Word count: 3684
Potato Pancake Tower (II)
It was like the surrounding competitors all heaved a sigh of relief.
It was probably because Lin Ke Song had gotten 9 points in the previous competition and made every feel the pressure. Since she’d never made potato pancake towers before, there was a high probability that she will make mistakes, and thus give the others a chance to up their ranking.
At this time, Dr Xie who was in the audience made a call to someone.
“I’m very curious, why would the judges choose potato pancake towers as the test? What’s so special about this dish?”
“If it were potato pancakes, then there’s only the need for potatoes to be shredded, then easily fried in the frying pan. But if it were potato pancake towers, potato cubes are used instead, and not shredded potatoes.”
“So…… if the timing isn’t controlled well, the potato pancake tower will end up raw?”
“Yes. The other thing is the seasoning. It isn’t as easy to marinate potato cubes compared to potato shreds, so one has to be more careful with the seasonings too.”
Dr Xie rubbed his forehead: “Sounds like a real headache. It seems like Ke Song has never made potato pancake towers before, aren’t you worried?”
“she knows all the skills that are needed for this dish.”
At this time, Annalise used a dining knife to cut the potato cake open, and let everyone have a clear to what was inside the potato tower.
There was a thin layer of starch coating the potato, and in between the potato cubes were soft white shrimp.
Lin Ke Song took a deep breath, the time for the potato cubes and shrimps to be cooked were different. The shrimps need to be cooked earlier than the potato cubes, which means that the two ingredients have to be prepared separately, if you’re not careful, the shrimps could be over fried till they lost their texture, while the potato cubes are still raw ah!
The other participants too were starting to think.
Lin Ke Song stared hard at the screen, furrowing her eyebrows. Not only that, but she had to be careful about the seasoning too. The shrimp need to add a layer of deliciousness to the pancake tower, but the problem is to make the flavours of the shrimp and potato shocking, to let this shock put people in wonder, she has to be extremely careful.
“everyone has received the main of this dish, following, please get your other spices and ingredients from the food warehouse that the organizers have prepared for you. Everyone has to carefully consider, and give it thought before leaving. Do not leave the area and then one of you tell me, that you’ve forgotten salt!”
Everyone laughed. This is a really kind reminder. Indeed, the most easily forgotten ingredients are the simplest.
“everyone, please remember, that before the start of the competition, everyone has 10 minutes to choose anything that you might need. But when the competition starts, if any of you plans to enter the food warehouse, it will use your competition time.”
When Lin Ke Song entered the food warehouse, she was stunned. The number of ingredients here was comparable to the kitchen in Jiang Qian Fan’s villa. It’s only that the placement of the ingredients was a little more complicated, like it was made so just to make the participants flustered.
Lin Ke Song found the flour to coat the potatoes, and found the shrimp she needed, but she couldn’t find the particular spice she wanted.
“Ke Song, what are you looking for ah? I’ve already collected the things I want, I can help you look oh!” Viktor’s voice sounded at her ear.
“Ah? thank you. I need dill…… but I can’t seem to find it anywhere……”
“Dill? Ke Song, you’re really smart ah. you can grind it up and scatter it on the seafood to chase the fishy smell away and add fragrance! The smell will be gentle and soft!”
Once Viktor finished saying so, the ones who were about to leave the food warehouse turned around to look for dill.
When Lin Ke Song finally found the shelf that held dill, she realised that it had all been taken away.
“Aiya, Ke Song, really sorry, I shouldn’t have said it out. They must have purposely taken it all so that none is left for you. It’s a pity I don’t use dill, otherwise I would give some to you.” Viktor smiled, and left.
At this time, in the food warehouse, Lin Ke Song and the Goto Nozomi who was choosing onions were left.
Lin Ke Song thought that this was only a competition, and there was no need to plan and plot against each other, that everyone only needed to showcase to the best of their abilities.
But now she understood that she was naïve to the point of foolishness.
This was a competition, and everyone was an opponent. Only when others make a blunder, will you be able to win.
Calm down, Lin Ke Song, even though there’s no dill, you can replace it with other ingredients.
She walked to the place that held the spices, and just passed Goto Nozomi, when Goto suddenly stood up, and threw a bunch of dill in her basket.
“The next time, you will not be this lucky.” Goto dumped the onions into his basket and walked off.
Lin Ke Song could not help asking: “Why did you help me? Aren’t we opponents?”
He was the one who had warned her not to trust Viktor in front of the lift.
