“A Culinary Cook-off” by Amelia Levin

“I’ve got to go soon, Mom!” Cici hollered upstairs. Cici grabbed her suitcase and said a final goodbye to her lovely home in New York City. Her mom quickly scrambled down the stairs and gave Cici a bear hug.

“I love you so much, Cici. Be safe, try your hardest, and have fun in Paris!” Cici’s mother whispered to her with a squeeze.

“I will, Mom. I’ve got to go! Bye!” Cici exclaimed and got in the cab waiting outside her house. Cici boarded her flight at 6:00 am, but when she arrived in Paris it was already 7:00 pm! Jet-lagged and exhausted, Cici got to her apartment and collapsed onto her bed. A couple minutes of recovery later, Cici went to explore the city. She decided to go see the restaurant she would be working at.

When Cici approached the beautiful building of Le Cappiello, she was amazed at first sight. It was glorious and bold, yet gentle and inviting. She floated inside and got a table for one. The menu was classy and sophisticated, and Cici was in love. She ate a lovely first meal in France and walked home satisfied and exuberant. The stars were twinkling and her heart was falling for this new mysterious city.

The next day, Cici woke up bright and early to head over to her job. She was introduced to Marco, the head chef she would be studying under. Marco told Cici she would have to work her way to the top if she wants to be the best. Then, Marco introduced Cici to Lucia, the other intern. Cici stepped into the kitchen and took a long sniff of the pungent smell. The kitchen stank of herbs and spices. Marco assigned Cici to start washing dishes and Lucia to cleaning off tables. As Cici was carrying a clean tub of silverware to the other chefs, Lucia “accidentally” bumped into her, sending silverware flying and Cici face planting. Red-faced and embarrassed, Cici picked up the pile of forks and knives and ran outside. Behind the restaurant, Cici stumbled upon a girl.

“Are you alright?” she asked Cici. Cici had tears in her eyes and her spirits were down.

“Not really,” Cici started. “There is another intern, Lucia. It’s my first day and she is already trying to ruin my chances here!” The girl embraced Cici in a hug.

“I’m Addy. I work in the kitchen as well. I met Lucia a few days ago, and I can see what you mean. She can be a handful. But this internship will be the best thing you’ve ever done, especially since Marco is running it. So you should focus, try your hardest, and ignore Lucia. I believe in you, don’t worry,” Addy reassured her.

Cici took a deep breath and walked back into the kitchen. She pulled her long blonde hair into a bun and washed her hands. Next Cici got back to work and washed the dishes fast and furiously. Marco was impressed by her determination to get things done that morning, so in the afternoon she was bumped up to observing one of the sous chefs. Cici helped find ingredients and observed how the kitchen worked.

At the end of the day, Marco talked to Lucia and Cici. “Great first day, ladies. Tomorrow, you all will get the morning off and come in at 11 to start your official positions working in the kitchen. Lucia, you will be assisting Chef Simone, and Cici will be assisting Chef Madeline. You are to follow what they say and do as you were told so everything goes smoothly. See you tomorrow,” Marco told them.

Then Lucia and Cici nodded, gathered their stuff, and went outside. It was very dark and the Eiffel Tower shone like a star in the distance. As the girls reached the front of the restaurant, Lucia leaned over and whispered, “It’s on, Cici.” Cici’s eyes widened and she called out to Lucia, but she was already turning around the corner.

Cici briskly walked back to her apartment and sat down. She knew this was no easy job, it was going to be a battle. Cici realized Lucia had no mercy. Cici opened up her computer and did some more research on the restaurant. She had to be 100% ready for the upcoming challenge.

As the days turned to weeks, Cici was tremendously improving in skill and mindset. She was focused and determined to do her best. Whether she was told to “chop the potatoes” or “clean the work area” or “dice the carrots,” Cici performed every task to her highest standards. Her leadership skills and culinary advancement were showing, and Marco was impressed. He promoted Cici to cooking on her own, then small side dishes, and was currently assembling the main meals!

Lucia was not thrilled with this. She was making progress as well, but not quite as fast as Cici. There was only a month left of the internship, so Lucia decided to make her main goal to ruin Cici’s chances of beating her for the job. She would sabotage, wreck, and work her way to the top. The next morning, Lucia brought everyone pastries, but the one she planned to give Cici was stale and rotten. Although it was cruel, Lucia wanted Cici to get sick so she could jump ahead of her and get to show off towards Marco.

Cici accepted the pastry, but the next morning when she woke up she felt sick and could barely get out of bed. Cici sighed, for she knew she would have to take a day or two off. Cici slipped back into her bed and slept the entire day. Unfortunately, it took a whole 3 days until Cici felt well enough to go back to the restaurant. She was exhausted and upset.

With only 3 weeks left until her internship is over, Cici had to bounce back from this break quickly. Cici bounded into work and began to chop her vegetables and meats to prep for the day. She first made the soup of the day, after that she fixed a few main courses, and ended her shift making many portions of lamb chops with potatoes.

Cici continued this usual routine for many days until Marco approached her and Lucia.

“Girls, it is time for your final test. You will each come up with a new recipe or bring your own recipe to this kitchen to serve. Whoever’s meal is better will be given at the restaurant and added to the menu,” he explained. Immediately the girls ran off to begin searching for a recipe that is both classic and elegant enough for this restaurant. Cici chose a grilled fish served with sautéed onions, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, and radishes. She gathered all of her ingredients, diced the vegetables, and prepared the fish. When the timer ran out, Lucia and Cici both brought out their dishes to a table with the other chefs. Marco and the other judges tasted Cici’s food and their eyes lit up.

“Magnificent!” Marco exclaimed, “the mix of flavors and colors compliment each other perfectly. Your leadership and abilities in the kitchen influenced me to pick you for the job. You will be a very great asset to the staff of Le Cappiello. Lucia, I’m sorry, but you don’t work as well with the others and you are not progressing as fast. I’m very proud of how far both of you have come, but Cici, the job is yours.”

“Thank you so much,” Cici replied. Lucia scowled and stormed out of the room.  Cici shook hands with each person at the table and smiled.

“I am so thankful for this opportunity,” she grabbed her stuff from the kitchen and gave Addy a huge hug. Cici danced back to her apartment with glee and called her mother, sharing the news. She felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. After all of her hard work, Cici used her strong-willed attitude and persistent mindset to win Marco over and get her dream job. Her transition to France was a success!

 

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