Chapter 544: Unexpected Twist (12)
Did his jealousy change him at all? Did it make him better or worse? While Rachel was thinking like that, he watched Nathan getting busy preparing for evaluation in a hurry.
Nathan was different from Deborah in many ways. He was different when he introduced himself to others. His voice trembled so much that those watching him felt sorry, and he struggled to explain the theme of the dishes he would make.
Of course, his personality like that wasn’t really important. It was true he was out of taste, but he wasn’t here to show off. Min-joon wanted to say that he was courageous enough to have his dishes evaluated right after Deborah.
‘Maybe he has listened to my advice that he should not be scared.’
When he thought so, he naturally smiled at Nathan. If his words could change Nathan, he could not be happier. If that was the case, his words obviously influenced Nathan enough to change his life. How could he not be happier when Nathan took his words so seriously?
But it was when Min-joon tried the appetizer after the amuse-bouche that he realized he made a hasty judgment of Nathan. In fact, he felt a bit strange when he tried amuse-bouche. It was made with four thinly fried potato crisps, each seasoned with a different kind of puree. Peach puree, carrot puree, avocado puree, and persimmon puree. Depending on the puree, radishes, tomatoes, or herbs were added. And each taste of it certainly confirmed that Nathan was a seasoned chef.
Min-joon wasn’t the only one who felt so. Rachel and all the other chefs liked Nathan’s amuse-bouche. One of them said it was pretty fun cooking unlike him. In fact, it was quite common for a chef to serve this type of puree with amuse-bouche, but it was quite difficult to make those four purees taste differently.
However, there was another reason why Min-joon felt strange while trying the amuse-bouche. In fact, when Min-joon visited Nathan’s restaurant recently, he praised Nathan for this particular recipe out of others that he had hidden for a long time.
‘Well, who knows Nathan has used the recipe that I pointed out to him?’
Although he felt strange, he just tried to ignore it, thinking it wasn’t a big deal. But it was the same with the next amuse-bouche. Savory tart like croissant filled with vegetable cream. Back then, Min-joon said in pa.s.sing, praising his recipe, that if he could serve this dish right after that puree, he could bring out the sweetness of the b.u.t.ter more clearly.
Min-joon again thought it was not a big deal if Nathan followed his advice. Of course, he appreciated Nathan taking his advice seriously. Anyway, he didn’t want to react sensitively. He thought and believed so until the next appetizer was served.
After the pre-meal bread and b.u.t.ter were served, the next was tomato carpaccio. Yellow and red tomatoes cut thinly and spread like cheese on the bowl. It was seasoned with only light salt, but that alone was enough to bring out the flavor of the tomato and stimulate one’s appet.i.te.
That was also recommended by Min-joon at that time. Only then did Min-joon notice that Nathan was scared about making fresh original dishes that he didn’t overcome his fear. After all, Nathan surrendered to his fear…
The next appetizer was also a foie gras torchon with b.u.t.ternut bisque soup, which Min-joon had praised before. But the problem stood out here. The combination, which seemed to be okay until he served tomato dishes, began to go wrong with the b.u.t.ternut bisque soup.
Appetizers continued to come out, followed by main dishes. When Min-joon tried each of them, it was definitely a great dish by any standards. But their wrong combinations downgraded their taste.
Min-joon felt like crying at that moment. He didn’t give Nathan advice because he wanted to see dishes like this. He didn’t tell Nathan to pluck up the courage because he wanted to see such excellent recipes wasted like this.
By the time Min-joon ate the dessert, he moved the fork reluctantly as if he didn’t feel up to it. In fact, it wasn’t just Min-joon alone who felt so. The other chefs who were surprised by the excellent quality of his dishes at first made disappointed expressions because of the wrong combination of the ingredients.
And the judges’ evaluation of Nathan’s dishes was over. Nathan sighed and clenched his fists, watching Min-joon and Rachel and noticing their gloomy expressions.
Rachel said in a troubled voice, “Did you work hard to prepare for this contest?”
“Yes. I spent the whole year preparing for this event.”
