The Cooking Competition (3)
“We’re fast approaching the end of the Naa Empire’s banquet dinner cooking competition! The Empire took the win for the appetizer, while the Bauer team won the match for the meat-related dish, and now both teams are all tied up at one point each. All that’s left is dessert as our decider match!”
“Dessert is very important as it serves as a decoration at the end of a full-course meal. You know what they say: all’s well that ends well. Neither team can afford to lose this one.”
“It’s exactly like you say. As usual, I’m Lana Lahan, reporting live on the scene! And with me is our commentator for today, Marthe Borel-san! Let’s work hard together until the very end, Marthe-san.”
“Right back at you.”
Somehow, we brought the score to an even one-to-one.
The last match was dessert.
There was about a 50% chance to win the series.
No, more specifically, considering our opponents were actual professionals, our chances were probably even lower than that.
“Are ye ready for what’s to come?”
The head chef said as he gazed sharply at us.
But like I said, Claire-sama’s ability to provoke other people was even stronger.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
I stared right back at home without backing down.
Well, it was actually Joel and Frieda that were going to do the cooking, though.
“I’m counting on you two.”
“Leave it to me.”
“No problem! Please, leave it to us!”
After hearing their reliable responses, I sent them off.
The cool Joel and Frieda, who always went off at her own pace.
Neither of them seemed to be straining themselves nor did they have that much fighting spirit in them.
“Without further ado, we’ll be moving onto the final match of the banquet dinner cooking competition – the dessert match! Now then, on your marks, get set……. Go!”
The final round began.
“Joel-san, Frieda-san, do your best!”
Mei, who was still cheering from the stands, supported them with the last of her strength.
Joel lightly nodded at her in return, while Frieda shot her a wink.
“Now then, as always, let’s take a look at what the Empire’s team is up to! It looks like they’re cracking eggs right now and separating the yolk and the egg whites!”
“They’re crushing almonds as well, huh. I can’t really guess what they’re trying to make right now. The times are constantly changing, after all.”
“Trying out new things sounds exactly like something the Empire would do! Head chef, can you show us the willpower of your Imperial chefs?!”
It seemed that the head chef was only using the egg whites and not the yolk.
He whisked it to make a meringue.
Almond flour – it looked like he was preparing to use the ground almond for something. Could it be that he’s planning to make that?
This world really was a strange place mixed with elements from Japan.
“Well, shall we take a look at how the Bauer side is doing? Oh? Just like what the Empire’s side is doing, it looks like they’re also preparing to make something involving eggs!”
“It looks like the boy over there is trying to make some custard, while the girl is preparing some cookie dough, huh.”
“Can you guess what they’re trying to make, Marthe-san?”
“Probably. I’m gradually starting to understand what they’re doing. It feels like the Bauer side has better synergy, though.”
“Synergy, you say?”
“Well, just watch them. Perhaps they’ll be able to pull the rug from under the head chef’s feet.”
As expected of the cafeteria lady.
It looks like her long cooking experience wasn’t just for show.
It seemed that she noticed.
But will the judges notice it in the end as well?
“Frieda, is the dough ready?”
“A-okay! It’s ready to be baked at any time!”
“In that case, I’ll leave it to you.”
I was a little worried about Joel and Frieda, who were quite the rough duo, but how were they managing themselves so well?
Basically, Joel was the one giving the instructions, while Frieda acted as support.
It was the opposite of the image I had of them.
“The cooking phase is about to come to an end! Please put together your finishing touches!”
“I’ll bring out the plates!”
“Prepare the whipped cream and mint!”
And thus, both teams were finished with making their desserts.
“And that’s time! Let’s move onto the serving phase! Now then, let’s start with the Imperial team!”
“The dessert that we prepared and arranged is a rendition of a snack that once belonged to Rance, a country towards the west. It’s a confectionary called a dacquoise.”
As I thought, it was a dacquoise.
It’s a baked almond-flavored sweet that is made with meringue and it was a snack that originated from France.
Back in my previous world, around the time when I was born, the snack was marketed and sold as something similar to monaka1 by a certain Japanese person.
But in the twenty-first century, it seemed that France sold something similar and called it a dacquoise.
It was an interesting snack that was crispy on the outside with a fluffy texture on the inside. I found it to be delicious when I had it in the past before too.
“And what about Bauer Kingdom’s team!?”
“We prepared a very ordinary baked sweet. If I had to give it a name…… well, it’s a cake made with eggs and topped off with chocolate whipped cream.”
The dessert that Joel and Frieda made was a triple-layered baked cake with a cross-section through it.
The bottommost layer was made from cookie dough, followed by a dried fruit and cream cheese layer, which was topped off with a layer made out of butter and custard.
The cross-section, which was divided into three different colors, looked delicious.
“Now then, for the finale, please have both of them at the same time! Feel free to start with whichever one you’d like!”
The three judges each brought one of the two cakes to their mouths.
“Ahh, I see.”
“Hmm, so that’s what it was……”
I could tell what they were thinking just from the colors of their faces.
With this, it was probably conveyed properly.
“Let’s get straight into voting! Judges, please raise your cards for the dessert that you thought was the most delicious! Which one of these teams will be bestowed with a smile from the Goddess of Victory? Verdicts, please!”
The drum roll came in for the third time.
And the results were?
“……. Zero points for the Empire, and three for Bauer! The team from the Bauer Kingdom have won! Hooray!”
“As expected, things really did turn out like this. Congratulations to the Bauer team.”
We completely gambled on whether or not we could convey our true intentions properly, but it seemed that we won our bet in the end.
