Chloe mumbled with a perplexed voice. It was understandable because a mirror appeared instead of an ingredient. Joseph said while smiling brightly.
“Yes. It’s a mirror. Hold your mirrors. What do you see?”
“That’s will be this mission’s theme. Yourselves. It’s good if it’s your signature menu, a dish that contains your life, or the thing you like the most. You can also make something you are confident on. But of course, you will have to make something that may amaze all of us.”
“The theme is really vague?”
“There are more cases where problems in life are vague rather than direct. You have 30 minutes for cooking and 20 minutes for designing the recipe. Think of your recipe in that time.”
At Joseph’s answer, Chloe just looked at herself inside the mirror. A face that didn’t even have cream applied. Just what did she have to cook….. Did she get too accustomed to cook on what others asked her to? She felt this moment to be unfamiliar.
When Chloe was simply feeling unfamiliar, in Jo Minjoon’s head, a crossroad appeared. Actually, a cooking that contains his nature happened at the vegetarian mission, with the Korean table meal. The reason as to why he prepared it was because he wanted to deal with his Korean roots in the mission, and there was the stimulation he received from Chloe. Chloe’s 6 points potato soup, at that the he felt weirdness, but the others ate Chloe’s food deliciously.
And then, he thought. That there was no need to court solely on the cooking score. Even if it’s a familiar meal, it can be fully delicious. But what were the results of that? The judges said that it was good cooking, but it didn’t suit to the mission.
‘Will it be different now?’
But the answer that rang in his head was ‘no’. Something that didn’t work then, wasn’t going to work now. But of course, he could make a Korean meal with a higher score, but in the end, it would be a luxurious dish masked by the familiar meal.
In the end, Jo Minjoon shook off the seduction and kept designing the recipe. He didn’t even look at the low scored ones. It was a battle with his life on the line. He couldn’t show a sloppy dish now. Warmth and comfort. He already knew that this competition didn’t accept those things. This place wasn’t the Grand Housewife, but Grand Chef, so of course, he had to make food that would work for the judges.
‘But what kind of food is like me? Korean? Italian?’
Jo Minjoon, at the moments question, couldn’t reply anything back. He had eaten more of Korean cuisine food in all his life, but the thing he cooked the most was Western and Italian. After that, it was only Japanese. He hadn’t cooked many Korean dishes. Only simple things like bulgogi, jaeyook, and fish boiled down in soy sauce. Genuine Korean meals, honestly speaking, took too much effort to make at one’s house.
“Did you think already?”
At Chloe’s question, Jo Minjoon shrugged his shoulders. As he slightly glanced away, he saw Anderson and Kaya watching them at one side. Looking at the two of them that were putting a fierce expression made him relaxed.
‘What was the thing the guys liked more?’
There were 4 things in which Jo Minjoon had achieved getting 8 points. Dak galbi, pork galbi, risotto, and jelly with curd. There weren’t any similar points. And it was the same for nationalities. For risotto and pork galbi, it gave a feeling that Korean and Japanese cuisine was mixed. Risotto was from Italy and the jelly and curd was from Europe. But of course, bringing up statistics for only four things was a funny thing.
“The thing I like the most, what I’m the most confident in………”
Jo Minjoon mumbled still. A dish he likes the most in the world, there were no such things. But of course, if he had to pick the most delicious thing it would be the 10 points calf cheek meat, but just because of that, it didn’t mean that he favoured calf cheek meat. It was only that the dish was overly perfect.
‘If I get to open a restaurant, what kind of restaurant will it be?’
It was a question he had already heard from the other three. And then, he had replied that he would work in a luxurious restaurant. But it was a really vague answer. A place that served dishes with no identity couldn’t become a luxurious restaurant.
If you were to take into account the identity, in the end Jo Minjoon could only become a hotchpotch. This dish, that dish. He had a lot of experience cooking this way. But just naming a dish that he could only make with his own ability…… It would be a dish that you would have to take into account the harmony of every ingredient. Because even if the estimated cooking score given by the system was low, he could show an absolute strength by bringing up the harmony and balance of the recipe.
‘………Fruit. A dish served with fruit sauce.’
He thought of that, and it hit. Actually, when he approached Western cuisine, the most amazing thing was that they served a dish with fruit sauce or purée as the main dish. And it was a sauce made by using pesto and fruit. In Korea, they did use zest or pear juice, etc., but rather than using it by itself, there were more cases where they mixed those ingredients. A sauce that brought the flavor of the fruit itself, it could only be new.
He thought for a bit about what to garnish it with. But in the end, the answer he came up with was duck. Duck was an ingredient that may looked easy to handle, but was quite hard to make deliciously. If you cooked it for even a bit longer, it would get tough and have a fishy smell. But what kind of chefs wouldn’t even know how to do that much?
Now that he had grasped the direction, his thoughts also got faster.He thought about many fruit sauces, and changed the cooking methods for cooking the duck, and then, the answer appeared.
Perhaps, if Chloe brought the most of her like last time and got 9 points, he would lose. But it was unavoidable because in the end, it meant that he lacked compared to Chloe. And he didn’t expect getting 9 points, because he still had to concentrate to the most for only making an 8 points dish.
