Evy Journey, writer, wannabe artist, and flâneuse (feminine of flâneur), wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.
She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.
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Gina’s grandfather was a French chef whose life was cut short by a robber’s bullet. The only lasting legacy he could leave his family was his passion and talent for cooking.
Growing up poor but with a mother who is a gifted cook. Gina learns cooking a great meal is an act of love. An art that sustains and enhances life.
A world of new challenges, new friends, and new loves opens up for her when she’s chosen to cook for a Michelin-starred restaurant.
But danger lurks where one never expects it.
Can her passion for cooking help Gina survive and thrive in this world of privilege, pleasure and menace?
At this restaurant, the second one I’ve worked for, the clientele comes from the moneyed class. Privileged with money to spare. Money to put aside for a full-course dinner costing hundreds for two people. And that’s without the wine. I could never dine here unless I gave up my apartment, banked all my earnings, and slept in my car or a homeless shelter for a whole week.
Our regular customers are often fifty years or older and established, and come twice, sometimes thrice a year for special occasions. Dining here twice a month? The guy at Table 29 must be worth diamonds to the restaurant.
I get shivers in my spine entering the dining room. I’ve only been in it when it’s empty, quiet, and bright from lights and white tablecloths. This evening, the lighting is subdued and—yes—romantic, warmed by candles and small vases of bright yellow chrysanthemums on tables. Nonintrusive, soft music plays against the hum of voices from every table.
Table 29 usually sits four, but tonight it holds only two people. I’m surprised to see that they’re quite young. Maybe about my age or a little older. And attractive. Now I’m even more curious. And intrigued. Mature and rich or nearly rich, I’ve seen a lot of. But filthy rich and young? Well, I must at least sneak a peek at what this priceless diamond looks like.
For now, though, I’m a willing peon, as grateful as strawberry blond is when I started learning the ropes in this exclusive eatery. So, I focus on the course I’m serving Table 29. How I perform at this restaurant decides whether my career goes haute cuisine or a la Burger King. But that last choice is really no choice at all. I’ll work my butt off to make sure it stays that way. It’s my future, after all, that I’m slaving for.
I recite to myself the script we’ve been trained to deliver. The script is quite simple, but this is my first foray into a dining room full of privileged clients. And hives are sprouting on my arms just thinking that I’m serving my creation to the restaurant’s most valued client. If this guy doesn’t like my dish and blabbers to Laure about it, I can kiss my future in haute cuisine goodbye. Laure is well-loved and well-known, and a word from her can make or break culinary dreams.
I quickly glance, first at his date then at him, vaguely taking in how they look. I take a deep breath, smile at neither one in particular and say, “Medallions of raw ahi, wasabi hollandaise, on a bed of diced cucumbers, vernissage cherry tomatoes, and capers, finished with a sprinkle of toasted nori. Bon appetit!”
Distractedly, my fixed smile still on, I wonder if “filthy rich” Table 29 guy holds my cooking future in his manicured hands—or, more likely, on his pampered taste buds. I take a couple of steps back, so they can start eating. Maybe I can catch a glimpse of whether he likes my dish or not before I go back to the kitchen. I’m also waiting for that “buzz” I’ve been made to expect. Nothing yet. Anything to say about my creation? Maybe that’s what it takes.
But I’m new in this game and still a coward, so I chicken out as he picks up his fork. I control the urge in my legs to run backward to the kitchen. Be at your best, Gina. Be cool. But my ego will be in tatters if Mr. Filthy Rich doesn’t like the dish.
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