Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Chef

“A cook ? No ways; You belong to the ranch
Put down the apron, get on the horseback”

A Cowboy from the wild West, fancied a life beyond the bull and dust.
Shed his hat that was the pride
In pursuit of happiness, sneaked he away one fine night
To the land of passion, art, couture and taste!

******

Paris

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent to Charles De Gaulle Airport, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggages is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.”

“Sir, seatbelts please” a gentle tap on the shoulder woke him from deep slumber.

Gabriel Jones, a small town cowboy from Frisco, Texas, opened his eyes, smiled back at the pretty air hostess and sat upright. He couldn’t stop smiling as he peeped outside. The beautiful city of Paris spread out under the wings of his craft taking him closer down to his land of dreams. He took a deep breath in as if he smelled the crepes and soufflé’s, the croissants and macaroons. Stretching his arms out, he cracked his neck, and braced for the touchdown, for the new beginning.

“Sunday morning visit to the local butcher … the smell of raw meat and blood …the ribs and steak …the tinge of red on the otherwise white aprons of the butcher ….I wonder why did mom hate going there. and then the smell of Mom`s special Beef skillet…mmmm….that aroma , that taste. The soft meat under loads of cheese that melted in the mouth. Only good thing I want to remember about growing up in Texas …mmm….A cowboy from Texas turned Chef, will redefine Parisian fine dining with Texas Beef Skillet. Michelin star, world famous, recipe books, chain of restaurants, a TV show and then …” he thought to himself as the aircraft touched down and broke his train of thoughts.

He bookmarked his half read novel “A murder to remember” by his all-time favourite author Samuel Clooney and unfastened the seat belt.

*****

The first time he met Clooney was when the author was visiting a college in his city while he was still in middle school. A friend of his, a bookworm of sorts, tricked him in saying there were freebies. How stupid was he to trust that nerd even. The huge gathering outside the hall had lured him further in. He got in a long queue of kids, thinking there was a free pizza slice at the end of it, only to meet a grey haired author signing and handing out free copies of a book.

So much for a book! And why on the earth is he giving free copy of a new book? If not for his stupid friend, he would have ran away the moment he figured pizza was nowhere in picture.” He rolled his eyes and sighed.

He was almost about to trade his copy of the best seller with a bookstore keeper when his eyes fell on the synopsis behind the book and the name GABRIEL. Thus began his obsession with the series and adulation for the writer. Unfortunately that was the last book Clooney ever wrote about North.

So the journey of Gabriel Jones with Gabriel North began from the last book in the series and went in reverse.

*****

Samuel Clooney rose to fame through the dreaded psychopath Dr.North giving one successful book after another until he got all sick of it. After publishing his second last last book of the series, he realised the character North and hos gory deeds was taxing enough on his aging mind; he needed to get rid of him. Moreover he had gathered enough money to last him a lifetime. Even if he ever ran out of it, he could fall back on his super rich young blonde French girlfriend who owned a chain of restaurants across the globe.

So his last book was the last that the world ever read of Gabriel North.

Considering his fame and popularity of his books with the younger population who loved crooked minds, he did a few promotional events giving away free copies of his last book. He chose universities and the first on his list was his alma-mater, University of North Texas, Frisco. He would utilise this opportunity to bid farewell to his wild and wide fan base that went on the roller coaster ride with Clooney and North.

Shortly after that he moved base to Nice, France where he enjoyed a luxurious retirement life by the sea. Once in a blue moon, a fan would come up for a selfie or autograph while he took a stroll, and he would oblige. But otherwise he was content with his anonymous life as the trophy husband among the circle of socialites his wife moved in. Samuel Clooney, the writer in him had slipped into oblivion.

*****

Gabriel Jones began his journey towards the coveted white apron and chef hat with odd jobs at food trucks, fast food chains, small bakery stores climbing up the ladder slow yet steady. His rough cowboy hands that once tended animals on farm back home now manoeuvered swiftly but delicately when he held that knife to make the perfect cut in the meat or create that perfect garnishing.