“Because someone hired me to watch you. Of course, it’s only to look at you. Probably because that person knows how stupid you are ba.”
Goto Nozomi hmphed: “whoever you think will look after you. Furthermore, don’t trust me too much. Because I too am your opponent.”
After that, Goto Nozomi turned around without looking back and walked out.
Lin Ke Song didn’t have much time left to waste, she made sure that she wasn’t missing anything, and left the area too.
But she couldn’t help thinking, just who on earth was that person?
No, Ke Song, now is not the time to get distracted. You have to focus and complete this round of competitions!
When she walked out, a few competitors realised that she had dill in her basket and they each showed an expression of regret and even disbelief.
Lin Ke Song remembered them, and told herself to be more cautious of those people.
When they returned to their areas, they realised that there was raised frosted glass surrounding every work counter.
Every corner of the glass was fitted with a camera, that was able to capture the process of their cooking.
“This is a competition and the most important thing in a competition is to prevent ‘learning’ from each other. When everyone is unable to see each other’s cooking process, every creation will belong to your thoughts and not another’s thing.”
It looked like, “Master’s show” really wasn’t only a tv programme, the competition committee really is for real!
“may everyone not forget, you need to prepare 12 portions of potato pancake towers, every portion needs to perfectly flawless. You have an hour to prepare, now —— let the competition begin!”
In this enclosed space, Lin Ke Song felt freer.
All sorts of sounds sounded in the surroundings.
Lin Ke Song too started to busy. She first peeled the potatoes, cut them, every piece around the same size, then she pressed them to feel their density, then put them in the over. Then she shelled the shrimp, and put the yellow tomalley aside, no matter the kind of ingredient, you need to taste its flavour, and feel it’s texture.
When the batter was done, she carefully tasted it, then imagined whether the saltiness would be sufficient when it coated the potatoes.
And at this time, the screen was broadcasting the image of the judges sitting and chatting together.
“Hey, I say, Winston, so far which contestant has caught your eye?”
Winston rubbed the tip of his brow: “obviously, it’s Timothy Viktor. He’s young, and the young tend to have lots of ideas. And his taste discernment ability really surprises me. The taste discernment determines the ability of a chef’s taste deconstruction ability. Like the one who has the most outstanding sense of taste, Jiang Qian Fan, he is able to layer by layer deconstruct then make reality any taste he is able to imagine.”
“Now that we’re talking about this, I’m very curious, as to whether any of the 10 contestants have Jiang Qian Fan as their mentor?” the barbecue master from Australia asked curiously.
“That is a secret.” Winston blinked, “but our mentor line up is absolutely strong. But being a chef doesn’t mean that he’s equipped to teach. So maybe the results of the competition, will surprise everyone.”
The moment Lin Ke Song who was adjusting the sauce for the pancake tower, heard the name “Jiang Qian Fan”, her heart suddenly tightened.
Calm down, Ke Song.
You can do well, definitely can do well!
She carefully took the baked potatoes out, and mixed them with the marinated fresh shrimps.
When she fried the first potato pancake tower, she didn’t forget to taste the flavour, no matter the potato or the shrimp, who cared whether it was the slightest taste experience, only until she was satisfied, did she then start to plate.
At this time, they had already entered the countdown.
She put the sauce in little saucers, and one by one arranged them properly. She used an oil absorbing towel and carefully absorbed the excess oil from the potato pancake tower, and plated with the mint leaves.
12 portions of food preparation to her was an activity that needed time and focus.
On the other side of the glass, there were already scolding shout of other participants flipping plates over.
If the plate and food were flipped to the ground, then they definitely cannot present it to the judges, and the judges can probably only give zero points.
Annalise started to count down.
Lin Ke Song used a paper towel to wipe the perspiration are her temples, made sure all the plates were flawlessly perfect, then heaved a sigh.
Following Annalise’s sound, when the glass separating the contestants was slowly lowered, they could again see each other.
At this time, Annalise suddenly covered her mouth and cried out: “Oh, my god! My god! My idol is actually here!”
The camera man turned the camera towards the audience without a word.
All the participants could not help lifting their heads up too.
That was a man with an elegant disposition, being guided to an empty seat.
He took a seat, and when the camera captured his features, with that deep eye socket and solemn expression, a mysterious atmosphere started to spread, the originally murmuring audience settled down like dust.
Among so many people, even if he didn’t say a single word, he had the charisma to be the centre of attention.
