After my decision to avoid Ethan at all cost, I put all my energy into school and worrying about my cook off for class. Culinary arts was my dream and getting to cook whatever I wanted at the diner only helped bring out my creative side. When I was in the kitchen nothing else mattered and getting the chance to take something and turn it into a masterpiece that could potentially make or break you was such a thrill. I took pride in always having control of every situation I was in, especially with school.
I decided on my main course then got to work searing the lamb shanks. Once they had cooked for a few minutes on each side, I removed them and added the vegetables to the pan and seasoned them with salt and pepper cooking them down until they were carmalized. Making this dish consisted of a ton of ingredients and took time to make sure the lamb was cooked perfectly and had a thick, hardy liquid to accompany it.
The vegetables were smothered down yet still had crispy outsides. My potatoes were also done and once I plated them I added the lamb and veggies, drizzling the braising liquid over the top. Adding a sprig of rosemary to the side of the plate for garnish was the final touch. Now for my taste test!
"Mason! I've got a new dish for you!"
He came running like a dog waiting for his favorite treat and sat in front of me licking his chops. His eyes bugged out of his head when I placed the dish in front of him. He's from the midwest so meat and potatoes were his favorite dish but he also loved trying new things and if I made it he was volunteering to eat it.
"What's this?" He said with drool dripping down his chin.
"Braised lamb shank with rosemary and garlic mashed potatoes."
He pulled the plate towards him and took a huge sniff then grabbed the fork and pierced through the lamb watching as it fell apart. He placed the bite in his mouth and closed his eyes savoring the flavor dancing on his tastebuds.
"Oh. My. Fucking. Gosh. Britt you have definitely done it this time!"
"For real? I've been going over and over with this recipe trying to get it just right."
"Well then you have definitely nailed it. Really! Like this is amazing."
"Thanks Mason." I said smiling at the dish before me but just one persons opinion wasn't enough.
I needed to convince Rick to let me do Friday night specials so I can get a real feel for my food. I had to know for sure that I was going to make it in the competitive world of cooking but unfortunately the one person I knew who wouldn't hold back what he really thought was the very person I refused to talk to.
I picked up my phone and stared at the blank screen. We hadn't talked in over a week and I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it but I couldn't have someone in my life who wanted to boss me around and make me change for them. I was proud to be outspoken and live my life for myself, I didn't want someone constantly controlling my every move or telling me what I could and couldn't do.
After placing my phone down on the counter I walked back into the kitchen trying to gather the courage to talk to Rick about letting me cook once a week, he wasn't big on change and he hadn't added or taken anything off the menu in 20 years. The rest of the night crept by and when the clock struck 3 I was out the door. I had class at 12 so I fell right into bed without showering.
That morning I dreamt of owning a 5 star restaurant that brought in such a different variety of people all dying to try my food. People raved about how original my menu was and how they loved the fusion of modern with an ethnic flare, how the atmosphere was like no other in this beautiful city and people were looking to invest and increase revenue. I walked around getting praise from every table when I approached one with a man in a suit sitting alone. I placed my hand on his shoulder and asked him if his food was satisfactory but when he turned around his scowl made me sick.
He threw his napkin down and pushed out his chair saying "That was the most disgusting plate I have ever eaten in my life. It lacked flavor not to mention I could go right down the road and get the exact same plate. Can't you cook anything original?"
I shot up in my bed sobbing at how bad his words had hurt me. I knew he was judgmental which was why I would never serve him my food, I didn't know if my heart could take that type of criticism. I took deep breaths in through my nose and out my mouth trying to slow my breathing and when the feeling passed I found myself getting pissed off. Even in my dreams he managed to completely ruin every good thing I worked for and yet here I was still letting him do it. How was I going to get him out of my mind before he caused real damage to my life. I looked at my phone and saw the time then went take a bath.
Class started in two hours and I was starving and in need of some solace so I grabbed my favorite pan and got to work. My ultimate comfort food was shrimp and four cheese grits. Once the oil hit the pan and the garlic started to brown Tara popped her head out her room and walked in practically floating as she inhaled the smell.
"Good morning princess!"
"Morning. Where's the coffee?"
"Almost done. I'm going to be late tonight, I have an assignment due for class and my group has our turn at the kitchen so I'll be perfecting my Paella."
"Britt if you don't win that cook off, then those people are idiots. I've eaten everything you have ever cooked and I can tell you I have loved every single dish and you know I've been to my fair share of classy restaurants in my lifetime."
"Thanks Tara but you know if people are going to take me seriously, especially in a man dominated profession, then I need someone who isn't biased to tell me that."
It didn't take long before my grits were the perfect consistency so I tossed in the cheese and butter, added some salt and let it rest. I sautéed my shrimp in white wine and herbs then reduced it so the liquid could turn into a flavorful sauce. Once everything was done I scooped some grits into two bowls, topping them off with shrimp and some sauce and then grabbed the coffee for us. I placed one in front of her and I dug into mine. The flavors lingered on my tongue leaving me warm all over. If this didn't make me feel better then nothing would. We finally finished eating and when I looked up I only had twenty minutes to get to class so I threw my plate in the sink and ran out the door.
The walk is my favorite part of the day especially during the spring. The trees were a radiant green and the birds were chirping, singing their love songs as they nestled together in the trees. The fragrance of the flowers that were blooming would fill the air with sweet smells of nectar. But the fall was even better and I never got tired of the view. I couldn't wait for the day to be able to open my own restaurant, complete with a courtyard, so everyone could appreciate the beauty outside along with the artwork on their plates.
I stopped when a sliver of sunlight peeked through the trees and I closed my eyes basking in its rays soaking up its energy and warmth to rejuvenate my spirit. I inhaled deeply then opened my eyes and finished my walk to school. With only one semester left I was determined to leave my mark there. I'd already impressed two of the most influential instructors I had but the biggest one was my ultimate challenge. Chef Blaine was going to be at our cook off and I knew that if I could impress him I would be able to impress anyone.
Class was bare today with it being Homecoming tonight so we had free range of the entire room. I usually managed to get here first every week but with no one fighting for the appliances or special ingredients I could do whatever I wanted. My instructor came in and told me I could do as I pleased just as long as I was gone by 8pm when the cleaning crew came in. I chuckled because she knew me so well, I probably never would have left if she didn't tell me to.
When I finally finished my first course I invited some of the students outside to taste it and asked them to give me their honest opinion, I didn't expect their responses. Three of them said they were staying the rest of the night to try all 4 courses, one of them offered me a job at his fathers restaurant and another begged me to cook for her wedding next year. I was beyond excited about it and almost burst out in tears from their praises. After everything had been prepared we sat around the table and chatted while eating Beef Bourguignon, quickly becoming friends, when they invited me to a party they were going to tonight after the game. I reluctantly agreed and asked if I could bring a friend, they said yes and gave me the address.
Before I left class I messaged Tara about the party and that I would be home after I cleaned up. As a chef you learn to keep your work station clean as you go, but the dishes piled up if no one was with you. Since I was the only one from my group to show up tonight, I had to clean it all up by myself. An hour later I had just placed the last pot on the rack and was heading for the door, already regretting saying yes to going and hoped the walk home would change my mind.
Woohoo party time!!! Will her night end up like last time?
Isn't it nice for her boss to let her cook at the restaurant? Do you think he will let her try it out on the customers???