When Nathan said that, she could hardly finish her words as if she was disheartened. She wasn’t here to punish those who didn’t perform well. She wasn’t here to punish her former students. Even though their poor performance might be the subject of a light entertainment for TV viewers, it was a source of anxiety and sadness for her.
Maybe she sighed because she was lamenting over herself who could do nothing else for him.
In the end, Min-joon said, “I told you before that you’re a great chef, but you’re too scared to challenge something new. I told you you should trust yourself instead of doubting yourself.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Then, is this your return for my advice?” Min-joon asked coldly.
Nathan just lowered his head without replying. In fact, he expected Min-joon would overlook his dishes. He didn’t want to reveal Min-joon’s advice to other chefs here. More precisely, he could not afford to give it a thought. When this compet.i.tion was around the corner, he was so exhausted that he could not judge what’s right or wrong.
Min-joon said, “All the recipes you used today were the ones I recommended to you before. Well, I can understand. But if you used the same recipes, I wish you could pay more attention to their combination.”
He continued, raising his voice a bit as if he was frustrated.
“I think you clearly know that If you serve the dishes as they are right now, they will definitely not go well together. If you add a few more things in between, you would get much better results than now. But you didn’t. Why? Well, my guess is that you are not confident of trying new recipes other than the ones I have already recommended to you. In other words, you don’t have any self-confidence in any recipes. I think my advice that you should not be scared has made you more sacred.”
Min-joon smiled at him sadly.
“I screwed up these dishes,” said Bathan.
Only they did Nathan realize that Min-joon was upset with himself, not him.
Min-joon was sincerely blaming himself for giving Nathan advice about the recipes. As a result, his advice made Nathan forget about his self-respect, or more precisely, give it up and rely on him. And Min-joon’s self-reproach made Nathan more miserable.
Min-joon muttered, “I still think you are a good chef, Nathan, but you’re a stupid coward today.”
His muttering like that rang louder than anyone else’s voice.
That was a pretty critical comment. Only after he spit out such words did Min-joon think he was being harsh to Nathan, but he didn’t take back what he said. He didn’t want to because Nathan should be given such a scolding. Perhaps there were not many people in Nathan’s life who scolded him like this.
Min-joon continued, “In some respects, I understand your feelings. When I think about how you have come this far, I feel even sentimental. But that doesn’t mean I accept your course today. I’m not here to understand or sympathize with anyone here. I am trying to evaluate the world’s best chefs from the best restaurants in the world.”
Nathan gave no answer. He thought this moment was the most painful in his life. He couldn’t get a sense of what he was doing or what he was supposed to do.
Nathan decided to take up the challenge right after Deborah. They praised his courage. Min-joon and Rachel appreciated his courage, smiling at him more warmly than ever.
However, Nathan felt so miserable at the moment because he realized the essence of his challenge, which was the expression of not his courage, but his cowardice and anxiety.
Yesh, heI was nervous because what he made, based on Min-joon’s advice, was not his own dish, after all.
Rachel said, “You’ve been clever since you were young. But you have tended to worry too much. You wonder whether it’s okay to do this or if somebody doesn’t like your recipe, whether this is in line with the latest trend, etc. Of course, you should have such questions as a chef, but the problem is whether you can solve that problem. After all, you can’t find the answer. Even before you find the answer, you have given up.”
“Sorry, Chef Rachel.”
“I don’t want to hear you telling me you’re sorry. No matter what you say, I don’t want to hear it now.”
Nathan lowered his head at her words. He really had nothing to say. He never expected he would be so humiliated before so many chefs in front of him. Even though this contest was a festival for everyone, it was like their judgment and like a prison to him.
‘I feel like I have been leading a wrong life.’ He even thought so.
Nathan didn’t turn his head, but he could feel that all the cameras around him were filming his expressions now. What kind of expression should he make? A resentful look? Or an unpersuaded expression? Or an expression full of determination to accept everything and change somehow?
‘Did I really make a resolution?’
Of course, he made numerous resolutions, but as always his resolution was not strong. Even if he made the resolution to shake off fear, he would go back to Min-joon’s advice without putting it to practice.