Chef Jakub – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 12

Once I had Josef Christof in my pocket I had him wash down the sandwich with a laced glass of cognac and then returned to the Baron’s manor. There I continued my routine as if I nothing had changed, but inside, I had changed. I had seized my plan, and by doings so I had begun a journey to a place I didn’t know could exist. At the Baron’s table I soon saw Christof again. He never said a word to me, but he acknowledged me with the most subtle of nods when I addressed that evening’s guests. The Baron hosted with his usual grandeur, unaware of my new connection to Christof. I watched all the guests that night for any sign that Christof had let slip our arrangement, but he had kept his word. From then on I continued my culinary expeditions and my visits to Christof, but it wasn’t until the Vizier to the Imam of The Gulf’s arrived on one of Christof’s trading vessels that a window opened through which I could not help but throw myself. The Imam’s Vizier came to present gifts as part of a trade negotiation with our highest courts. Amongst the gifts he brought were spices so exotic and fervent that my eyes watered as their scents took me – and that was without the aid of the serum. I marvelled at the very thought of what they would do to the Baron’s guests.

I saw the Vizier at the train station. He was surrounded by men in long white robes, but he himself wore a fitted dark grey suit. His lean features were rimmed by a tight coal-black beard and his manner was impeccable. I didn’t know then who he was or what his intentions were but I did not hesitate. I approached the Vizier, introducing myself and inviting him to allow my patron to present him a feast so profound that he would remain indifferent to all other foods thereafter as a result of it. Now, the Vizier was a man of the world, but my claim had captured his imagination. Little did I know that at the time he was seeking notable members of society in order to begin his work, so when he accepted I returned to Manor van Broone at once and informed the Baron of my chance meeting. Unfazed, the Baron launched into arrangements, sending word to his most important associates, commanding me to outdo myself that very night. Relishing the opportunity, I set about the creation of a feast the like of which I had never attempted. Swan would begin the feast, braised and served on a bed of seaweed. Next crab in chilli would bring the salted flavour of the seaweed from the ocean to the planes, before the third course would reach into the very souls of the men eating it. I would present royal jelly and burnt vanilla soup and call it “Angels’ Tears”. If all went according to plan I would see the Vizier elevate my patron above all of his contemporaries – indebting him to me – and thus free me to claim whatever position I myself would choose.

The men in robes filed into the lounge while Baron van Broone led the Vizier, Christof, Judge Thurston and the same Count I had seen at madam Sabine’s table months beforehand into the dining room. The four men sat with the Vizier and discussed his arrival and his destination, promising to assist him in his efforts and fawned over his needs in order to ingratiate themselves with him. The Vizier, to his credit, smiled his way through the opening moments of the night until I arrived to make my speech. I could see the Vizier’s face shift as he saw me. He had a resting face that appeared quite stern, however noble, but when he saw me coming I noticed a distinct yet knowing curiosity. He looked as if he assumed that he was not going to experience anything above his usual high standards, but there was a hope in his eyes. As I plated the swan I knew that the guest of honour was by then under the serums’ effect, and as I presented the great white bird to the Baron’s guests the Vizier’s response transcended all my hopes. This stranger to us roared with a belly laugh that shattered his calm image and thus ignited an array of enjoyments in me. It was wonderful to know that a palette as far removed from those in our land could enjoy my skills. Also, that this man, the right hand of immense overseas power, was enjoying himself so much, the possibilities of gain were towering.

None of the other guests, or their host, noticed one another. I alone was able to see their pleasure. I alone knew that I placed a note of my own hand in the breast pocket of Vizier’s coat. And I alone was in control as they each drooled on themselves. The crab in chilli then led to the Angels’ Tears, and this dish, I must admit, was something sublime. I acknowledge the chance by which it came to be, but it was in all honesty a dish of obscure vastness.

Once the meal ended and the second serum was administered the five guests all praised me, as usual, and then the Vizier told the Baron that he wished to buy me – as if I was an object. It was a shock, but the Baron took it in his stride and explained that I was not for sale. Thus a large purse was offered, and doubled, before the Vizier then lost with grace. Van Broone was careful to be magnanimous, but as they all joined the men in robes in the lounge one of the Vizier’s attendants approached me in the kitchen and handed me a note inviting me to follow their cortege whilst they stayed in the capital.

I was at an impasse. If I went then the Baron would lose face. And if I stayed then I might miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. I chose to convince the Baron to lend me to the Vizier in the interest of business and diplomacy. He knew that I was right, and he accepted, but not until he had grimaced and begrudged and grumbled and then grimaced again. I must admit, I did feel a tinge of sorrow as I walked alongside the men in robes behind the Vizier.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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