Alan yelled with a blunt voice, and Chloe and Jo Minjoon went towards the pantry. When he was taking the fresh basil, orange, orange marmalade, duck breast, corn powder, chicken gravy, and paprika Chloe approached him and said.
“Are you confident?”
“I don’t know. I will have to do it for now.”
“……..Right. Good luck.”
It was a conversation that only left an uncomfortable flavor. Jo Minjoon hurried to return to the pantry and turned the pan and the fire on. He had to put orange, orange marmalade, and chicken gravy in a suitable amount and boil it.
Just looking at this, you would think that the process for a recipe which you could get 8 points with it was too simple because the ingredients were too simple. However, there was one thing Jo Minjoon realized recently. That even if you use the same ingredients, according to the ratio, the difference of the flavor was like heaven and earth. With just the difference of one tea spoon, that small difference of the flavor could ruin it all. When Jo Minjoon cooked an 8-point dish, he was concentrated to the utmost. He could only get that score if he concentrated.
Jo Minjoon carefully stirred the sauce. When the sauce boiled up while still it still was watery, he added a little bit of corn powder. It gave the flavor of corn, and at the same time it gave texture to the rough mud like sauce.
He maintained the sauce warm and Jo Minjoon proceeded to roast the duck and paprika. The paprika juice and duck oil met and it started to boil together, and the part of the skin turned yellow. He didn’t add in more oil because the oil would make the aroma of the orange sauce loose.
His mouth was shut, and the holes of his nose quivered. His eyes shone calmly, and he couldn’t hear anything aside of the oil. Jo Minjoon turned over the chicken breast. The exterior that got seared just well shone with a thin coat of oil.
He finished cooking the breast meat and put it on the dish. After that he started to softly draw an S shape with the orange sauce in his spoon and placed the breast meat and the paprika around it. At least in the exterior, it seemed to be a success.
A moan was heard in Jo Minjoon’s mouth.
[Roasted duck breast with orange sauce and paprika]
Freshness : 89%
Origins : (Too many ingredients to show)
Quality : High
Cooking Score : 7/10
Not everything could turn out as he wished to, but now that it turned out like this he felt like he would break. What was the problem? Did I boil the sauce for too long, or the roasting of the duck wasn’t that good? He couldn’t know. Because if he did know it, he wouldn’t have made the mistake in the first place.
He still had 30 seconds left for cooking. But he couldn’t do anything in that time. At that moment, he heard a disgusting sound from his heart. It was so disgusting that he couldn’t believe he was thinking that way.
‘Perhaps, if Chloe also………’
He wanted to throw up. Until now, he had said that chef mentality and what not. He had said that they were friends, had an affection. In the moment of danger, to think of such thing like this. If his skills weren’t enough, he just had to get eliminated. He didn’t like surviving through other’s sluggishness. On top of that, we are talking about Chloe.
But even after he thought like that, he couldn’t help but find himself feel relieved the moment he saw Chloe’s dish. Her dish was also 7 points. Chili japchae. Even if he didn’t look at the score, he could know it, because the chili japchae with flower bread was an ordinary familiar meal. Compared to the ones from Chinese restaurants, it had comparatively less splendid ingredients, and she hadn’t put any special things in the sauce. It was normal. It was a chili japchae that just suited with that word. Not being 7 points for her skills lacking, but because it was a dish that didn’t seem to have any motivation to go higher.
‘……….Just why? Chloe. Why did you choose this?’
He wanted to ask her that, but he couldn’t. The judges were calling for them. The dishes were placed on the table, and Serguei said casually.
“Neither of them are splendid.”
“Just because it is splendid it doesn’t ensure that it is delicious, and because it is not luxurious it doesn’t mean that it also isn’t delicious.”
“Even so, what you see before you eat it can decide the flavor. Even if it is delicious, if you serve it like dog shit, you will feel like eating dog shit. But well, this isn’t to the point of being dogshit……..”
“Let’s eat first.”
The judges calmly started to eat. The first dish they ate was Jo Minjoon’s. Because if they ate the chili japchae first, the flavor could be covered by that intense flavor.
The sweetness of the orange and the hidden corn powder. The flavor of the duck breast that was between it was quite fine. However, that was all. Rachel said without hesitating a bit.
“You made the sauce quite well. But the duck is a bit disappointing. It seems like you tried your best to smear oil all you can, but basically, duck breast doesn’t have that much oil. Of course, it’s more dry than chicken breast. You did well in roasting the skin crispy….. But with only the oil that comes from the skin, it wasn’t able to moisten all of the meat.”
“I think the same as teacher. Of course, if you gave it to normal people they will just say that it is delicious. However, if they were real epicureans, they would be able to notice even the slightest lacking points. Minjoon. Have you cooked duck breast many times?”
“……I thought that I have, but thinking about it, it doesn’t seem to be the case compared to the other ingredients.”
“That’s what is reflecting in this dish. Could you call this as just copying a famous cook book? But I got the feeling that you were still inexperienced.”
