102. Wait, We Skipped the First Round Altogether?
Hearing the gourmet criticize her favourite dish caused Fran to emit far more bloodthirst than she had ever displayed on the battlefield.
She further went on to activate her Intimidation skill and funneled both it and entirety of her bloodlust towards the judge. I was pretty worried for the guy. There was so much pressure that an ordinary civilian would likely have passed out, pissed themselves, or maybe even something worse than prior options combined.
「Curry. Tastiest thing ever.」
「Well, I do admit that it is quite delicious, but it’s most definitely not the most delicious thing in the world.」
Holy crap. Dude looks like he’s a middle aged man, but damn, he’s got balls. Fran’s thirst for blood didn’t make him even anywhere close to fainting. In fact, he just casually raised an eyebrow whilst responding to her as if it wasn’t a big deal at all. And I don’t mean that he’s just naturally the calm type of guy or anything like that either. He wasn’t half assing it and just throwing up a front, and he wasn’t just naturally unconcerned with this type of thing, he genuinely just didn’t care.
I guess that’s just how people who’ve mastered their trades end up turning out, regardless of what those trades happen to be.
『Fran, calm down.』
『I’m only telling you to calm down because you’re clearly agitated. Why don’t you just ask him why he feels the way he does? You might be able to accept his thoughts once you come to understand them, so let go of me already!』
She asked the question in a bit of an egotistical tone. It looked like Fran had already started to think of him as a sort of enemy. I just hope that she doesn’t actually attack him.
「The taste of the dish itself serves to prove that it is near completion. There is little room left for the improvement of its flavour, and it carries with it a unique fragrance the likes of which I myself had never before sampled. I will admit that it was very well crafted. However, that is all. This dish completely fails to provide with it its creator’s dignity!」
「Dignity refers to the chef’s spirit, their passion and pride. Dignity is something that all chefs carry with them at all times, it’s what must be poured into their craft. This dish lacks even the slightest sense of dictinity. It was made with care, but it fails to extend beyond the realm of one’s home cooking.」
You know, he is actually right. All I wanted was to make Fran food that she’d find delicious, and I never really shot for anything more than just that. I ended up making it all en masse, and I was honestly only careful enough to make sure that it didn’t burn. I never really thought of making the best dish ever or anything like that at all.
In other words, the final product was basically a dish made by an amateur that just so happened to have the skill required to cook. Yeah, this dude, he really knows his stuff. I almost can’t believe that he was able to see through me with such ease. Fran seems to think of him as a sort of enemy, but I don’t really feel any hostility towards him at all. In fact, I’d say that I think he’s a pretty cool guy.
Fran grumbled in response to the man’s words.
「Well, either way, a pass is a pass. I will admit the person you call your Master to the guild, though I have very few expectations of him.」
「Will not acknowledge.」
「Curry is the best. Absolute best. Next time, will make you admit it.」
「That’s an interesting remark. However, I’m quite a bit busier than I look. You won’t be able to get me to show up whenever you so please, especially seeing as how I’m going to be even busier than usual starting tomorrow.」
Eh, we got a pass, so whatever. It doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?
『It can’t really be helped. He’s got things to do too.』
（Curry is best food. Refuse to acknowledge any other. Need to prove.）
『Well, alright. If that’s what you want.』
「How to meet with you?」
「Hmm… Well, if you’d like me to evaluate another dish, then why not register for this?」
The middle aged man of a gourmet handed Fran a single pamphlet, the headline of which was “King of Cooking – A Contest Sponsored by Barbra’s Chef’s Guild.”
According to the pamphlet, the first round allowed you to bring your food in ahead of time for it to be judged. The second round was a competition based on food carts. The last round and climax was supposed to be a match between the finalist’s best dishes.
「We’re currently in the midst of the first round. The dish’s taste and uniqueness justifies it passing through to the second. If you can make it all the way to the end, then you’ll be able to force me to try your cooking. I will be the sole judge of the final round.」
『Wait a sec! At least say something to me before you just go off and declare that!』
The second round consists of setting up a food cart, and Fran isn’t exactly what you’d call a model salesgirl. Besides, the old dude isn’t actually going to be sampling anything until the finals, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to not actually show up to the finals in person. Fran herself can’t make curry, so I’d probably have to unless she was planning to learn how to make it? I doubt we’d be able to pull any sort of trick given his sense of taste, and this really isn’t something that can be even remotely close to brute forced.
