Word count: 3506
Battle of the senses of taste
He reached the table, and leaned forward in her direction like he was trying to get a sense of where Lin Ke Song was.
At that moment, Lin Ke Song held her breath.
Jiang Qian Fan’s line of sight just happened to miss, but his handsome face was so close to her, it made her feel good.
He placed the plate down, and on it was a red pyramid of candied haw.
This whole menu, was the things that Lin Ke Song saw Jiang Qian Fan make when she’d first entered the back kitchen.
But that time, she drank 8 bowls of mint cabbage soup, don’t talk about the main dish, she didn’t even get to taste the appetiser.
Jiang Qian Fan didn’t say anything, and sat quietly across her.
The sunlight gently landed on his face, like all the indifference and coldness was melted off at this moment.
Lin Ke Song lifted her spoon, carefully scooping a haw, and putting it into her mouth.
Sweet, sour, and a little astringent, these were the flavours of sugar coating hawthorn. When the sweet freshness of the ice cream spread at the tip of the tongue, that moment of thought was like breaking out of the cocoon.
There were clearly 9 candied haws, but to her, it felt like she’d only eaten one piece.
The same taste, was like the cycle of reincarnation.
When she put down her fork, Jiang Qian Fan who was in front of her had his expression as usual.
“I thought that this lunch was your test for me.”
Lin Ke Song looked at Jiang Qian Fan, she used to think that he was like a steep cliff, one you desire but cannot reach.
And today, when he was this close to her, even though he was expressionless, he still had a beautiful demeanour.
“Then, what do you taste? Or what thoughts do you have?” Jiang Qian Fan asked lightly.
“Actually, the first time I saw you make quail foie gras, I was already very curious about the soup that you’d poured over the dish. Today, I have tasted it, and realised, that it wasn’t any soup…… but apple juice.”
“If it were three months ago, you wouldn’t have been able to discern the apple juice. You’ve matured, Ke Song.”
“Then…… I started to think about how you out the ice cream into the hawthorn. This is really exquisite, if you put too much, the cream will break the balance between the fruit and sugar coating. If there’s too little, the sourness of the hawthorn will be overpowering.”
“this kind of balance doesn’t happen overnight, it needs multiple trials. But today, you only need feel their flavours.”
Lin Ke Song scooped up another ball of hawthorn, and placed it in her mouth, her eyes scrunching up.
With the warm sunlight, the male goddess eye candy, and the sweet candied haw that carried a little sourness, life couldn’t possibly be better.
“You’ve said before, that candied haw tasted like having a crush.”
“If every crush tasted like this, I would wish that I would forever never wake up.” Lin Ke Song shrugged her shoulders and laughed.
She had rarely laughed like that in front of Jiang Qian Fan.
“Then remember the flavours that are in contact with your taste buds. Remember the feeling you have now. Carry this feeling to meet all your opponents and future problems. And most importantly, even though you are my student, do not try to become me.”
“Then what should I become?” Lin Ke Song asked.
She wasn’t only in awe of him.
Many times, she felt that it was like she fallen through layers of clouds and finally crashed into the lake in his eyes.
“Become Lin Ke Song. And remember that I said I like you?”
His voice was light, like the it was and icy spring that flowed into a cup, a little swirl, brewing unusual throbs.
“Yes.” Lin Ke Song started getting nervous. What did he want to say? What did he want to ask?
“Your thoughts are in a mess. So, forget it temporarily.”
Jiang Qian Fan lowered his eyes slightly, the sun light making patchwork on his eyelids.
But at that moment, Lin Ke Song’s felt like her heart was pricked by a needle, and rapidly tightened, the pain quietly spreading.
“Because this isn’t a multiple-choice question, and it also isn’t borrowing one person to forget another.”
Jiang Qian Fan had always been thorough.
“I will always be behind you. So, no matter what happens, do not be afraid.”
Lin Ke Song pursed her lips.
Actually, these words were much better that a thousand “I like you”s.
At that moment, she hoped, that today’s lunch would never end.
To become Lin Ke Song…… just what version of herself did she want to become?
The day “Master’s show” officially begins, the competition committee will specially send a car to Jiang Qian Fan’s villa to pick Lin Ke Song up.
At 6 in the morning, she sat with Jiang Qian Fan at the table to eat a Chinese breakfast, Mayer was at the side reciting today’s news, Nina was right behind Jiang Qian Fan.
