Chapter 405: How to Hold the Scale Tight (2)
8 points, 7.5 points, 8.5 points, 7.5 points
Average score, 7.875 points.
When the judges were done evaluating their dish, what they got was this vague score.
Janet wanted to clench her fists, but she couldn’t. She felt like she was running out of gas. She could not even stand. If she took even one step, she felt she would stagger and fall.
“It was fun, wasn’t it?” Havier said.
She slowly turned her head. She once thought Havier was so naive, yes, stupidly innocent. So much so that she was worried he would feel hurt because of his stupidity. But it was she alone who felt hurt so much right now. She could not find any despair in his face.
“How can you say it was fun in this situation?” she asked.
“Then, what should I say?”
Her lips trembled. She wanted to express her anger, her despair, and her envy. That was all she could do for now, but she couldn’t.
She muttered, “I didn’t know they called me timid.”
It was that word that disheartened her more than the judges’ critical comment on her dish. She was proud that she lived roughly but with courage all her life. She knew she ran on a road that others didn’t or a path that others were afraid to even walk. That was why she could take pride in herself even though she couldn’t stand out in Rose Island.
She unconsciously took her hand over her tummy. Havier glanced at her hand quickly and opened her mouth.
“It’s okay to look timid. It makes you more human.”
“Aren’t you angry?”
“Well, I just wish I could have done better. But I’m not worried because I will have another chance.”
Next chance, she quietly reflected on those words. Yes, it was true she would have another chance. But she didn’t know why she found it difficult today to think about her next chance. It was perhaps because she had been living up to now, only looking at what came next. She lived with the conviction that they would recognize her next, even though they didn’t now, thinking she was not a worthless person because she was a woman.
But at this moment in this venue, she had to admit it was nothing more than an excuse. The reason she was eliminated first among the Rose Island teams was not because she was a woman. It was not because she didn’t fully show her cooking skills. The judges were not unfair. She was eliminated by the fair judges’ fair evaluation in a fair situation.
Maybe she was a bit exhausted because she was always busy, running only looking ahead without enjoying the sweet fruit of her efforts. But when she tasted the fruit after a long time, it wasn’t ripe yet, and it tasted astringent. She felt all the time and effort she invested up to now was a waste and not worth it.
Havier wanted to say something to comfort her, but he couldn’t figure out what to say. He doubted if she could listen to him in this situation because she was one of the very few that he knew had strong preferences and philosophy about cooking.
This score was good enough in the preliminary round, but not now in the quarterfinals because the eight pairs that survived so far were not ordinary chefs. To be honest, her elimination was almost certain. In fact, the French spectators in the vent began to whisper here and there. She could not hear clearly what they were talking about, but it was needless to say that she and Havier were their main topic.
“Finally, one of the wings of Rose Island has been bent.”
Honestly, Havier also felt bad about the score. He thought he really worked hard in this contest, but he never expected he would be the first to have been eliminated from the quarterfinals among the Rose Island teams. None would praise anybody lagging behind others in the contest. Havier looked at her eyes, which sank so deep that he felt even scared.
He knew she would not be persuaded no matter how much he would reassure her with comforting words. Even if he emphasized that they have another chance, she would not believe it. As long as Min-joon and Kaya were here, it would be impossible to comfort her, he thought.
‘Yeah, comparing myself to others is so scary.’
Havier sighed. Right now, even he felt hurt when he was compared with others, so he could understand how much she was hurt. As someone who thought she was living a good chef’s life, she would feel so humiliated and feel inferior when she came to know somebody else was doing better than her. That was why comparing oneself to others was terrible, for everybody except for the one at the top would feel unhappy.
Havier looked at Min-joon, the man who was ahead of any others fiercely competing in this contest. He wondered how he would feel or think if he were in Min-joon’s position now. He wondered if even Min-joon was agonizing while comparing himself to others.
But he didn’t have to think about it long. The judges were already scoring the escargot dish made by Anderson and Chloe. Havier glanced at the escargot they made. Honestly, their dish was creative enough to make him think that it was as good as other chefs’ creative escargot dishes here in this contest. He thought that the Anderson pair’s dish was creative enough to be compared to the Min-joon pair’s.
The Anderson pair’s escargot dish consisted of roasting beef back ribs in an oven and then chopped and roasted them on top of the escargots. On top of it, fresh onions and cilantro leaves were sprinkled like salsa on a hot dog, and beside it was a paste made of horseradish and parsley. Havier wondered how the taste of the cow’s spinal cord and the taste of escargot would mix, so he guessed how the judges who just checked its taste and smell would react.
And in the case of Cho Min-joon, that seemed more obvious than anyone else.
In fact, Min-joon could see it more clearly than anybody.
“I guess the Anderson pair did a good job,” said Min-joon.
“How do you know without even eating it?” asked Kaya.