“We did it, Rei.”
Claire-sama said as she patted me on the shoulder.
When I looked over to everyone else, they all had various accomplished looks on their faces.
I was a bit anxious, but it ended up being a good match.
“Wait a minute! I can’t accept this! What’s goin’ on!”
There were some people that just didn’t know when to give up.
“How could my latest creation lose to that dingy lookin’ egg cake over there!? It ain’t like me to be so stingy about this, but if I don’t get an explanation that I can accept, I won’t be able to sleep tonight!”
The head chef sat down with his arms crossed, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge his loss.
“That’s unsightly, head chef. The match has already been decided. You lost.”
“No matter how many times ye might say that to me, Your Majesty, when it comes to cookin’, I’m an expert in the field! There’s no way I could lose! If there’s a reason behind this, I want to hear an explanation!”
Considering just how incredibly charismatic Empress Dorothea was within the Empire, for the head chef to be acting so defiant towards her, it was just a testament to how much pride he had in his craft.
An average person would never be able to talk to Dorothea like that.
“Hmph, a reason, huh. Do you not get it?”
“Ahh! I don’t understand at all!”
“Will you explain it, Rei Taylor?”
If I explained it, would he be able to accept it, though?
As I worried over it and reluctantly prepared to explain it, that was when,
“How pathetic…… It’s because you’re like that, that you’ll never be able to live up to your dad’s name!”
There was a voice that roared right at the head chef.
It was the cafeteria lady, who was currently acting as our commentator, Marthe-san.
“As somebody who holds such a title as impressive as ‘head chef’, what exactly do you think you’re doing?”
“S-Shuddup! I can’t accept what I can’t accept! In that case, do ye know the reason why I lost, mom!?”
“Yeah, I do. Listen up, alright? Your cooking had nothing to do with Imperial cuisine. Isn’t that right, princess?”
When Marthe-san directed her question towards Philine and the rest of the judges, they all nodded their heads in unison.
“Nothin’ to do with Imperial cuisine…….? What do ye mean by that!?”
“Just think back to the dishes that the Bauer team made. Onion and bacon pie, cream of asparagus soup, an egg cake……. They improved on all of the recipes, but every one of those dishes was once considered local cuisine of the Empire.”
The head chef seemed like he finally understood the meaning behind Dorothea’s words.
Going into the competition, there was something I asked of everybody from the very beginning.
Using the Empire’s previous local cuisine as a base, I wanted them to make new and improved versions of those dishes.
That was the minimum requirement.
“Your food was delicious. However, that’s all it was. But on the Bauer side, their pie was zwiebelkuchen, the soup they made was spargelsuppe, and their cake turned out to be eierschecke. They put a lot of thought into creating new versions of those dishes, but it’s still food of our nation that we can be proud of.”
There were a countless number of delicious dishes.
Especially in the Naa Empire, which was a nation that has gathered tons of ingredients from multiple countries around the world. Combined with the number of people that have moved into the Naa Empire, the trends in cooking changed fast.
With the Empire in such a state, what kind of dishes could they even face the rest of the world with and show off as their own?
At the very least, it definitely shouldn’t be an imported dish.
“Every country has to rack their brains over what to serve at their banquet dinners. Head chef. Your cooking sense is not wrong at all. Given that you were stuck in a world where the cuisine remained stagnant for so long, to be able to cook all of those dishes that you made, it shows that your skill truly is the real deal, however――”
“What us Imperial chefs really want right now is to be able to make dishes that we can proudly show off to the rest of the world.”
Marthe-san finished my sentence with exactly what I wanted to say.
“……. I see……. So that’s what it was……”
The head chef hung his head for a bit.
Just as I’d said, his ability was certain.
Even in the future of the Empire’s cuisine, his presence was going to be an essential part of it.
So I didn’t want to break his spirits, but…….
“……. Fufu……. Aah-hah-hah-hah! Maaan, I lost, I lost! It was a total loss!”
As he burst into laughter, the head chef suddenly jumped up.
“Maaan, I’m beat. It’s my loss. I’ve been stuck makin’ nothing but the same dishes over n’ over again, and I’d always thought of it as borin’, but the most borin’ thing in the end turned out to be me. Ye seriously got me there.”
The head chef laughed absentmindedly.
Hey, hey, what’s with you?
“I accept defeat! Ye guys are amazin’. But ye really opened my eyes. I won’t let things turn out like this again next time, alright?”
I’d always thought he was an obstinate person, but he seemed to be quite nice on the inside.
Not only did the head chef acknowledge his own defeat, but on top of that, he acknowledged us as well.
“There won’t be a next time. This was supposed to be your arena, anyway. Please spare us.”
“Are ye quitting while yer ahead? That won’t do.”
“The next time won’t be a competition between us. Let’s work together to change the Empire’s cuisine. Let’s start fresh this time. Won’t you lend us your aid?”
“Those were the conditions to begin with. A man never backs down on his word.”
After saying that, the head chef extended his right hand to us.
He was extending the very hand that he used to wield his kitchen knife.
I wasn’t so thick-headed that I didn’t understand the meaning behind it.
I shook his hand firmly in return.
“It’s a pleasure to be working with you.”
“Right back at ye!”
As we lowered the curtains to signal the end of the cooking competition, the audience members gave us a burst of thundering applause.
“This was brought to you by the Frater Company – a business that is always by your side.”
1) “Monaka” is a type of Japanese snack that has azuki bean filling sandwiched between two wafers made of mochi.↵