Lin KE Song was totally stunned silly.
Why was he here?
No other contestant’s mentor came, why did he come to the scene?
“Heavens ah…… is that Jiang Qian Fan? He is the head chef and operator of quite a few Michelin star restaurants!”
“is he a guest that was invited…… or is he interested in picking a few of us to groom?”
“Or maybe, one among us has had his guidance?”
“Impossible ba…… Jiang Qian Fan has always been reclusive, and never joins any activity and hardly appears in the media…… the probability of him joining this competition is too low ba!”
Only Lin Ke Song didn’t say a thing.
Jiang Qian Fan is here…… if her own potato pancake tower is unable to get the judges’ favour, will he be disappointed?
At this time, Annalise could not endure anymore, and took her mic to Jiang Qian Fan.
“Mr Jiang, are you especially here to watch the competition? Maybe many in the audience are not familiar with you, but I know that the fact that you are in this kind of public setting is an unbelievable thing! Oh my god ah…… oh my god……”
“You should continue hosting the programme, I am only an audience, Annalise.”
His voice had a special charm, like a clean wine, with the passage of time, having thickness and texture.
Everyone turned their heads, wanting to have a clearer look at the person Annalise called her “Idol”.
There were already some participants who had their potato pancake tower sent to the judges.
On the screen, was the image of the judges giving scores to the potato pancake towers.
The originally common family dish of potato pancake tower really stumped many people.
“my god ah! the potato is undercooked! Is there anything more unappetizing than eating raw potatoes?”
The first creation that was scored already had very fatal problems, and in the end only ended up with a score of 2.5.
Contestant Tanya from Mexico was already holding her face, showing a dispirited expression.
2.5 points, this kind of disadvantage might not even be able to be made up for later in the competition.
The second contestant’s creation got only 4 points because they put too much salt in the shrimp marinate and the sauce was to the sour side.
The rest of the contestants, didn’t get higher than 6 points.
ShanSha’s pancake tower got 6.5 points, because the seasoning wasn’t bad, and the sauce wasn’t bad either, she too had thought sufficiently about the difference in cooking times for the potato and prawns, and had fried the potatoes in low heat first. This solution seemed reasonable, but the 2 rounds of frying made the pancake tower very oily.
Goto Nozomi, Lin Ke Song and Viktor were the only ones left who hadn’t had their towers tasted by the judges.
Viktor kept calm, occasionally flashing a mischievous smile to the audience. Goto Nozomi’s expression was constantly strained, not allowing people to tell whether he was confident with his creation or not.
As for Lin Ke Song, all her feelings were focused on Jiang Qian Fan who was in the audience.
She was very nervous, even her palms were subconsciously perspiring.
Finally, Goto’s creation was sent to the judges.
“En! This is the most perfect pancake tower I’ve tried so far! The batter is thin and crispy, the seasoning done just right! The shredded onions combined the flavours of the potato and shrimp! My tongue is finally saved! The plating is very pleasant too!” Food Association chairman David commented.
And the other judges shared his opinion, and pointed out that the only flaw was that the layers of flavours weren’t rich enough. This was a competition, the common potato pancake tower should have its uniqueness.
Goto got 7.8 points, this was the highest score that any of the contestants had gotten so far.
And the next person, was Lin Ke Song.
Her palms were drenched with perspiration, her heart beating very quickly, her blood shooting through the blood vessels so quickly it felt like they were going to burst.
At this time, the screen showed that Winston had already cut a piece out and put it in his mouth.
His brows lifted slightly, like he was organizing his thoughts, that expression was like the first time she’s made the “Devil’s soup”.
Finished, finished, did she make a mistake?
“Really a rarity. I don’t know which contestant made this pancake tower, but before the potatoes were battered and fried, they put it in the oven to bake, then brushed a thin layer of butter to lock in the fragrance of the potatoes. The shrimp too was delicately marinated.
Different from the previous contestants and added sill to the shrimp, with just the right amount of dill. I always think that one shouldn’t anyhow use a spice that one isn’t familiar with, because if you use the wrong amount, it can be worse than using the wrong ingredient! So I’m willing to give this pancake tower an 8.5 points.”
Lin KE Song widened her eyes, that was Winston ah! he was a central figure among the judges, even though the score he gave now was unable to influence the other judges’ opinions, his standard of a good and bad dish can’t be too off from the others.
Next, the screen showed Food Association chairman David.
