The Meal

Apr 13th, 2018
Not a member of Pastebin yet? Sign Up, it unlocks many cool features!
  1. >A big customer will be coming soon. The whole restaurant staff is present and preparing the evening’s gifts. They all know what is at stake: a business like theirs relies on these expensive, refined opinions to bring in more of their kind. Tonight, though, the stakes are even higher than normal. A failure to please this man would be catastrophic for their future.
  2. >The ingredients were expensively procured. Spices hand-chosen from back-alley shops and obscure street vendors are now meticulously analyzed, scrutinized, and applied by the expert cook who had personally traveled around the world to find them. Fruits and vegetables, picked and flown in this very morning from foreign and domestic sources alike, are scanned through and tossed aside for any minute defects found on their exteriors. Soups boil, appetizers roast, and words fly through the air in a cacophony of hurried exchanges.
  3. >Everything is going fine. The kitchen crew has been through nights like this one enough times to keep things under control. Plus, before they’d arrived here, even the dish washers had been successful in their fields. The average expertise in that chaotic room exceeds that of the world’s finest kitchens.
  4. >To some eyes, it is a beautiful picture. The owner cares not for who his chefs were: be it the soup specialist from a remote village in Vietnam or the pastry chef who had fled from a murder charge in his home country, anyone is welcome so long as they have the skills to pull their weight. Even the ponies, slaves by contract but peers by any reasonable understanding, are given due respect for their craft. Of course, an establishment like this cannot be petty in choosing its staff: only the best will do.
  5. >As dishes begin to approach completion, stress and tension in the air grows ever more pronounced. Nothing is wrong, of course, but the tick of the wall clock and tens of tiny timers tells enough to the staff to put them on edge. He will be here soon, and with him, their future.
  6. >Most nervous of all are the three chefs tending to the main course. Chef Garcia, typically a man of stoic face and rock-solid nerve, now wipes a napkin across his brow. Chef Kimmens, a white-haired and wrinkled man used to serving heads of state and billionaires across the world, taps his fingers and feet in a futile attempt to dispel his nerves. Even Chef Escargot, hailed in her time as Canterlot’s greatest chef, trembles as she mixes ingredients to pour over the roast when its dwindling timer reaches zero.
  7. >A shout comes from the main room. He’s here. The owner bolts out the door toward this new arrival, leaving his staff to supervise themselves and complete the job. For a moment, not a heart beats in the kitchen, but the moment passes quickly as the entire room redoubles its efforts. The first course is ready, its attendants step back to examine their creation and examine it for any flaws. Finding none, they stow it under a solid silver cover, to be delivered with perfect timing, grace, and professionalism.
  8. >Huan Jiang is a successful businessman, commanding a global empire of textile industries. The interconnectedness of his enterprises, however, allows him to take advantage of a much more lucrative industry smuggling narcotics, weapons, and people across borders and over oceans. Those who know don’t care, those who care don’t know. When a man like Huan Jiang spends several percent of his yearly earnings on a single meal it must, by necessity, be record-breaking in many aspects.
  9. >The main course has been prepared dozens of times in this establishment for men of his caliber, but none have ever spent so much on one sitting. It was a private expenditure of his: one of the establishment’s scouts had been employed full-time seeking out this opportunity. Now that it is finally being realized, Huan Jiang is a happy man. He comes in through the back door flanked by men that can’t come within a mile of a metal detector, beaming as though today is the first day of summer. The owner shows him to a table and exchanges pleasantries, all the while giving silent communication to the man watching through a peephole from the kitchen. Finally, after a few agonizing minutes, they receive the signal to begin serving.
  10. >Course after course barrages the man, but he would never be so foolish as to consume more than a bite or two of each dish. There will be no take-home box for the main serving, and after waiting for so long, he wants to savor every last bit of it.
  11. >Finally, the time comes, and the three chefs walk out with their magnum opus. It is perfect. The seasonings are perfect. The sauces are perfect. The meat is cooked perfect. They place the platter down before their guest and, with a touch of gusto, lift off the lid to finally reveal his prize.
  12. >Jiang pauses a moment before speaking, “You know,” he remarked with a low chuckle, “she looks different now than I had envisioned before. I thought she would retain more of the color, still be pink.”
  13. >”Few do, sir,” the owner answers. He is somewhat surprised, as Jiang is no new customer here. Perhaps the fantasy for this platter had gone far beyond what could be expected.
  14. >”I know that is no fault of yours, of course,” Jiang says with a shrug, cutting into the meat. “And I doubt it will affect the taste.”
  15. >Not a word is spoken in the place while he takes his first few bites. Beads of sweat roll off one face and down another in the kitchen as the staff crowds around the peephole, desperate for a glance outside. Finally, Jiang sets down his silverware and lets out a loud, deep laugh.
  16. >”It is fantastic!” he exclaims, rising to shake hands and hoof with the three chefs. “So much work went into this piece, and you have all done so well in realizing that dream. Thank you.”
  17. >A collective sigh resounds in the kitchen, and finally the faces start to peel away and congratulate one another on a job well done. Off to the side, one man fiddles with his phone, his job having been done long before the rest.
  18. >”James,” the pastry chef called to him, dragging his attention up from the screen. “They may take all the credit, but I think we both know who really did the work here.”
  19. >”It was a right fine job, wasn’t it,” he replies with a grin.
  20. >”Hell yes. How did you find her, anyway?”
  21. >”One photograph in Louisiana and two years of tracking later, and I found her.”
  22. >”And you managed to buy her out, just like that?” the man asked, incredulous.
  23. >”Of course it wasn’t ‘just like that,’ but we reached an agreement. Besides, he never got the rest of the six together like he wanted.”
  24. >”I guess no one can any more, huh.”
  25. >”Nope.”
RAW Paste Data