His passion for flavour and patience with time saw him through. A comis chef job at a Michelin star restaurant ‘Benoit’ opened the door to success for him. He worked doubly hard and in no time was promoted to sous chef. With the kitchen with all possible ingredients stocked up at his disposal, he would sometimes prefer to stay late and experiment in the kitchen. It was time to push in his Texan skillet onto the menu.

On a snowy wintery night while he was walking back home, he saw a homeless boy in front of his door curled up under a tattered blanket tossing and turning. He was reminded of his struggling days when he would seek shelter at random places trying to escape the harsh winter. Texas was after all a warmer place and he had a roof above his head there.

Bonjour…are you alright?”

“I …I am cold”

“Would you want to come in for the night? “

The boy immediately stood up and wrapping the blanket around him followed his host for the night.

Gabriel could see he had Asian features. He looked famished and frost bitten.

“You need something hot to warm you up. Have this soup “, he poured the content from a takeaway box into a nice porcelain dish and server the little boy.

“I no eat five days. Thank you so much Monsur”

“Monsieur …” Gabriel tried to correct him. He understood the young boy was new to the city and a possible illegal migrant looking for opportunities.

“I am starving …if you could help me in the kitchen, let’s make some skillet.” Gabriel walked towards the kitchen and the boy followed him.

*******

Few days later, Gabriel thought the time was right to present his Texan skillet to the head chef . He was aware there would be a push back but he had confidence on his skills and skillet. He had been tweaking the ingredients to make it the best ever skillet anyone would ever have had.

“Mama would be so proud of me.” He thought to himself as he walked up to his boss with his best ever creation.

“This is a reputed old restaurant serving to the crem-de-la-crem of Paris. Skillet is not a dish that fits on our menu.” The head chef was not convinced at all.

“Moniseur, the world is shrinking; there are no boundaries in food. The entire staff had a bite of my dish and they had nothing but appreciation for it. “

The head chef scooped a tiny portion of the dish with a fork and with precision placed it between his teeth. “Mmmmm…..this is out of the world. You have come a long way from the first skillet you made me taste. “

“I had been working on it since sometime and am glad you liked it. So what do you think of it?”

“I think we should start by introducing it as a special and then move it up to the regular.”

“Perfect. I would like to buy the meat for this personally as it is a very customised cut that I have to ask the butcher for.“ Gabriel could hardly keep his excitement under control.

“Ms and Mr Hilton are coming over for a visit on Thursday evening. How about including this in their menu. Mr. Hilton has his roots back in Texas. I am sure he would be thrilled to see it on his spread”, suggested the head chef.

“It would be an honour. I will do my best to please their palates boss.”

This was the first time the restaurant owner was visiting since Gabriel started. He could not have asked for more.

*****

Gabriel made it to the kitchen early on Thursday morning to begin his preparation. He had a late night, but that did not deter him. This was an opportunity he could not forgo at any cost.

With the restaurant not opening until noon, none of the chefs were in. He began his work.

Later that evening, the entire staff was on their toes for the visit. There were the usual guests to attend and the special dinner spread for the Hilton couple.

Gabriel was waiting for the feedback stomping around the kitchen.

“Our special guest would like to see you in person.” The head chef was grinning wide. “They loved your dish. Monsieur Hilton would not leave without thanking you.”

Gabriel adjusted his chef hat and walked up to the table at the far end of the dining area. A little nervous.

“Bonjour, je suis sous chef, Gabriel Jones.”

“Hello gentleman, your name does not sound French. But your accent does. Look at me, I go around drinking French wine , I cannot even say a Bonjour without accent.“

“I am an American by birth, French by profession, Sir.”

“Pleased to meet you young man. I am Samuel Clooney. I must say you have magic in your fingers. You skillet too me back to Texas. It was a wonderful dinner. Thank you.!”