Everything was as it had been for the past 3 months.
“Mr Jiang, it’s almost time.” The staff whom the competition committee had sent over reminded.
Jiang Qian Fan put down his chopsticks, and unhurriedly cleaned his mouth, stood up, and walked towards the door.
Lin Ke Song followed him, and got to the front of the door, and saw that black business car that had sent her here 3 months ago.
This view, got her feeling introspective.
Jiang Qian Fan’s farewell was way simpler than Lin Ke Song expected. She thought that he’d tell her about how to handle everything calmly, or to take note of certain cooking techniques or something. But it was so simple like he was sending her off to New York for a day of fun.
But when you think about it, this is Jiang Qian Fan.
He didn’t have many wishy-washy details. The things he’d wanted to teach her and the words he’d wanted to say were all already done and said.
“Goodbye, Mr Jiang.”
Lin Ke Song lowered her head, and sat in the car.
3 months of mentorship had ended. She was about to return to her uncle’s. in this period, she was still able to meet and consult her mentor. But it will be prohibited when the competitions start.
Hearing her luggage being put in the boot and the slam of the car cover was like cutting off her nerves.
She turned around, saw the image of Jiang Qian Fan holding his cane at the door, and she suddenly had a premonition.
No matter where she went, this man will always be looking at her.
“this is new.” The driver smiled glancing at the rear-view mirror, “are you very nervous?”
“Even though my mentor hopes that I enjoy this process, I can’t help feeling nervous.” Lin Ke Song replied sheepishly.
“Haha, Mr Jiang is indeed a person indifferent to fame and fortune. He has never been like other who spend energy worrying for the sake of a little praise, but every time he introduces new dishes, people will naturally rush for it. But in this industry, there’s definitely many who wish to see him fall from the peaks of the clouds, people’s jealousy us always so frightening.”
Lin Ke Song clutched her hands into a tight fist, “If I fail, will it make him look bad?”
“Haha, don’t worry. You only need to do your best, and not be the last and it’ll be fine. If someone were to criticise him because of your failure, then there will be even more people who will stand up to protect him. His eyes cannot see, and making him mentor like other chefs is already an unfairness.”
Lin Ke Song gaped, unable to finish her words.
Her reputation is already linked to Jiang Qian Fan.
The car left the quiet villa area, and entered the city.
They got to the venue where “Master’s show” will be held, Leidewensen hotel
Lin Ke Song got a nameplate from the competition committee. She placed it on herself, and walked into the lift.
“Hey, Ke Song! Didn’t think I’d meet you here!”
“Bruce! It’s you!” Lin Ke Song’s heart calmed down a lot more after seeing a familiar face.
Bruce laughed saying to Lin Ke Song: “My granddad and Mrs Bell will be cheering for me. What about you, Ke Song?”
Lin Ke Song was stunned, she lowered her head smiling, “I only have my uncle here. He is the chef of a Chinese restaurant, and is usually really busy, so……”
There was also Lin Xiao Xue, but she didn’t think that this cousin would cheer for her.
“that’s alright, I know one person who would definitely come.” Bruce blinked, patted Lin Ke Song’s shoulder.
The lift reached the top floor. Staff ushered them to the big door of the venue.
When the heavy thick door was opened, Lin Ke Song suddenly got nervous.
The bright lights, the applauding audience, these all were hard for Lin Ke Song to adjust to.
This was a lecture venue that was changed to a competition ground. The center of the venue was 10 independent bright white porcelain counters.
Knife sets and chopping boards were placed on top of the counters, and a one piece oven was placed under the counter.
The venue was surrounded by an auditorium, reminding Lin Ke Song of the lecture halls during her university days.
With the entrance of the participants, applause sounded one after another, the enthusiasm of the audience was very high.
Lin Ke Song took a look at her surroundings, and suddenly had a confused feeling of not knowing where her place was in this world.
Even the lights abouve her head made her unable to open her eyes.
She lifted her hand, to shield her eyes, feeling like the ceiling was falling towards her.
“Ke Song! Ke Song! Every counter has a participant’s name! look for yours!” Bruce reminded her softly.
Lin Ke Song then got her mind back, found her name at the last row, then proceeded to stand behind the work counter.
