"Come on Charlie! I know you can do quality, but can you do quantity?" Sous-Chef Michael then bellowed a few more orders to the already stressed out teen. Charlie Curtis grabbed two more heated bowls and filled them with his signature soup, added a few clumps of fresh coriander, breadcrumbs and peppercorns before handing them to Andy the waiter.
As he leant against the counter to heave a huge sigh of relief, Julie burst through the doors.
“Charlie! Are you ready? Mr. Bellerman is here to review you.”
“Oh shit! My pudding’s not ready yet!”
“Calm down. You’ll be fine. I’ll um… don’t worry I’ll stall him okay?” She walked over to Charlie and placed her hands on his shoulders, like a mother confronting her stressed out teen.
“You can taste food like nobody else. Never has anyone gotten so many compliments from customers in this restaurant before. I mean you’re sixteen for goodness sake! Here I am, having to talk some confidence into a cooking prodigy who has the potential to give this place a Michelin star!” She grinned. “I never thought I’d see the day.”
“You really think so, Julie?” And she beamed. She beamed with even more pride than a mother could have for her son.
“I know so kiddo.”
At that moment the oven rather conveniently pinged, allowing Charlie to finally finish his secret recipe: treacle sponge pudding with a signature sauce. As the waves of vanilla essence wafted up into the whole kitchen, every single cook made their own individual sigh of pleasure. Charlie blushed.
Andy burst through the doors.
“Charlie, have you got your pudding ready?” The wrinkles on Andy’s head were more prominent on his face than anyone else’s. He looked like a younger version of Gordon Ramsay.
“Here it is.” The teen’s hands wavered as he handed over the plate. “Tell me if he likes it okay?”
“Better still, he wants you to stand by while he tries it.”
“Go on.” Julie said. She made that shooing motion with her hand while they were crossed in her arms, as you might do to a son who’s moving out of the house.
“You’ll be fine.” She reassured. Charlie gulped dramatically as he followed Andy through the polished double-doors to the centre table.
The scene out in the dining hall of the L’Enfenterie was starkly contrasting to the casual chaos back inside the kitchen. Here the lights were dimmed on the chocolate brown stone walls. A jazzy French song from the forties was being played in the background by a traditional four-piece band. Everyone was chatting away at a tolerable noise level. That, or they were making the various noises of clinking glasses or gently scraping cutlery.
And there sat up-and-coming guru food critic Nigel Bellerman. He sat at a table for two on his own with a notepad and a glass of pink Chardonnay. His dark blond hair was slicked back in a surprisingly non-repulsive manner, and his blue eyes sparkled amongst the many wrinkles on his face. He was the perfect person to ruin Charlie’s life.