OCN C3 The Happiness of Cooking

Xiao Ming gestured to the ingredients that were already lying on the counter, clearly separated into what he needed for each dish. He always prepared it this way for the streams so he’d have everything at hand and wouldn’t need to stumble through the kitchen while cooking. A few almost-disasters at the beginning of Bright Yellow Water had etched that into his mind.

“Since the mango pudding will need some time to cool after preparing it, I will start with this dish. Normally, I’d explain each individual step at the side. Today, I am only going to highlight a few important points because there is something special I want to tell you about.

“We’ve already covered the dishes we’re doing today another day though. So if you are unsure about how something works, you can just look for the older videos and listen to the more detailed explanation I gave back then. Qian Huang will link the relevant videos in the description and post them on Weibo. Now, let’s go for it!”

He picked up the mango and the knife and started to prepare the dish while getting to the main point he wanted to talk about today. “I’ve already mentioned briefly before that I was invited as a judge for a new cooking show that’s due soon. Today was finally the press conference so I can give out some more information now. The show is called ‘Golden Spoon’.”

Qian Huang broke out laughing, startling Xiao Ming into looking up from handling the mango. Normally, his so-called assistant was the most professional one among the three of them so he really didn’t understand what was going on that he would suddenly behave like this when he had just started giving out the most vital information for today.

Qian Huang raised a fist and coughed, trying to stifle his laughter. “I’m sorry. Nin Sha just sent you a golden spoon.”

Xiao Ming stared blankly for a moment before he chuckled as well. He turned to look directly at the camera, his eyes sparkling with a teasing light. “Nin Sha, I wasn’t asking for gifts. ‘Golden Spoon’ is the title of the cooking show. I’ve heard that it’s because the trophy that will be given to the winner will be in the form of an actual golden spoon.”

Qian Huang once again interjected: “Nin Sha doesn’t care. He sent another one.”

Xiao Ming shook his head, looking a bit indulgent. “Well, our Nin Sha has always had his own ideas. Thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

“Anyway, the show is going to start running next month. Up until then, everybody who wants to is eligible to enter. You can register on the website of the show. Qian Huang will put the link in the corner of the screen and in the description as well. There are some more details on the rules given on the website so you should definitely read those first but in general, as long as you’re eighteen or above, you can join in. You just need to give some information and then go to the casting in four weeks.

“Now, maybe you’re wondering if you should even take part. Maybe you’re worried if you’re good enough for this. It’s a national TV show, after all.

“Well, let me tell you that I think that — as long as you are interested in cooking — the show will definitely be beneficial. Even if you can’t make it to the finals, you will be given feedback by professional cooks. Even if you just take part in the casting, that is something of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, wouldn’t you say so?

“Furthermore, if you do manage to get further than that, you will be given feedback by the panel of judges. Other than me, the other fixed judge will be Mister Yu. I’m sure that quite a lot of you will have heard of him. He is a Michelin-starred chef with a very popular restaurant in Beijing. He had gotten famous early on in his career and nothing has changed about that.

“To be honest, Mister Yu is my own idol, so I kind of wish I would be able to get some feedback from him on my own. So, I’m not lying when I say that it will be a great opportunity for you to take part in ‘Golden Spoon’ just to get a sentence or even just a word from him. I’m sure it would benefit you a lot.

“Other than the two of us, there will be three more judges that will be swapped every episode. They will usually be professional chefs as well, often some with their own restaurants, or food-bloggers and food-anchors like myself. All of them will rate the dishes that you present and give advice on how to take your culinary skills further.”

By now, Xiao Ming had finished preparing the mango pudding and filled it into the bowls, raising the dish. “Look at this. The mango pudding is already prepared so it’s going in the fridge for now. It has to cool for two to four hours, depending on the proportion of the ingredients we used, so we have more than enough time to make the other dishes and chat for a while.”

He opened the fridge behind him and then put the mango pudding inside, turning back to face the camera afterward. “Next up will be the radish cakes since they need quite some time to be steamed and then sit for a while so that gives us time to make the other dishes later. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can leave a comment and Qian Huang will read them out loud so I can give you an answer.”

He picked up the radishes while he said so, starting to grate them.

Meanwhile, Qian Huang tsked. “You shouldn’t have said that. You won’t be able to tell them anything else if you answer all the questions. Here is already the first one: ‘Little Butterfly’ wants to know if it is really alright for absolute beginners to take part in ‘Golden Spoon’. What do you think about that, Xiao Ming?”

Xiao Ming put on a pensive expression while he continued to grate the radishes. “Well, as I said, everybody is eligible to take part. I guess that you will benefit more if you have a little bit of experience in cooking so an actual beginner might not take much away from this. But … there are still four weeks until the casting which is a lot of time if you make at least one meal a day or maybe even two. So I think registering now or practicing for a while and then registering when you feel more comfortable would be a good idea.”

Qian Huang nodded slightly and couldn’t help but reinforce Xiao Ming’s words. “So, ‘Little Butterfly’, there’s no reason not to give it a try.” He paused for a moment and went on to the next comment. “Then here is a question from …” His lips twitched when he saw the next name but he still read it out loud. “Nin Sha is asking whether the participants will get to see you in the casting already.”

