As Ein gazed at the charming portrait of Henry Rivers from his PC’s screen, a feeling of envy loomed at the back of his mind. Not only did Henry’s face look like a total lady killer, his CV was decorated, to the point that it screamed perfection.
"World Chocolate Masters 2010 - Winner... Summa Cum Laude, Class of 2011, Northwest Culinary Academy Of Vancouver… MA Food Business, Culinary Institute of America, 2011-2013… Wow, quite a studious kid.” Ein was astounded with Henry’s educational background, due to the competitiveness of the food industry, it was rare to see chefs pursuing their higher education.
“Sous Chef, September 2013 - 2016 Akadia, Toronto… Chef de Cuisine, January 2016-2018, Ell Bolli, Catalonia… Wait, how the hell did this man get into Perran Adriya’s Ell Bolli as a head chef?” Ein’s eyes dilated in shock.
Ell Bolli was one of the best culinary institutes in the world that centers on contemporary cuisine, they focused on Molecular Gastronomy, a subdiscipline of food science. In order for a chef to get into Ell Bolli, one must be scouted and invited by its director, Perran Adriya. Every chef in the world aspired to get in however only a few lucky souls were able to do so as the Perran’s selection process was rigorous, either rub elbows with Perran himself or pique his interest will guarantee admission.
“Haaahh… why does this kid give off an entitled feeling.”
Ein massaged his brows in frustration, he knew from experience that most of the people with decorated CVs from education up to employment were all overachievers.
“Beauty and brains, my goodness I can already smell his ego from afar.” Ein groaned and stared at the clock, it was now 9:09 AM and it was almost time for the conference. His smartwatch vibrated and displayed a delivery notification, the coffee he ordered earlier was on its way.
Ein swiftly rang the reception downstairs to let them know of the incoming delivery, instructions were left to them on what time the coffee must be brought and served at the conference room.
“Hmm… coffee should be there just in time.” Ein glanced at his smartwatch to do a final timecheck, he then locked his PC, grabbed his work tablet, phone, his planner and went out of his office.
As he walked towards the venue, he noticed Seori was standing in wait just outside the hallway of the conference room. Seori spotted Ein approaching and waved at him.
“You were always the early bird.” Seori chuckled as she remembered their days as a corporate clerk for Hotel Citron. “When we used to be teammates, you were always five minutes earlier than the scheduled arrangement.”
“Well, old habits never die.” Ein grinned sheepishly at Seori. “At least I don’t have a record of tardiness ever since I entered the company.”
“You’re such an arse!” Seori’s face crumpled at Ein’s smug remark and smacked Ein on the shoulder. “That one-time late was an emergency! Don’t bring up the past, you old man.”
Ein groaned and rubbed his painful shoulder. “Still energetic as always. Where do you get energy to do such vigorous moves… Shouldn’t you feel your age-”
Seori glared at Ein with a deathly expression. Ein froze and felt the intimidation in her eyes. Although Ein was seven years older than her, Seori had an inferiority complex towards her age. People around her would be shocked to hear that she was 32 years old, whereas her current physique and face showed traits of a woman in her mid 20’s.
“...So, what do you think of the new kitchen manager? His CV looks good.” Seori quickly changed the topic to lighten her mood.
“Well, I think he’s a decorated individual…” Ein grinned sardonically. “He looks like the type that has a steep ego, and his age. I won’t be surprised if we end up babysitting him in the near future.” Ein chuckled.
“Wow, that was harsh, Ein. Usually, you would be milder on CV assessments… hearing you now, I smell prejudice!” Seori patted Ein’s back as she sighed. “Don’t over-analyze someone based on the things you saw on paper.”
Seori was aware that Ein enjoyed analyzing people’s personas, she also knew that Ein took delight in observing people and making deductions towards them.
It was something that Ein picked up as a reflex when the Darkness took hold in his heart. This was his defense mechanism in order to avoid toxic and scornful people around him. Ein would guess other people’s personalities just by looking, observing and assuming. Once he determines what type of person he’s dealing with, he would be wary of them and would put on his mask and play pretend.
Ein never really felt the need to show his true self to strangers.
“Oh! I just remembered, it will be your birthday tomorrow!” Seori clapped her hands with excitement. “If you’re free after work, let’s go out and eat good food to celebrate!” Seori’s eyes beamed with joy. “Arnaut recommended a Bistro, they serve good chocolate ganache cake-”
Ein put his hand over Seori’s mouth. “Stop using me as a pilot for your date venues, Seori. I’d rather go home and sleep since work follows the day after.” his brows furrowed with annoyance.
