laughed while pressing the corner of her lips with both of her thumbs. Jo Minjoon opened his mouth.
“How about evaluating each other’s dishes? I think we need to eat it.”
“Good for me.”
“I’m also in.”
Kaya appeared out of nowhere and opened her mouth. She looked at Jo Minjoon and pouted.
“We have an absolute sense of taste right next to it, so we have to make good use of it.”
Kaya’s voice rough and clear just as her way of talking. To the point it could be heard by everyone. The other participants too looked at Jo Minjoon. And he laughed awkwardly.
“I have a small stomach.”
With the strength of starch, the sticky red sauce sticked in his tongue. When the spicy sauce and oyster sauce mixed and the sweet and provocative aroma rose from his mouth to his nose, the tofu that was softer than the sauce crumbled on his tongue. The meat of the front pork leg that was sliced in a long way had a right amount of fat and was chewed with a good feeling. It wasn’t greasy nor hard. The breed of the pork was also a factor, but it was a flavor you could feel the skills of the one that cooked it. But…
“It’s delicious, but I think that the aroma of the ginger is a bit strong. And the spiciness is too strong. People who like it would like it but……you know? That in this mission you need to get the good opinions of all the people you can.”
“…….Mmm, I think that I will have to catch the stench of the pork with refined rice wine instead of ginger. I understood. Thank you. I’m sorry but can I ask you one more question?”
“Yes, ask me.”
“What’s the score?”
At Chloe’s question, Jo Minjoon just smiled and looked at her. Chloe blushed as if she was embarrassed.
“I also know that it’s not a good habit to be asking the score. And I also heard that the cooking score didn’t determine the value of that food. But what can I do? I’m really curious.”
“It’s 7 points. It’s not your best, but even so it was delicious.”
“……Mmm, I don’t know if I can feel at ease or not.”
Chloe tilted her head as if she was puzzled. Just like she had achieved in making various 8-point dishes, she was happy but also felt a bit of regret. But of course, the next problem would be something that had to be solved by Chloe herself.
The other participants also wanted to have their dishes evaluated. Although it was a competition, they didn’t want to be stingy with this much. Winning by doing well had a meaning, winning through another’s mistake wasn’t satisfactory at all. Even more if the customers were waiting. Some were stupid and naive, but Jo Minjoon wasn’t that kind of person.
After evaluating the dishes one by one, he served the dak galbi he made to everyone. He simmered the chicken leg meat in a sauce made with olive oil, garlic, ginger, chili powder, apple juice, ketchup, sugar, apple vinegar, and bean sauce and baked it in the oven.
The cooking score was 7. It was just as he had thought. Even if he tried every combination for the sauce, he still couldn’t get an estimated score of 8. If he had that inspiration, wouldn’t that day be the one which his cooking level rises to 7? Perhaps, it could simply be that he needed more skill. But whatever it was, the sure thing was that he needed to improve.
“How is it?
“It should be delicious. Because I feel that it’s a 7-point dish. But something’s lacking. What do you think?”
It was as usual, but pointing things out wasn’t an easy thing to do. Everybody just looked at their faces with confused looks and couldn’t open their mouths. It was at that moment. Kaya opened her mouth.
“You made this with only chicken leg meat, right?”
“Then is there a need to simmer it in sauce? You ferment the sauce separately and boil it, then slightly roast the exterior of the meat and slowly boil down in the sauce. I think that then, the quality of the meat would be better and get more delicious. Anyways, it’s chicken leg. There’s no need to get softer.”
“That’s also right……..”
Jo Minjoon said the end words in a dull manner and changed the recipe in his head. And it was at that moment. Jo Minjoon’s face became absent minded. He thought if it could really happen. She had only said a few words. Really short words.
[The estimated cooking score is 8.]
But the effects of that wasn’t light at all.
< Unexpected collaboration (2) > End
Translator’s note: Regular chapter!
Thanks for reading and for your support!
Translator : Subak Proofreader : Saihikawa