“Go back, go back! I don’t wanna hear anythin’ comin’ out of ye foreigners’ mouths!”
The day after I had an audience with Dorothea, I met with the head chef of the Ministry of Cooking in the Empire.
Of course, just like I had promised Dorothea, we were here to try and improve the official Imperial cuisine.
And when I told him what sort of business I had with him, that was the first thing that came flying out of the head chef’s mouth.
The head chef was wearing a white chef’s uniform and hat, and he looked quite youthful for his title.
His beard made him appear a bit older, but he looked like he was either in his late twenties or early thirties.
Although a lot of cooks were a bit on the rounder side, the head chef didn’t have an ounce of excess body fat on him, giving him the appearance of an athlete.
Because of his crude tone, he gave off the impression like he was the King of the Hill.
“Hold it right there. You’re being quite rude.”
“What did ye just say to me!?”
Claire-sama, who came with me, got angry at him.
She was exceedingly fastidious about politeness.
She probably couldn’t forgive the head chef for his attitude.
On the other hand, it seemed like the head chef had been at the top of his profession for a long time, so he hated taking orders from other people.
He was probably really proud of his work in his own way.
“Now, now, don’t say that. Claire-sama, you should hold back a bit too.”
If we got into a fight here, there would be no room left for discussion.
For the time being, I tried to soothe both of them before they could start a dispute.
“I can make all sortsa new and delicious dishes even without the help of the likes of ye lot! Up ‘til now, Her Majesty Dorothea is the only reason I’ve been holdin’ back!”
The head chef said, hurling his defiance at us.
What he was trying to say was, regardless of all the poor reputation surrounding his food, he simply hadn’t had any opportunities to show off his true potential yet.
And he was probably right.
Considering how large of an empire Naa was, the fact that he was given his position in the first place was enough to tell you just how much of an elite he was in the cooking field.
He was deemed a top chef in a nation that valued meritocracy through and through.
Even if the occupation of a chef wasn’t viewed as all that highly, he must’ve been incredibly skilled.
However, that wasn’t enough.
“What you’re saying is right, but just coming up with new and delicious foods isn’t all there is to it. Basically――”
“Mind yer own business! Go solve yer own problems by yerselves! I don’t needa be bothered by foreigners like ye!”
It seemed like it was a hopeless situation.
Now then, what could we do here?
“What’s going on here?”
Perhaps she heard all of the fuss we were making, but Hilda came into the room.
She had a dubious expression on her face as she looked over at me.
“It’s nothin’. These kids over here are tryna say cheeky things to me.”
“Is that so? Could you tell me more about it in detail?”
I explained everything that had happened up until now to her.
When I finished, Hilda huffed with affirmation and nodded her head.
“In that case, shall we confirm it with each other? Why don’t you settle this with a cooking competition?”
“A cooking competition?”
“This seems like a tough dispute to settle right now, doesn’t it? If the head chef wins, you’ll have to acknowledge his skills and the food reformation will proceed as originally planned. On the other hand, if Rei and the others win, the head chef and his team will have to accept your abilities and you get to decide the next steps. What do you all think?”
What is this?
Somehow, it feels like something strange is happening.
“Brilliant idea! That’ll make things clear! We’ve been protectin’ this kitchen for generations on end, and I ain’t plannin’ to let it go to some random outsiders!”
“In that case, the loser will have to listen to everything the winner says, right?”
“Good! I’d like to see ye try it if ye can!”
I wasn’t too excited about what was going on, but it seemed that both the head chef and Claire-sama were getting into it completely.
Since it got to this point, it couldn’t be helped.
“I understand. I accept the challenge.”
“Understood. You’re fine with it too, right, Head Chef?”
“Yeah. I’ll show ye all the way of the head chef of the Imperial kitchen!”
And that was how we ended up getting roped into a cooking competition.
“And that’s why I’d like to ask you all to lend me your expertise.”
I lowered my head to the people I gathered in front of me.
We were currently in the kitchen of Bauer’s dormitory.
The people that were here included Lene, Misha, Frieda, Eve, Joel, myself, and Alea.
These were all people that could cook.
Claire-sama wanted to join us as well, but we turned her away this time.
