“Good luck, honey”, Julia said with a peck on my cheek. I’m probably going to need it, I thought as I made my way into the early morning rush on the sidewalk and hailed a taxi. ”fifth and park”, I told the driver and lay back in contemplation.
After four years of frustrating search for the perfect job, here was something that was beyond the furthest reaches of my imagination. A job as assistant chef at “Coup De Grace” was one any chef would love. Frequented by an elite clientele, which included the who’s who of high society and accomplished connoisseurs of cuisine, it was widely considered as one of the best restaurants in New York. And apparently the only reason a relative newcomer to the scene was even being offered the position was because two others who had earlier been considered had regretfully declined the offer. Good for me, I thought as the taxi pulled up to the curb. I got out and hurriedly walk the short distance to the entrance, not wanting to be late on my first day on the job.
I stepped in and an ambience of luxury greeted me. The finest furniture adorned with the costliest linen. Of course, you would expect nothing less from a 5 michelin star restaurant. I glanced at my watch and headed towards the kitchen. Expectedly, I was stopped at the door by a burly waiter. An unknown man dressed in a travel clothes was not exactly something you would expect in the kitchen of the “Coup De Grace”. “I’m the new chef”, I said, hoping to dispel some of the uncertainty. He raise an eye. “so?”. He wasn’t exactly the cheery type, I could tell.”Meet the head chef”, he said and pointed me in the direction of a door. I made my way towards it. As I raised my hand to knock, the door opened, and I stared into the chest of Conrad (or so his nametag said). “You’re late”, he said.”Well, you know how it is with the trafiic in the big apple….”. “Don’t bore me. Get dressed and get to work. And make it snappy.”
Not exactly the auspicious beginning I was hoping for, I thought, as I adjusted my apron and made my way to the counter. Maybe I could sweep the boss of his feet with my cooking?………
“here’s your first assignment”, said Conrad, thrusting a long list into my hand. Near the bottom, double starred and marked in red, was scribbled: duck and green peas. “now, this guy’s one of the foremost patrons of our restaurant and a very well established food critic. We don’t want to disappoint him. He’s here with a companion and they have a very long course in mind. So, I’m being forced”, he sighed, “to pass on the relatively simpler stuff to you.” Did I detect a note of contempt in that “you”? “Don’t screw it up..” I could almost picture him with a wicked grin, with a butchers knife in hand, getiing ready to make mincemeat out of me. I banished these thoughts and attacked the problem at hand.
Duck and green peas. Seemed simple enough. I requisitioned the juiciest looking duck from the freezer and got to work. Everything on the counter was immaculate. The containers were labeled the cutlery and knives were within easy reach, it was going to be absolute joy working here. I couldn’t dream of a better job. Or could I?
The guy outside was a well established food critic wasn’t he? What incredible luck that I was going to cook for him, and that too on my first day.What if I bowled him over with my food? He would definitely ask for me. And then, my name in the leading magazines, a job at the waldorf Astoria, the world in my pan, literally……
I attacked the duck with renewed vigor, determined to surpass myself. All kinds of condiments and vegetables found their way into the stuffing of that soon to be celebrated duck. “You, my dear friend, are going to take me places”, I said aloud, as I added the final touches. I stood back and admired my work. It looked divine. I poured a thick sauce around it and placed it in the microwave.
10 minutes and a microwave beep later, I took my ticket to fame out of the oven and laid it gingerly on a plate. Something was missing I thought. Ah, yes. A dash of asparagus and basil. That did it. It was ready. I rang the bell that signaled for the bearer. I sat back and waited for the moment that would change my life.
I was still deciding on the colour of my Ferrari ( it was a close run thing between red and blue…what woule Julia have liked?), when I heard the noise. It sounded like someone had banged into a dumbwaiter. Ah, nothing that concerned me, I thought, and returned to my castle building.
“you blithering idiot!!!”, I heard the earth rumble behind me as I turned and stared into the most fearsome sight of my entire life, and I doubted after seeing the anger on Conrad’s face that I was going to have very much left of my life after he was through with me. “You blithering fool!”, he repeated. That sentence combined with the colour of his face served to create quite an effect, and I can vouch for it. “Who in God’s name told you to add asparagus to the duck? His companion was allergic to it!!!One simple job and you create the worst possible mess out. Do you even begin to realize what this will do to our reputation?? We’re finished…………….”
And so was I. Kind of obvious. I mean, I wouldn’t still be expected to work there after I’d done my best to destroy their reputation and that too on my very first day at work. On my way back home, I suddenly felt pangs of hunger. Amazing how hunger can overpower any other emotion. Here I was, fired from my first day at work, and all I could think of was food…..Really…..
I knocked on the door, and it was answered by Julia. “ how was work, honey?”. I gave her one of my worst looks. ”I was fired”. She definitely wasn’t expecting that answer, I could tell from the expression (or rather lack of it) on her face. “ I’ll serve dinner”, she said and walked into the kitchen. Food, I thought, exactly what I needed.
“I was thinking we could celebrate”, she said as she emerged from the kitchen carrying a plate. The smell was heavenly. “ but I didn’t know things would turn out like this,” she said as she placed the plate in front of me.
She had given me duck and green peas.