Saying it in easier words, the idea was good but you couldn’t properly recreate that. Jo Minjoon shut his mouth and also his eyes, to the point it hurt. Joseph looked at him acting that way and asked.
“We gave you a mirror as the theme. For you to pour yourselves in the dish. Why did you make this dish?”
“Because it’s the most fun.”
“Making the sauce with fruit, and roasting in the frying pan. These are the things I tried when I first started cooking. And, that was more fun and amazing than any other things. Perhaps, it could feel like this because of the strength of the memory…… But if you told me to pour my self, I think that it’s the best for my original intention. This is that.”
“It was good up to there. But I think that it should be good to throw away the sloppiness as when you first got that intention……..”
Joseph let out a sigh. About when his sigh ended, the judges were already wrapping the chili japchae in the flower bread and putting it in their mouths. It was delicious. The flower bread was just warm and soft, and the abundant vegetables and meat oil in the chili japchae and the chili oil gave a deep flavor just like a well cooked pig fat. But……It also had its own disappointing points.
The judges all had complicated faces. Jo Minjoon understood them. There were no flaws in the cooking. The recipe was also loyal to the chili japchae’s recipe. But basically, it was a really basic food. You would say that half of the cooking process in Chinese cuisine already ended on the knifing process, and in the case of chili japchae you only had to slice the vegetables and fry it in oil.
“Why is it chili japchae? I think that I have certainly told you when I announced the mission that you must be able to amaze us to the utmost. Honestly speaking, chili japchae is delicious whoever makes it. And it’s that much familiar. So, would you be able to amaze us with just this?”
Chloe hesitated for a moment. She carefully looked at the five judges, and then opened her mouth cautiously.
“Actually, I’m a little tired.”
“……..Are you talking about the competition?”
“Uh……mm, it’s similar, but no. You have to always make something new. Something special, magnificent. I like cooking, but I also like cooking the same things. The difference that appears even in same dishes, I also like the feeling when I discover those things. Things like egg rolls aren’t special at all, but I like those delicious and familiar dishes. Familiar meal? I don’t know. I wonder if there’s a need to separate it as that. And I also have my doubts on luxurious restaurants giving a luxurious feeling only with serving a small amount of food in a big dish.”
Perhaps, she had accumulated all of those things, but even while saying those long words Chloe didn’t even get stuck once. She bit her lips with a suffering face.
“Of course, I also like this time. I got to know things I didn’t, and the feeling of pulling my creativeness more than ever and placing myself on an evaluating stand wasn’t bad at all. But the theme was mirror. I am basically this kind of person. Rather than luxurious and immense things, simple, ordinary and easy things reach me more. That dish is me.”
Jo Minjoon slowly listened to those words. He remembered the potato soup Chloe made. And he also remembered the many dishes Chloe had made until now. She continued talking wIth a voice as if she was about to cry, but with a stately expression.
“I’m not embarrassed about that kind of dish. And I don’t think that I’m miserable because there’s no need to.”
“But customers will.”
Alan replied in a calm voice. He also understood how Chloe was feeling. However, reality was usually different to their expectation.
“If you open your own plain restaurant, it can be done. However, the ambition of a chef makes him want to always cook a perfect dish with good ingredients. And that day will also come looking for you. At that moment, you won’t be able to get satisfied with that dish. Don’t say that you will. Countless chef I have seen were like that. At first, they simply made something delicious at a cheap price. Is there a need to be overly delicious. There’s also a worth in a restaurant that’s for customers to take off a meal.”
Alan paused for a moment. He let out air longly and continued speaking with a heavy voice.
“Yes. There is some worth. But the treatment is different. Your treatment towards cooking, and towards you. Go to a luxurious restaurant. There aren’t cases where food is left on the dish, aside of when it doesn’t taste good at all. However in normal restaurants those cases are normal. Because it’s cheap cooking. It doesn’t feel wasteful even if you throw some. The respect towards the chef that kind of dish can only fall. If you are able to keep working without getting hurt in that kind of situation……..That wouldn’t be bad. But there won’t be many people that think that you are the best. Luxurious isn’t luxurious for nothing. And this Grand Chef, is a competition to pick the best chef in the world, just like the name implies. It’s a competition to make a chef that every chefs aspire to become and follow.”
Chloe couldn’t reply anything. She only looked at her chili japchae with strengthless eyes. Rachel said with a calm voice.
“Your meaning is gentle and warm. There wasn’t ambition in your dish, but there was in Jo Minjoon’s. Chloe, Alan doesn’t want to say that this dish has no worth. He’s saying that it’s a lonely and difficult path.”
“It isn’t that this food is lacking. The flavor was good, and you have also shown your philosophy. Only that there were some parts that slightly didn’t match with this competition’s basic nature.”
Chloe shut her mouth. The judges shared their opinions for a moment, and then nodded as if they had agreed. Emily opened her mouth.
“The eliminating participant has been decided.”
< The mirror recipe (2) > End
Translator’s note: Thanks for reading and for your support!
PR Note: I feel very sad for Chloe.
Translator : Subak
Proofreader : Saihikawa