Chef Jakub – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 11

I knew then that I didn’t want to just be glorified by the wealthy and famous. I admitted to myself that I had had a limited vision. Yes, it was all that I had hoped that I and my cooking had been lauded and praised. And yes, it felt great to be so good at something. But there was so much more that I could do. The night of the Baron’s first feast I decided: I was going to reach beyond my own life. I was going to take hold of the world.

Knowing that the Baron’s guests would provide me with the contacts that I needed, I took note of every guest at Manor van Broone each week and began to keep records of who they were. High society was a close knit group of people that either did business together or were related to each other. They represented the trade and commerce of the entire country, from seafarers to transport magnates to mining tycoons. The money and the power which they wielded was second to none, and that very power was my goal. I knew that I could convince them to do as I wished and I knew that I could force certain people together at my table, such was my power. As the weeks passed into months at the Baron’s table my fame grew into myth. Guests had to wait for months before they could enjoy my skills, and they offered the Baron favours and money to rise up the list. He was skilled too, van Broone, and he gained from my presence in his kitchen: horses, jewels and even land changed hands through my prestige. The Baron had doubled my wages within a month and then doubled that again soon thereafter.

With all the attention and the financial freedom I received back then I was able to travel one day per week, under the guise of research, my so-called “culinary expeditions”. I did in fact travel for research, and for personal pleasure, but I most of all sought out the castles and chalets of those most prominent of figures that I felt would be to my advantage to court.

Working in secret, I approached an affable yet wise merchant named Josef Christof. Christof seemed to have business in every port and market in the country so he was my natural first choice. I made sure that we met by accident and accepted his inevitable invitation. We drank his cognac and I let him ask me any questions that weren’t too sensitive. As we spoke he requested, at first, that I prepare him at least a small snack, but I refused, citing my loyalty to the Baron. Now, as I said, Christof was a wise man and he saw that I was open to persuasion as long as it was not in public contradiction to the Baron’s claim to me. With a smooth and almost effortless charm, Christof led me around his substantial abode. The musky halls seemed to lack a woman’s touch, despite his many servants and attendants lurking around every corner. The trappings of a well-travelled man made for a vast array of items from all over the world. Carvings, strange seashells and vivid tapestries and paintings in unknown styles all wove an eerie air which hung with a subtle pride. Christof ended the tour in his kitchen, of course, and there he asked me outright to prepare for him one sandwich, of which only he and I would ever know. Knowing that he would not back down, and wanting to, myself, I gave my speech and explained that I would have to work alone and that he would have to obey my rules.

Overjoyed, Christof accepted my edict and waited in his study to receive me. I presented him with a glass of lemon water and returned ten minutes later with a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich that was humming with garlic. His eyes declared his intoxication and as he pulled the halved sandwich apart in his hands, steam rising around his face. He snorted the steam deep into his lungs, grunting and gasping as he lifted my simple, half burned, offering. All the gods and their mothers were hailed as Christof devoured that sandwich. I watched him enjoy my work and as I did I requested that he either host a banquet for me aboard one of his merchant vessels or put one of his vessels at my disposal, without question. The date of which would be at my discretion and it would remain between he and I alone. In return, I offered to visit him once per month whereupon I would cook for him, but him alone. He agreed without hesitation, promising his word to me that he would not speak of it to anyone, ever.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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