Chef Jakub – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 47

By then Luke and I had churned our souls for weeks in search of a reason not to open a restaurant. There were the obvious risks but there was a blinding need in both of us to settle our debts with life. I think in part we wanted to be found out as much as we wanted to taste the fame and riches of success, but we will never know. With the love and blessings of Tomassino and his family Luke and I took off for the Capital. It was where the majority of the population lived and, as a port city, it was thriving. We took our time though and talked on our designs. Bread had remained a pivotal element to our art and we both agreed on the off that it would need to be baked fresh, by us, daily. Next, fish and olives, being the staple of the people of the island, were absolutes. And, of course, small seating arrangements were vital to control numbers.

We both knew all too well the danger that setting up shop would invite, but we had to move on and the demand that was there. We had thrived in the presence of powerful and wealthy individuals but had lost the taste for such company. Instead we would build our own wealth and our own power. And so, once we settled on a property, we rented in and painted the name “Zarinah’s” above the door. There was a solace for us both in that name but, there was peace in it for me. I still missed her. The one night of love I had ever known.

Luke and I used what money we had and started small. Once we sent the address to Tomassino we partitioned the shop and decorated the seating area, which itself had nine seats around a large oval table. We took bookings within days and declared ourselves open for business by months end. It was a nervous time. A venture the like of which I had never undertaken, and one I had no surety in embracing. The risks were enormous, but so were the rewards.

On the first night we had guests that were from the capital. They were dripping with money and wasted no time in announcing that the wine merchants Tomassino and Zito Bregazzi had insisted that they come and undertake “the ceremony” at Zarinah’s. I had readjusted my speech knowing that I had a captive audience, as it were, so I dragged it out a little for the sophisticates sat before me. I whirled a tale woven tight with hints of mysticism and a promise of an experience the like of which none present had ever enjoyed. The lame expressions on each of their faces painted a façade of nonchalance but their eyes gave them away. The eyes always did. Inside they were itching to see what all the fuss had been about. They wanted to know as their esteemed associates knew. They wanted to be in the know.

When the palette cleanser had been issued and absorbed, Luke carried out a large tray with a lid atop it. The diners tried to look blasé but there was no helping them as they all leaned in with intent curiosity. Of course, I said nothing and as Luke placed the tray in the centre of the large wooden table I lifted the lid. A massive cloud of steam plumed above the table and evaporated in seconds as the guests all leaned back with a communal gasp. I almost chuckled at the falsehood of their pretence, it was not at all enjoyable to serve those people, but at least I could enjoy the crumbling of their assumed importance.

Of course drawl guttural groans flowed, as did infantile blubbering and marvel and in the end Luke and I ushered them out as they oozed money and sang praises we had no desire to listen to. They were such revolting sheep that though serving them was necessary to build our reputation, it was like selling a piece of ourselves. We hated it.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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