“I can feel it by looking at the recipe.”
In fact, it was their cooking score that was more important than the recipe.
It was 10 in his system window, the best of all the dishes they had ever made.
He wondered if the Anderson pair ever knew how great a dish they made.
It was natural that the judges’ reaction was unusual. Not only was their cooking concept original, but its taste was extraordinary. They could not believe that the taste of the cow’s spinal cord and the taste of the escargot could match so perfectly.
“Are you confident about this dish?”
“Well, I was moderately confident, but now that I’m looking at your eyes, I feel more confident.”
“Yes, your eyes, nostrils, lips, and hair are all shouting out as if you have been impressed by this dish.”
When Anderson spoke with a proud smile, Asher managed her expression as if he was embarrassed. He thought he hid his expression, but obviously, Anderson noticed it.
Asher took a look at the other judges. And he realized why Anderson said that.
“Good. Let me get down to the point instead of beating around the bush. This is really inspiring. I’m really impressed. You understand escargot surprisingly well. It’s hard to believe that you two are American chefs. You have expressed the taste of French cuisine better than anyone else here.”
Min-joon understood why the judges were impressed with their dish. He even felt a thrill because he knew that Anderson’s recipe right now wasn’t his best one. They were given 90 minutes of cooking time. Due to the nature of the competition time, they were given only 90 minutes for the cooking. But the French cuisine usually tasted more rich and deep when cooked with more time. Considering that, Anderson could have made it better if he had more time.
‘If he had had more preparation and cooking time, he would have made a better dish than now.’
Of course, their cooking score would still be 10. However, there were lots of differences even within that cooking level of 10.
Min-joon smacked his lips. He wanted to try their escargot right now. He wanted to analyze its taste and make one, based on the recipe. I wanted to improve it.
“Hey, Min-joon. Your mouth is watering…”
“Oh, yes, sorry.”
When Kaya said that, he found his mouth almost watering. He hurriedly swallowed and made an awkward expression.
The judges soon started to score the dish one by one.
9 points, 10 points, 9 points, 10 points, an average score of 9.5 points.
It was the moment that the Anderson pair received a better score than the one Min-joon and Kaya received last time, Janet was looking at them blankly while Anderson was pretending to be calm with a smile, and Chloe was all smiles with happiness.
“Janet’s expression looks so bad,” said Kaya.
Min-joon sighed, concerned that Janet must feel so awful now. Despite that, the judges were extolling the Anderson pair’s escargot dish.
“This kind of competition is really bad. It breaks the participants’ hearts, depending on their scores.”
“But at the same time, you are stimulated a lot.”
“I know, but…”
The last pair waiting for the judge’s evaluation was Enzo and Theo.
Was it because the French spectators in the venue pinned their great expectations on them?
The pair looked bigger than before.
Norris opened his mouth.
“I heard earlier that you helped your son come up with the recipe a lot more than usual.”
“Up to now, I’ve left everything with him, but it’s the quarterfinals. So, this time, I’ve decided to play the role of a proper partner for Theo,” said Enzo calmly.
Min-joon looked at the pair’s dish, with his eyes sparkling.
Then he thought, ‘Their dish is just marvelous.’
Cooking score of 10. The Anderson pair got 10, too. Was it because Enzo finally showed off his skills as a partner, not as the patron of Theo? Maybe it was natural. As a chef with cooking level 9, he could get 10 relatively easily if he had time to come up with good ingredients and recipes. Just like Min-joon, cooking level 8, could easily come up with a recipe for a cooking score of 9.
And the judges gave the comments that he expected.
“Today, you have saved the pride of France, Chef Enzo,” said Bastien, who tasted Enzo’s escargot dish. The Enzo and Theo pair’s dish was in the form of agnolotti, an Italian pasta. Since it was kneaded with dried black garlic powder, there was a layer of bacon sliced so thin that it was barely visible inside the black agnolotti, and escargots were inside the bacon.
The sauce underneath was a wine sauce made from boiled beef stock and red wine, and a foam sauce made using sesame leaves, kale, and greens. With its fresh and oily taste properly harmonized, the bacon cooked just as chewy as the agnolotti matched so well with the agnolotti pasta that when the judges chewed the escargot, it made them feel like eating a snail raised with bacon.
At first glance, its recipe looked simple, but without the dexterity and experiences, nobody could bring out such a taste, let alone imitating it. Even if there was a recipe, it was difficult to make it by imitating them. Bastien was happy about the excellent scores of some participants, but at the same time, he felt a bit nervous.
“Why is everyone here showing better skills than before?”
Was it because the participants began to show their hidden skills, or was it because their skills improved more and more while they were competing with others?
Min-joon felt like the scale was tilting heavily to one side to the point that the other side got heavier and heavier.
Bastien muttered as if he was shocked, “Man, it’s quite burdensome for me to judge them.”