Hello everyone. It’s been a while! To be completely honest, I haven’t had an awful lot of motivation to write fiction lately. This one was inspired, of all things, by watching MasterChef: The Professionals—so I decided to take it down the path of smutty goodness. The reason I’ve split this story into several parts is because I realise at this point it’s getting rather long (at least for a blog post), so wanted to keep it simpler (hopefully).
Here’s the first.
Second part to come.
Fuck Me While I’m Fresh: Part 1
Andy Hayes. Fledgling food critic and something of a novice. He was the most determined fresh blood on the scene, having blagged his way into his first job working for renowned gourmet cuisine mag, Dégorger et Farce. The publication’s readership comprised mainly of frequent travellers, those always on the lookout for their next juicy morsel of Chateaubriand or an independently produced local cheese to dig their chops into. Those fucking hipsters. They were just like sheep, gluttons, utter twats.
Of course, there was no harm in simply being a ‘fan’ of food, but when the elite lauded their personal tastes above all else and raising the bar to the heights of heaven, it quickly stopped being about enjoyment and more about status. Andy hated that, with a burning passion.
Yet in spite of his chagrin, he knew this would be a prime chance to show the world his skills in recommending the ‘finest’ of the fine. He was the kind of critic who actually cared about taste and respected the hard work that went into developing a pleasing dish. Dégorger et Farce had a crazy reputation, and he’d worked hard to learn the house writing style with all its pedantic intricacies, so when the confirmation e-mail landed in his inbox, it was a proud moment indeed.
Having successfully published two in-depth restaurant reviews for the magazine, he’d been invited to visit one of London’s top-rated one Michelin starred restaurants, Meat Box, to try out new dishes and interview Head Chef, Rico Santiago—a notoriously secretive man.
It was a cold winter afternoon, and Andy arrived at Meat Box half an hour earlier than agreed. Part of his personal approach was to first see how a restaurant performed without a critic present. He knew some places briefed staff in advance when reviewers were due, but that could never offer a true reflection of a venue’s capability.
He needed to be an unexpected presence, little more than a shadow. This wasn’t difficult to do, though—his rather plain appearance lent itself to blending in with his surroundings, and that came in handy from time to time. He’d chosen a crisp tailored shirt coupled with a simple cotton sweater, unobtrusive black trousers and matching shoes; nothing about him stood out. Meat Box was, after all, slap bang in the middle of the city’s financial district and the local brokers had wrapped themselves in layers of cosy garb befitting the season. As a new writer without the liberty of publishing his face beside his reviews, he could at least remain anonymous.
As he scanned the carefully curated interior, he prematurely caught the gaze of one of the waiters who was standing chatting to a co-worker beside the open kitchen. Abandoning post, the waiter waltzed over to Andy, beaming something of an ‘on-command’ smile. Still, it had a gentle warmth to it that made him feel comfortable. The corners of his mouth wrinkled upwards in response.
“Good afternoon. Welcome to Meat Box.” The waiter handed over a laminated menu. “Is this your first visit?”
“Uh…h-hello.” Andy shuffled in his seat and accepted the menu. “Yes it is.”
The waiter cocked his head to one side. “There’s no reason to be nervous you know. It’s only a restaurant.”
Andy chuckled, bringing his fingers to the cutlery laid out before him and adjusting their position slightly. “I mean, it’s not like I’ve never been to a Michelin-starred restaurant before but um…well, no…actually I’m fine. Let me just have a look at the menu.”
“Of course.” The waiter took a small step backward and clasped his hands behind his back. “Take your time.”
Andy studied the menu, taking everything in. He had to admit that it was difficult to concentrate while a stranger loomed in wait to take his order. An awkward silence cut through the commotion from other diners like tunnel vision.
The waiter cleared his throat. “Might I make a recommendation?”
“Oh…” Andy looked up with a start, giving a tight-lipped smile. “Yes, please do. There’s nothing I don’t eat.”
“In that case, one of our most popular dishes is the ‘Nothing But The Meat’ charcuterie board which features a selection of fine cuts presented in a way you’ve probably never seen before. It’s really quite tantalising.”
Andy raised his eyebrows. “Well, you do specialise in meat so I can’t really say no.”
“Okay but still, I’ll take your word for it and have one of those. Thank you.” Andy lightly scratched his cheek. “Oh and um…a gin and tonic with Ophir, lemon and lime.”
“Just a couple of cubes please.”
The waiter nodded and jotted down Andy’s order before disappearing into the kitchen.
As predicted, the ‘charcuterie board’ was nothing like one Andy had laid eyes on before. It was filled with beautifully sliced pieces of meat that looked hand-crafted to perfection. They glistened beneath the light of the lamp hanging above, barely a trace of fat to be seen. It was marvellous. Surely eating the dish would be a crime.
He took a sip of his G&T, set the glass back down on the table, and curled one of the slivers around his fork, keenly aware of the lust emanating from his eyes. The moment it touched his tongue, the flavour spread through his mouth, the marbled texture incredibly easy to bite into. It was so tender, and yet there was so much depth to it.
The other diners were together in groups, laughing and chatting away. He wondered if they were actually paying any attention to what they were eating amid all the social niceties. Granted, food is always just one part of the restaurant experience. It shouldn’t ever be the only thing that matters. But fuck…this offering was amazing.
The following day, Andy returned to Meat Box replete with a new-found respect for Rico Santiago, the mastermind behind the menu. He hadn’t met the guy yet, but eating his food made him feel like he had a connection. It couldn’t be easy aiming for a second Michelin star.
Andy spotted the waiter who had served him and waved. The waiter wasted no time in summoning him over to the cash register.