“Samuel Clooney? “ Gabriel opened wide his eyes. He tried to remember hard, but only if he had looked up at the author signing his book with a tiny bit of interest. “I am a great fan sir. I am honoured to have served you tonight.”

“I will be in town for couple of days while my wife will go back to Nice on business. Would it be too much if I ask for another serving of the skillet tomorrow?”

“My pleasure sir.”

The next day after having a sumptuous dinner, Samuel hung around at the restaurant .

When Gabriel was about to leave , Sam approached him . “Do you need a ride?”

“I don’t stay too far. I usually walk down. Some fresh air.”

“The snow looks too bad today. Let me give you a ride ” Samuel insisted.

When they reached Gabriel’s house which was hardly a five minutes ride from the restaurant, Samuel said “If you don’t mind, can I come in for a coffee? It would be nice catching up on Texas. It’s been a while since I left the Americas and made France my home.”

“Most welcome Sir.” Gabriel was already awestruck with the author Samuel and now that he is the man he works for, there was no reason to turn him away from his door.

The cold dull weather was a perfect contrast to the lively Samuel. He made himself comfortable while Gabriel went inside to make coffee. His eyes fell on the bookshelf . Besides the cook books the only work of fiction were his North series of novels.

“You don’t read much I guess?”

“I haven’t read anything other than your work Sir.”

“That’s flattering.”

Gabriel excused himself to the washroom. Now that Samuel was feeling at home, he walked over to the kitchen for a glass of water and his eyes fell on a black garbage bag.

He stood transfixed at what he saw. A bloody human hand !

He took the water and made his way out to the hall.

When Gabriel came back with the coffee mugs, Samuel asked “So who did I eat today?”

“Sorry? I didn’t get you sir.” Gabriel looked shock and turned his head towards the kitchen.

Gabriel could see the glass of water on the table . He hung his head down .”I am extremely sorry …..I ….”

“Just tell me who was it ? And what was it ?”

“A black homeless boy. The liver.”

“No wonder, it tasted like heaven.”

“How many different types have you done so far ?”

“Three…Asian, Mexican and black.”

“All homeless I assume?”

“Yes Sir.” Gabriel felt vulnerable because of the ease with which he was answering Samuel.

Samuel got up and made his way out.

******

Gabriel had targeted the homeless migrants who had no record of their existence. The cowboy in him never really fitted into the cultured French society, so he was an introvert. Work is the only place he met people. No one ever came to his house until than night. How could he be so careless .He packed his stuff ready to flee when his phone rang.

“I will come by this evening again. Do you think you can have the skillet ready for me?” Samuel was at the other end.

“I will Sir.”

==>This is an entry for Artales-17, #DrNorth, an ArtoonsInn writing event.

Check the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artales17/
Don’t forget to leave a comment and rate this story out of 10(either on the shared post on Facebook or by using the rating bar down below).

*********

Struggled and Soared “stories of courageous women of India”. A non-fiction that talks about the women that reflect the spirit of India – an invincible spirit to be free! Dr North till July 31stIt is the story of four Indian women who have one thing in common –courage to follow their heart and do what they felt right. Reading this book would be like taking a much needed break from the false propaganda and information that you are surrounded with on digital media. This is just the right book that will give your mind freedom to be yourself and an invaluable inspiration as well as meaning to life. The author has done full justice while accounting the life of all inspirational women from India’s past and present. We recommend this book for those who love to read well-researched works.

Link to buy this book:

Vipil Written by Vipin Chopal

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Rulfy Tracker:  https://1drv.ms/x/s!ApiLwn00sMcLgky1-v8whh2NOgh9 for the writer/author to share his/her reviews and ratings for the participants’ stories of this writing event who share their comments/reviews on this story.

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Itali Madhusmita
Itali Madhusmita is a software professional based out of Toronto . A mother to two young kids, she tries to squeeze in time to express herself, mostly in form of short poems . She is trying to experiment with the prose/short story format. Fail she might , but try she must .
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