He tightened a hand around his fat neck, and tilted his head like he was distinguishing the flavours within: “En! The flavour is stunning! I tasted some saffron, thyme and a little pepper and clove! The effect of lifting the taste is very obvious! Wait, there is the tomalley in the batter! This contestant is very smart, and has locked the most exquisite part of the Shrimp firmly in! a full flavour! This is the delicious flavour that we food judges want to taste! But I hope that this contestant can take note of the plating, you must know, that the plating can let the taster feel good, and whet their appetites! So I’ll give 8 points.”
Lin Ke Song released a breath out.
And the food critic Luke was full of praises to Lin Ke Song’s creation: “the seasoning is just right, can totally use the word ‘accurate’ to describe it. The only thing to take note of and change, is the thickness of the batter, if it could be a little thinner, it will make the pancake tower crispier. I hope that this contestant can improve more, I’m willing to give them 7.5 points.”
Even though Luke didn’t give a score as high as the other judges, he gave a suggestion, and this let Lin Ke Song realise that her batter was indeed a little too thick.
After the other judges gave their scores, Lin Ke Song got 8.2 points, and jumped to the top of the ranks.
The other contestants looked towards the girl that looked ordinary without anything outstanding.
And Viktor turned around, and blinked his eyes at Lin Ke Song, one of the corners of his lip lifted, he was full of confidence.
Lin Ke Song finally understood, this chap not only almost made it impossible for her to use dill, the most important thing was that he led the other contestants who weren’t even planning to use dill in the first place incorporate it in their dish and spoil their original process. This rascal may be young, but he wasn’t easy.
The last person to get scored, was Viktor.
When his pancake tower was shown on screen, the audience let out a gasped.
His plating was beautiful, the original common family dish had become a piece of art from a high-class restaurant.
Lin Ke Song didn’t know when he had time to make 12 caramel nests. The pancake tower was placed on top of the nests, the crevices of the nest dotted with tender mint leaves. Just looking at it, Lin Ke Song would’ve wonder which great chef designed and plated it.
When Winston tasted it, his eyes lighted up: “the potatoes were baked just right, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside! The shrimp maintained its bounciness! The curry and turmeric bring about an impact, the quick cheese flavour quickly returns the balanced of the stimulated taste buds, and makes the texture smooth! This is a creation that deserves 9 points!”
Judge David too was totally conquered: “the basil and coconut powder that was sprinkled at the roof of the tower is really the finishing touch. I never thought that such a simple pancake tower could have such a rich flavour. And these flavours aren’t unthinking accumulation, but a fusion!”
“I wish to say that this is the most perfect potato pancake tower that I have ever eaten. But there is no such thing as perfect in this world. If pepper powder was added, not a lot, just a little, it would give more of a kick, and I think it will be more perfect.”
When Lin Ke Song looked at Viktor’s plating, she knew that he would inevitably have great confidence in this dish. Only a certain level of confidence and practice will one be able to do such a complicated plating in this kind of tense competition.
It was a pity, that she didn’t have a chance to taste Viktor’s pancake tower. But just listening to the Judges’ comments, she was able to imagine how outstanding Viktor’s pancake tower is.
When Viktor placed first in the ranks with 9 points, many food journalists on set couldn’t wait to get a picture of him.
Viktor had already become the centre of “Master’s show”.
At this time, Li Ke Song could finally look in Jiang Qian Fan’s direction.
She wondered if her not winning Viktor would make him feel a little disappointed?
His expression didn’t have any change, quietly sitting in the audience, like he had no intention to leave the scene.
Lin Ke song suddenly had a strong urge to hear his speaking voice.
No matter if it were a short word.
The competition rankings were once again announced, Lin KE Song was still in second place. If this were her 3 months ago, she would be very satisfied and even feel fortunate. But now, don’t know why, but she actually had a feeling of complete dissatisfaction.
Goto Nozomi was third, and the fourth place was Shansha.
“The next competition will be more arduous, the contestant’s real standard will be tested. The competition will be this Friday, everyone, don’t be late ah!” Annalise’s gaze brushed each participant’s face, “no matter if you’re satisfied with the results today, they all belong to the past. Moderate your emotion, and face a new challenge ba!”
When Lin Ke Song left the competition venue, she hurried to the washroom.
A hand on the basin, splashing cold water on her face repeatedly, her nervous emotions can be considered back to normal.
Her phone in her pocket started vibrating.
When she saw the name “Jiang Qian Fan”, her nerves jumped to the highest.
Uneasy yet anticipating.