“Welcome back. I trust you enjoyed your meal so much that you’d like another?”
“It was delicious, but actually there’s…a different reason I’m here today.” Andy produced a black voice recorder from his jacket pocket. “I’m here to interview Mr. Santiago for Dégorger et Farce magazine. Andy Hayes. I’m a food critic.” He extended his hand for a shake.
The waiter looked down at Andy’s expectant gesture, without making any move to reciprocate.
Andy cleared his throat and retracted. “Is he maybe…around? We have an appointment scheduled.”
“Rico doesn’t take appointments.” The waiter’s voice was dry and monotonous.
“Okay.” Andy didn’t know where to begin. “That may be true under other circumstances, but my manager reached out the other week.” He shook his head as he gesticulated with the recorder. “I was told Mr. Santiago said it would be fine.”
“Well…” The waiter clicked his tongue. “You’d really regret seeing him right now. He’s busy.”
“Doing what exactly?”
“It’s December. He needs to plan the New Year menu. Trust me, that man stays awake at night devising his dishes. Doesn’t get a moment of shut-eye. He’s the single most determined person I know.”
Andy nodded. “Right, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to take a break every once in a while? I’ll only be with him for under an hour. It’s not like that’s going to ruin his plans.”
“Look.” The waiter took a step forward. “I really don’t care if your manager told you it was fine to come here and disturb Rico, I won’t allow you to speak with him.”
Andy scoffed. “Are you being serious?”
“One hundred percent.”
Biting his lip, Andy inhaled sharply. “I don’t understand. If it was going to be an issue, why the fuck did he agree to see me?”
“In any case, I’m going to need you to leave now, and quietly.”
Andy squared up to the waiter. “FUCK…YOU! I came halfway across London again today to learn about what makes this place so special and gather information to write a piece on the new creations. Free promotion. What the hell is wrong with you?”
The door to the kitchen swung open. Andy and the waiter immediately broke eye contact and turned to look. Out stepped a burly middle-aged man of around six-foot-two, dressed in a tight shirt and jeans. He was slightly tanned and had impressively solid muscle definition. Andy recognised him as none other than the Rico Santiago he was there to see.
Rico glared down at the pair of them. “What’s going on out here boys?”
The waiter clenched his jaw, nostrils flaring a little. “He says he’s here to talk about the dishes. Dégorger et Farce?”
An uncomfortable silence hung in the air.
“I told him you’re busy with the new menu.” The waiter approached the man. “I was just sending him back to the office.”
Rico chuckled and let out a sigh. “Frederico, go and help Sammy with table ten. I’ll deal with him myself.”
“But you really don’t have-“
“Don’t test me right now.” Rico narrowed his eyes at Frederico. “I said I’ll handle it, didn’t I?”
There was something of a mafia vibe to Rico’s expressions that made Andy feel awkward. “Uh…listen, Mr. Santiago. If it’s a bad time we could reschedule? I really don’t want to impose while you’re-“
“You got an appointment, right?” Rico approached Andy with gusto.
“Well…yes I do.”
“You’re a lucky man, you know that?” Rico leaned in. “Dégorger et Farce happens to be one of my favourite gourmet magazines. How long have you been writing for them?”
Andy clasped his hands by his front. “Just a couple of weeks. I’m really quite new to this whole thing.”
“An amateur, huh? What happened to uh…what’s his name? The one who used to come and eat here.”
“Brian…” Rico appeared reminiscent. “Yeah, I think that was him. Did he decide to jack it in or something?”
“He left before I joined. Personal reasons…or so I hear.”
“Hmm. I see.” Rico smiled. “Alright, follow me. I’ll show you where I work.”
“Thanks.” Andy felt his muscles loosen. “I really appreciate it.”
“This is where the magic happens.”
Rico’s kitchen was as industrial as any other, kind of boring. Steel countertops laden with state-of-the-art gas cookers, a chunky sous-vide machine, a huge fridge-freezer, and a host of other professional equipment. Pretty standard fare for a one Michelin starred restaurant. Nothing in particular stood out, it just blended together into a metallic doom room. Still, Andy knew this meant Rico was a serious chef who relied on instinct more than anything else. He wasn’t going to stray from the level expected at this stage in his career, but there had be something more to it.
Andy cleared his throat. “I have to be honest with you. I was expecting something more…unique?”
“Are you allowing first impressions to disillusion you? I haven’t even demonstrated my methods yet.”
“No, not at all. On the contrary, I’m very excited to see what you’ve got up your sleeve.” Andy set the black box recorder down on the side. “I like to have a reference of conversations for when I’m writing up the piece later. Is that okay?”
Rico grinned. “Fine by me. I’ll make sure it’s worth your while.”
Andy clicked the ‘record’ button.
“So tell me, what is it you’re making today?”
“We.” Rico stared Andy right in the eyes. “I want this to be a collaborative effort. To get the full Rico Santiago experience.”
“Oh? But I’m no chef, really.” Andy let out a small chuckle. “I just enjoy eating the food and telling people about it. That’s the role of a critic after all.”
“True, but you can be a little more hands on with me. That’s how I prefer to work.”
“Do you often work with other people like this?”
“Actually, I’d say it’s my forte.” Rico took a chopping board from a shelf above the sink and set it down on the countertop. “I get the best results when I’m not alone. There’s only so much pleasure one can derive from a creation made by one pair of hands.”
“Is that so?” Andy raised his eyebrows. “And here I was thinking you were some kind of lone wolf culinary genius.”
“You’re challenging me.” Rico pulled a carving knife out of the block and ran a finger lightly along the sharp edge. “Come here.” His voice was mellow and deep.
Andy felt a bead of sweat form on his brow.