Jack Crow was the first to get his food. It was a self-service restaurant, but he was always given the first choice. He chose a chicken soup as a starter, followed by roast pork, vichy carrots and pommes duchesse. Gradually the others took their place behind Jack and their plates were filled.. There was only one dish on the menu, it was not a gourmet restaurant, but a secret tip amongst the guests. They knew why they wanted to come to this particular place, it had the best reputation for food.
Jack Crow often wondered at the secret of the cooking and asked the supervisor who the cook was.
“Just eat your food Jack, you don’t really want to know who the cook is. We always have the same cook and he does the job well.”
“I just want to thank him for the great meals is conjures up. No harm in that is there?”
and so the cook was brought to Joe’s table.
“Are you the bloke responsible for all this fine food? Actually you look familiar, have we met before, or did you cook in one of those posh restaurants in the West End where I used to eat, when I was living somewhere else.”
“No, no, I never had the chance to work in the West End, but I don’t want to bother such an important man as Jack Crow with the details.”
“I have got all the time in the world” answered Jack, “take a seat and tell me all about it.”
The cook looked at the man in charge of the restaurant, but he nodded in approval so the cook sat down and started to tell his story.
“I used to work in a French restaurant in Soho and then I saw there was a cooking competition on the TV for Cook of the Year. I was one of the best in the restaurant and the owner told me to enter the competition. If I won it would make good publicity and one of the prizes was to work as a cook in one of the best restaurants in town.
The cook paused to make sure he was not boring Jack Crow, but Jack said he should continue
“Did you win the competition?”
“Sort of. First of all I had to be chosen, but they appreciated my cooking and I qualified quite easily. I just had to prepare some oysters, serve a Chateau Briand with sauté potatoes and fennel purée. I was one of the best, so I soon arrived in the finals of the completion.”
“So you won.”
“Tell Jack what happened” said the restaurant supervisor. “We don’t have all the time in the world. The restaurant is closing soon, and everyone has to go. You have to clean up the kitchen and make orders for tomorrow’s dishes.”
“OK, ok” answered the cook. “No rush, the next part is now coming.”
“And the finals?” Jack Crow was getting impatient.
“Yes the final night, there were just two of us left. Actually there were three cooks in the final, but the third cook had an accident. That was Basil Greenleaf, the son of the famous Mayfair restaurant owner. Unfortunately he had an accident with his Jaguar on the evening before the final and crashed on the motorway. The car was a complete wreck and so was poor Basil. By the time they had cut him out of the wreck, he was gone.”
Here the cook made a pause in the story telling to compose himself before continuing.
There were only two of us left. Pauline Camroux, the daughter of Patrice Camroux the famous wine expert and myself. Unfortunately , she was quite distraught when she arrived at the competiton and had to be comforted by the judge Maurice Poubelle. She fell into his arms and was crying. He was full of sympathy for her and asked what had happened.
“I am so sad. Minou my Persian cat has been stolen. When I awoke this morning to serve her chopped liver and she was gone. I called for her everywhere. I just do not know how I am going to get through this competition.”
“Don’t worry Pauline, we will help to find Minou after the competition. Now just concentrate on your cooking skills and I am sure everything will turn out well” said a concerned Maurice Poubelle.
We began to cook. We had to select various products from the choice given to us and create a five star menu with three courses which was served to the judges for their approval.
I decided to start with honey glazed onion rings, followed by sautéed pistachio crusted salmon and as a desert chocolate mint soufflé. I was sure this was a winner and I would walk away with the prize.
Eventually the food was served and despite Pauline Camroux’s problem, she succeeded in presenting her menu of bouillabaisse, followed by milk lamb, gratin dauphinois and broccoli in a sauce hollandaise. As a desert she had prepared mincemeat palmiers with vanilla ice cream.
Both our meals were perfectly cooked and prepared, although I was sure that my chocolate mint soufflé was a winner.
There was a silence in the television studio, nerves were at their zenith and I was waiting to feel my hand being raised as Cook of the Year. Unfortunately it was Pauline Camroux’s hand that was raised and she was proclaimed Cook of the Year, despite the fact that her Persian cat Mimou was waiting in my apartment to be fed with a daily dish of chopped liver.
Of course I was angry, felt cheated, my cook’s pride was injured. It was not easy playing around with the brakes on Basil Greenleaf’s Jaguar. I just grabbed the first thing that came to my hand, a meat knife, and stabbed Pauline Camroux. Unfortunately she survived, otherwise I might have become cook of the year as the runner-up.”
“Of course” said Jack Crow, who was serving his sentence in Her Majesty’s prison for murder, embezzlement, a bank robbery and fraud. “Now I remember you. I believe you got life.”
“Yes, for the murder of Basil Greenleaf and stabbing Pauline Camroux” answered the cook. “That is why I am now serving a life sentence in this prison.”
“All the better for us prisoners” answered Jack Crow. “I have never eaten so well in a prison. You are one of the best, so keep cooking.”
And all the other prisoners in the restaurant stood up and started to clap.