Only then did she realise, apart from the basic cooking utensils, there was still a tablet on the counter.
She took a deep breath, regulating her breathing, and when she looked around, she aactually realised that there was someone in the audience who was holding a red banner.
Loud Chinese words entered Lin Ke Song’s view: Ke Song, good luck!
She was stunned, it was actually uncle and his friends!
Their expressions were very excited, constantly gesturing with their thumbs at Lin Ke Song.
She knew, that this kind of image would look comical on tv, but at this moment, she was very touched.
And what was more unexpected, was that the person sitting beside her uncle was Song Yi Ran.
His sitting posture was elegant, left leg perched on the right thigh, hands clasped together, resting lazily on the legs.
Even if they were so far away, she could see that he was smiling.
Normally, this chap would definitely feel embarrassed to be sitting next to a banner, like he was a fan that had lost his rationality.
But at this moment, he was like her guardian, looking at her indifferently.
All these times, she’d always looked at him like that, no matter what he did, no matter who was beside him.
Today, she finally had a feeling that she was the core of his world.
It was a dizzying feeling.
The sound of a fork hitting a wine glass sounded.
Everyone’s attention was focused at the forefront of the work counters.
《Gourmet New York》’s host Annalise was wearing a silver mini dress, fluttering her eyelashes elegantly and sexily at the camera man.
She cleared her throat, and the scene quietened down.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and our nervous participants! Welcome to the collaboration of 《Gourmet foodie》 magazine, national Food Union and《Gourmet New York》 in co organizing ‘Master’s show’.”
Annalise paused, and gazed deeply at the participants, then lifted her head to look at the audience, and said in a resounding voice: “If any of you think that this is a gimmick of a competition between Michelin chefs or a pre-planned scripted programme, then I can only say that you are very wrong. The door is there, if you wish to leave, I will not stop you. Of course, the entrance fee is non-refundable.”
Lin Ke Song started feeling curious. Before this, she too had thought that this was just a tv programme.
“’Master’s show’ is absolutely professional. This professionalism isn’t only in front of the counters, but totally of high class restaurants’ configuration, this too is inclusive of the judges. Our judges team consists of 12 professionals. Of course, the head of the panel of judges is the one who everyone has seen, the chief editor of Gourmet foodie magazine, Mr Winston!”
The introduction had just ended, and Winston who was wearing a suit and tie confidently walked to Annalise.
His face no longer carried that amicable smile that was shown durng the auditions, but it seemed stern and cold.
“I believe that I have at least said ‘I never wish to see you again’ or ‘you aren’t suitable to the food industry’ to every person here. But, these criticisms are in the past, I hope you will be able to change my mind! I am a strict judge, a presentable dish isn’t enough to move me. The only thing I ask of you in this competition, is to fully showcase your knowledge of food, creativity and cooking skills!”
Lin Ke Song got inexplicably nervous, and the audience got silent too.
The next introductions made were of Chairman David from the Food Association, Food connoisseur Luke, Mrs Bronte, owner of a 6-star restaurant, and when Annalise announced the name ‘Han Bin’, it made Lin Ke Song get a little shocked.
The judging panel included head chefs from a Mexican restaurant, a Korean restaurant, Japanese restaurant and even a pastry chef from Australia.
This was indeed a judging panel so dauntingly professional.
“every participant is required to prepare 12 portions of a dish. Every judge will give you a score, with 10 being the highest score. The highest and lowest score will be averaged and that will be the score for each participant. There will be no elimination of any participants in this competition, the person who accumulates the highest score will be the final winner of this competition. To protect the fairness of the scoring, the judges will not see the whole process of cooking with the audience, but be seated in a separate room, so that there will not be any influence in scoring everyone’s dishes. The dishes will not have a name, only have a number. Furthermore, all participant’s mentors will not be invited to be a judge for this competition. So audience and the gourmet industry do not need to have regrets of certain great chefs and other figures not appearing. Because it is largely possible that their representative work will be present by these 10 participants right in front of your eyes!”
Annalise explained the scoring and rating system seriously.
Chief editor Winston’s stern face slowly revealed a smile, like the harsh and cold words was his joke to them.
“however, we will not be using any utensils today. Because for the first competition of ‘Master’s show’, we will not be testing your cooking skills, but your sense of taste.” Winston smiled at the participants.
Nobody looked surprise, but there was much discussion from the audience.