（Will definitely participate.）
『All the people who enter are going to be people who are good at cooking. Do you really think we’ll be able to make it to the finals?』
（No worries. Master can definitely make it.）
『I’m happy to hear you say that, but…』
Honestly, I don’t think that the idea of making it all the way to the finals is all that realistic. A good chunk of the participants were probably people who’d been chefs for over a decade, and I figured that it’d be fair to conclude that most of them were pretty damned good at what they did.
（Refuse to back off or lose. Curry equals pride.）
『I get what you’re trying to say, but…』
I honestly had no self confidence whatsoever.
（No worries. I believe in you, Master.）
『I really don’t feel like I can do it. I mean, I have the skill maxed, but deep down, I’m honestly just an amateur.』
（Don’t believe in my sense of taste?）
『Well, I mean, I do.』
Fran really likes eating. The max level cooking skill we share only helps to amplify her sense of taste even further, so, she definitely knows what tastes good and what doesn’t, and she isn’t the type to flatter. Her thoughts and impressions are genuine and her opinion has weight to it.
The issue wasn’t actually related to any of that. All my problems came from that whole best in the world thing. I myself was having some trouble picturing curry as the world’s best ever creation.
（Then, believe in the me that believes in you, Master.）
『That was a pretty good line you said just now.』
God damn. That was number three on the list of things I really wanted to say at least once. Man, I’m jealous! Why did she get to say it! Argggg, Fran is terrifying at times like these.
『Alright, alright. If you’re going as far as to say something like that, then I can’t really say no to you.』
（Then participating is okay?）
『Yeah, let’s go get ourselves that championship.』
「What’s wrong? Lost your nerves?」
「Nope. Just getting fired up. Will definitely win.」
「So you will be participating then?」
「Then read over the rules and sign them.」
The old man then called over one of the people in charge of the competition and had them explain any relevant details to us.
The first round had over 2000 participants, but only twenty would move on to the second. We were pretty lucky to be instantly selected as one of said twenty.
The second round was to last three days, and its whole premise was to see who could profit the most by wheeling a cart around and selling food. All the entrants were given a hundred thousand Golde as their starting capital. The sheer amount of money given to each individual really served to evidence that the contest’s scale.
You were allowed to bring your own ingredients if you wanted as well. Apparently that rule was made because some of the chefs would only work with super high end stuff, and a hundred thousand Golde wasn’t anywhere close enough to what they needed to get going.
The only condition was that you needed to tell the contest’s staff ahead of time. The ingredient cost was still going to be detracted from one’s profits regardless, so it didn’t actually really work to create any advantages for those that had their own stuff. After all, the point wasn’t just to sell as much as possible, it was to profit as much as possible.
The four chefs with the best profits would be able to move on to the competition’s final round, in which they’d each present their very best dishes.
The winner would be rewarded a hundred thousand Golde. Honestly, the prize money alone wasn’t all that appealing. It was literally exactly the same amount as what was given for the second round’s preparations. But to the chefs, that was fine. What mattered was the honor and fame that came with one’s victory, not the immediate monetary gain. Those that won would ultimately prosper down the road anyways due to the prestige that came with the event. Many of the competition’s previous winners had even been granted positions in which they answered directly to royalty.
「The second round will begin in three days, and the finals on the 7th of April.」
The Lunar Banquet was set to span a week starting on the 31st, meaning that the finals would take place on its last day.
「Will you be able to complete all necessary preparations in time for the event?」
『It should be fine. We’ll manage one way or another.』
「Nn. No problems at all.」
「Very well. Then here is one hundred thousand gold. Use it to ready yourself for the second round, and don’t be making off with it.」
「Won’t. You, get noose ready, await your loss.」
「I’ll be looking forward to seeing the results of your efforts.」
And so, we somehow ended up participating in a cooking contest.
We needed a kitchen in which we could operate. They said that we could always just use the one they had here, but that would mean people seeing me in action, which wasn’t exactly a good thing. We needed a place in which we could maintain secrecy whilst preparing our dishes. I also need to think about the type of curry I was going to make, so we could get all our supplies ready. Luckily, we still had a tonne of spices on hand.
There was, however, a problem. We still had a mountain load of stuff to do in the meantime. We needed to drop in on the Adventurer’s guild, find a knowledgeable alchemist, and even visit the twins sometime or another.
I know I said that we’d manage somehow, but man, it really seems like we’re not going to have enough time for all this…
TN: If you’re wondering why I use middle aged and old interchangably, it’s because I call middle aged people old. The definition is vague, and some people classify 60 as like middle aged while others say that’s old as hell. I’ve tried to avoid shifting between the two it but it might’ve still leaked through to the chapter like it did the last. In other words, the description of the gourmand guy is vague and he could be anywhere from 30-65. Yay loose definitions!