“Why not take the following day off then, Ein? Use your leaves! I’ll replace it with overtime if you don’t.”
Ein was startled to hear a high-pitched voice behind him. He quickly turned his back and saw Monique, she had a disdainful frown on her face.
“You’ve been putting off birthday celebrations for three straight years now.” Monique groaned and smacked Ein’s shoulder hard. “A workaholic like you should take a breather every now and then.”
“Ow! I’m not a punching bag can you please stop-”
“Go on leave from tomorrow until Wednesday or else, you’re on overtime for a year.” Monique gave Ein a stern gaze, it was serious as there was no hint of jokes in her eyes.
“Fine, as you wish. I’ll take the leave.” Ein sighed, he didn’t want Monique to pester her further and he certainly didn’t want to do overtime for a year.
Seori’s eyes gleamed with joy once more. “Alright! I’ll send you the address of the bistro by noon tomorrow!” Seori then, placed the appointment on her phone. “I’ll see you tomorrow then Ein!” She then entered the conference room.
“Emery rang earlier, he said they’ll be late by five minutes. He said he needed to introduce Henry to the kitchen crew.” Monique gave a bashful smile to Ein. “So where’s my coffee, my dear butler?
Ein gazed at Monique with an apathetic face, he then opened the door to the conference room and gestured to Monique to head in first.
“I’ve asked reception to send it up once it arrives. It should be just in time before our guests arrive.” He then held the door for Monique. “Let’s wait for them inside.”
Just as Ein had predicted, the coffee arrived two minutes before Emery and his protege showed up. Ein and Seori prepared the cups, utensils and light snacks to serve with the coffee. The smell of the freshly brewed coffee slowly wafted through the conference room.
The three of them turned their attention to the door, a man in a casual white suit walked in. His hair was white and his gray eyes were full of vigour. His aged face was flush, it was as if he recently got sun-burned.
“Emery! Glad to see you well, it’s been a month.” Monique greeted Emery with a handshake. “You look better, the stress on your face has decreased! Haha!”
“Likewise, Monique.” Emery smiled warmly at Monique. “I just returned from the Canary Islands, I apologise if my face looks a bit funny.” Emery let out a soft chuckle.
He then turned to Ein and Seori who were by Monique’s side. “Glad to see you both faring well too.”
“Good to see you Chef.” Ein shook Emery’s hand and gave him a warm pat on the back.
“You look a lot more youthful now Chef! Looks like resting really does something good for your body.” Seori smiled at Emery.
Ein and Seori had fond memories of Emery at Hotel Citron. Back when they were clerks, both Ein and Seori had a tendency to skip lunches due to their heavy workloads, the employee’s cafeteria had meal schedules to follow so both of them would miss out on lunch. Emery and his kitchen staff knew them as they were known as the Drunch Clerks, or in layman’s terms, folks who combined lunch and dinner in one meal in the afternoon.
“I would like you all to meet my dear friend and my protege.”
Emery then turned back and opened the door to the conference room. “Henry, come here and introduce yourself!”
A man dressed in a navy, three-piece suit, and dark brown oxfords walked in, the sounds of his steps were attention-grabbing. His long platinum blonde hair was neatly tied up into a bun, his sharp golden eyes glistened as the sunlight hit them, his face was unblemished, his nose and cheeks were chiseled and his gait exuded confidence. He looked more like a model walking in a runway fashion show, as his styling was on point. Monique and Seori’s cheeks flushed at the sight, they were smitten.
Ein felt a bit of nostalgia as he saw Henry walk into the room.
‘For some reason...I think I’ve seen this guy before.’ Ein pondered. ‘Hmm, I don’t remember, nevermind, my mind must be playing games on me.’ he then shrugged off the useless thoughts and greeted him.
“Good morning, you must be Chef Emery’s successor... Glad to meet you, Henry.” Ein then held out his hand for a handshake.
“Ein Schmidt, Assistant Manager and corporate secretary for Hotel Citron.” Ein brandished his business smile. Monique and Seori saw Ein’s demeanor and snapped back to their senses.
Henry reached out Ein’s hand to return the handshake.
“I’m Henry Rivers, nice to meet you too Ein.”Henry grabbed Ein’s hand to answer his handshake.
Ein noticed that Henry stroked his palm with his index finger as their hands shook. Ein felt goosebumps grow on his nape.
‘Well, shit. Looks like this one is not just a lady killer… he might be a maneater too.’
To be Continued.