Lin Ke Song thought about that 8 bowls of mint cabbage soup.
Jiang Qian Fan pretty much spent one third of the time to teaching and helping her experience the synergy of different ingredient and the flavours produced.
“we all know, sommeliers can pinpoint the origin, year and texture of a particular wine after one small sip. The perfumer can smell the fragrance notes and the ratio of the fragrances with just a whiff. Similarly, a chef only needs a taste of the food to be able to discern all the ingredients used and the cooking process and time. Of course, our expectations aren’t so high today. Participants, on the counter in front of you are various drinks and meals, figure out the ingredients in each food and put your answers through the tablet, the system will automatically give you a score. The duration of this competition is 30 minutes.”
At this time, some staff pushed a push cart to them, and placed carious foods, including juices, pudding, cake, barbeque, etc and displayed them on their work counters.
Annalise kindly reminded everyone: “everyone, please take note, that every ingredient that was used in each food has to be correct. No matter if it is salt or water or any ingredient that you take for granted, don’t forget to key that answer in. any missing or wrong answer will not be considered right. Our computer system will score and rank you according to the correct answers you give. Which is to say, the more correct answers you give in this limited time, the greater your score will be.”
Lin Ke Song looked at the foods that filled the counter with a dazzled feeling. These foods, even if you take only a small bite and are able to discern all the ingredients, a half hour is enough to stuff a person full. Furthermore, a person who can be like Jiang Qian Fan who will have insight to everything with just a small bite…… probable doesn’t exist ba.
Lin Ke Song looked to the side, and saw Bruce’s troubled expression. The previous discerning was the devil’s juice Montgomery made, Lin Ke Song won him, don’t know he had made any improvement the past 2 month.
Lin Ke Song had originally thought that the majority of the participants would be American, but she didn’t think that apart from Bruce, there was a French, Italian, Mexican, Greek, a few blacks and more. Everyone’s skin colour was different, their behaviours and style were different too.
Annalise lifted her hand, and said smiling to everyone: “when my fork hits the wineglass again, it signals the start of the competition.”
The whole scene immediately quietened down, totally silent.
Lin Ke Song was like the other contestants, and was already holding onto a spoon and fork, lowering her head and waiting for that moment to arrive.
Her heart was thumping, the blood swelling through.
She suddenly felt an inexplicable panic, because she didn’t know if her taste buds could be as sensitive as when Jiang Qian Fan was with her.
The crisp sound sounded in the air.
All the audience quietened down, and all their energies were focused on the 10 contestants.
Lin Ke Song and the people around her lowered their heads, to start tasting the food.
Lin Ke Song had already observed the foods while Annalise was explaining the rules. She knew that she couldn’t waste her precious time on the complicated things, like the tomato tower, the fillings must be very rich, to discern every single thing will definitely be difficult.
So the first thing she chose was the nearby pudding. Firstly, the spoon went through the pudding from the highest point to the base, to ensure all the ingredients would be on the spoon, Lin Ke Song held it in her mouth, breaking the flavours layer by layer: fresh milk, egg, sugar, light cream, marshmallow, blueberry, passionfruit…… wait a minute, what was this unique fragrance?
Lin Ke Song furrowed her eyebrows, searching for the answer in her head.
It’s wheat! The fragrance of wheat!
If one were careless, they would neglect that fragrance.
Lin Ke Song emitted cold sweat in her heart. Even the simplest milk pudding had this kind of hidden trap?
She had another 2 scoops, and made sure that there weren’t any other flavours then gave her answer through the tablet.
When the acknowledgment correct answer was shown, Lin Ke Song could breathe a sigh of relief. But she was surprised to find out, that she was ranked sixth among the 10 people. Which was to say, than in this short time, 5 other people had already discerned the ingredients of a dish.
She couldn’t keep hesitating and end up suffering a loss, otherwise the first competition will end up in her failure.
Jiang Qian Fan said, she possessed an excellent sense of taste.
She chose to believe in the evaluation Jiang Qian Fan had of her, she decided to believe in herself.
Grabbing a donut, this was the most common snack, even if many ingredients were used, it couldn’t be as complicated as a steak.
Lin Ke Song tasted the ingredients in 15 seconds, when she finished answering, she realised that she had finally risen to the fifth place.
╥﹏╥ the baby is growing up~!!