Claire-sama’s cooking skills have always been refreshingly poor, so she wouldn’t have been able to help.
However, since the winner of the cooking competition was going to be judged based on taste, Claire-sama was going to be our food critic.
“If you need our expertise, that’s fine, but do you at least have a vague idea of which direction you’d like to take?”
Lene asked while tilting her head.
It felt like it’d been a while since we were last able to talk to each other like this.
We’d both been so busy ever since arriving in the Empire.
“For the time being, the rules say that we’ll be making a three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, a meat-related dish and dessert.”
“That’s quite a lot, isn’t it…….”
When Misha heard about how many items needed to be made, she furrowed her eyebrows.
It certainly wasn’t going to be an easy task.
“When is this taking place?”
“In about a week from now.”
I answered Frieda’s question.
Although, a week’s worth of time was not nearly enough to come up with enough ideas for a three-course meal.
“…… Why am I here?”
I still had no idea what the reason behind it was, but she didn’t like me all that much, which was probably why she was so unsatisfied with participating with us.
“I’m sorry, Eve. But as it is right now, I’d even be willing to ask a cat for its help.”
“……. So you think I’m as useful as a cat, huh? How stupid.”
As usual, she twisted my words.
“Did you need all seven of us to help come up with ideas?”
Joel posed a very good question.
If we did that, it would be like having too many cooks in the kitchen.
“I’d like to act as the role of a supervisor, and have the rest of you split off into groups of two.”
“Eh? You want me to help cook as well?”
Alea asked, astonished.
“Yep. Of course, I’ll help you out as well, but your skill is definitely more than good enough, Alea.”
She was a very skillful child.
Even though she had no aptitude for magic, she was an amazingly fast learner.
“……. I understand. I’ll try my best.”
Alea had a somewhat nervous look on her face, but she sounded happy nonetheless.
“Do all of you have any preferences for what you’d like to make?”
I asked everybody what they wanted to do.
“I’d like to be in charge of making dessert.”
The first person to speak up was Joel.
Given his rugged appearance, the fact that he so readily volunteered himself to be in charge of making the dessert was a bit surprising.
“I’m relatively good when it comes to making sweets.”
“Is that so. In that case, I’ll leave the dessert to you, Joel.”
We got one person up for making dessert.
“In that case, should I help with making the meat-related dish? I think that one will be the most difficult anyway.”
“If you could do that, it would be a big help.”
I expressed my gratitude towards Lene for her offer.
No matter how much cooking experience our members claimed they had, in the end, I definitely preferred to leave it to somebody that had actual experience with decorating the main course.
In that regard, considering how long she served the François family, and taking her active presence at Frater into account as well, there was no better choice here than Lene.
“I wonder if we should have Alea help out with the main dish as well. If Lene’s with you, I’m sure there’s a lot you can learn from her.”
Alea nodded at my words.
“Shall I work on the appetizer, then? I do have a bit of knowledge when it comes to making formal meals, so I think I can be of some help there.”
“Thank you, Misha. I’ll leave it to you then.”
Misha was left in charge of the appetizer.
That left us with two people.
“Umm……. So we’re left with one more spot for the appetizer, and one for dessert. Miss Eve, which one would you like?”
“Either is fine.”
“Oh……. you shy girl. Your cold attitude is cute too. In that case, I’ll help with dessert.”
“I’ll help Misha-senpai out with the appetizer, then.”
“Okay, I’m counting on you both.”
With this, we had everything figured out.
To summarize it all up――
Appetizer: Misha & Eve.
Main course: Lene & Alea.
Dessert: Joel & Frieda.
Overall supervisor: Me.
That’s how we were divided.
“Are we free to decide whatever we want to make?”
Unsurprisingly, the person who asked that question was Lene.
“Basically. However, I’d like everyone to follow what I’ll say now.”
I explained a certain plan I had in mind to them.
“I see. As expected of you, Rei-chan.”
“As usual, you put a lot of thought into it, huh.”
“…… How cunning.”
“No, no, Miss Eve. This idea is very nice!”
“Okay. Sounds important.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
Everyone seemed to be in agreement.
“Well then, everybody, I’m counting on you.”
And so, the preparations for the cooking competition began.