Xiao Ming laughed lightly and nodded. “You can rest assured, Nin Sha, I will definitely be there. From what I know, we won’t taste everything in the casting ourselves because it would be way too much for just the panel of judges to handle. That is why for the casting process, while Mister Yu and I, as well as the other three judges, will be there, there will be several dozens of certified chefs to help us taste the dishes. When they feel that somebody has done especially well, then the panel of judges will have a taste of the dishes as well. In this way, there will be sixty-four participants chosen that are going to take part in the competition afterward.

“You can probably guess already from that number but the number of participants is supposed to be halved with each round. This is definitely something that will be very difficult to do. We don’t know how many participants there will be but since everybody can take part, I reckon that it will be a lot. Choosing just sixty-four people from this …” He shook his head. “Honestly, I’m glad that I’m not the only one who will have to decide on that. I’m sure that there will be a lot of amazing dishes served that day.”

Qian Huang once again nodded, satisfied with Xiao Ming’s answer. “So even if one of you goes to the casting and doesn’t manage to get any further, you shouldn’t be worried about this. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad. It’s just that there were way too many people for everybody who is good to be let through. In the end, there’s only a certain amount of slots available.”

Xiao Ming nodded. “Right. And especially at the beginning, the ratio of how many applied originally and how many can be let through will be big. There’s no way for everyone to get a place. After that, the competition will be difficult in another way because everybody will be amazing at cooking and we will likely have a hard time figuring out who is better than the others. At that point in time, it really depends on your skills alone.”

“Here is another question: ‘Cooking Enthusiast’ is asking what the chefs in the casting and in the subsequent rounds will pay attention to.”

Xiao Ming gave a hum at that and stopped grating the radish for a moment. “This is a good question and I think it’s not easy to answer. At the end of the day, while this show is not meant for professional chefs, it is still meant for people who love good food and cooking. So every bit of your skills is supposed to be tested. That means that everything that’s makes a good dish will be taken into consideration.

“Broadly speaking, there are quite a lot of things that go into what makes a good and a better dish. It’s not something I can summarize quickly. Actually, Qian Huang, Li Shui, and I have talked about it and in the four weeks leading up to the casting, we want to do a small series that will cover these things. There would still be tasty dishes with every stream but I will put some more emphasis on explaining certain steps in them rather than the whole cooking process.

“We believe that this might also be a good opportunity for you to ask some specific questions that you are worried about in regards to the show or that you might have been wondering about anyway.

“We would really like to know what your thoughts on this are though. It could be that quite a few of you aren’t interested in hearing about this. In that case, we would have to find an alternative that everybody is happy with.”

Qian Huang held his breath for a moment, looking at the comments that were coming in. “Looking at the comments right now, almost everybody seems to be in favor of doing this. We are going to set up a poll on our official Weibo page where you can vote on what you’d rather have us do. I will set this up at the side so you can already go over in a minute. I’ll give you a sign when it’s time.”

Xiao Ming smiled and raised the bowl with the grated radish to get everyone’s attention back to him to give Qian Huang time to deal with the poll. “While Qian Huang is taking care of this, let’s get back to the dish at hand.

“I’ve already grated the radish for the radish cake. Now, these have to be simmered but before that, I’m going to prepare the other ingredients for the filling.” He put the bowl down at the side and then picked up the green onions, starting to slice them. “By the way, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this last time but if you’re not a huge fan of radishes, then you can also use other ingredients like taro for example. Qian Huang doesn’t really like that version very much though so I normally go for this one.”

Qian Huang laughed and shook his head at him. “Don’t throw me under the bus. I would still eat it if you made it.”

Xiao Ming smiled and put the green onion to the side, picking up the ham instead.

Qian Huang spoke up again before he could say anything else. “Alright, the poll is open now. We’ll gather your votes until the next live stream in two days. So you should vote as soon as you can.”

He leaned back and then watched as the first votes already came in. His lips curved up in a satisfied arc. Well, it looked like this would be going well. While there were a few people who weren’t too interested in the cooking show and were more interested in continuing the streams just like before or at least voted that they didn’t care either way, the majority of the viewers was in favor of doing a special before the show.

On the other side of the kitchen, Xiao Ming continued to prepare the ingredients and then started to steam them. After closing the lid at the top, he turned back to the camera, giving another smile. “Alright, the radish cakes will have to steam for about fifty minutes now. In the meantime, we can start to prepare the carrot puffs.

“Maybe you normally rather hear of radish puffs but I felt that since we already had the radish cakes, it would be a nice change in flavor to make these with carrots instead.”

Li Shui behind the camera gave a hum that could be heard by the audience and made some sent rows of laughter in the live chat.

Qian Huang gave him a look and shook his head.

Xiao Ming also looked up but he just smiled. “You don’t know but it’s actually starting to smell really nice in here. I guess our Li Shui is getting hungry by now. We went out to the hotel where the press conference was held early this morning since there were some things that needed to be talked about beforehand and then I had to sit in the mask for a while and such things.

“Since Li Shui is the only one among us with a driver’s license, he naturally needed to come with us even though there was nothing for him to do. Then after the press conference was over, we drove straight home. It actually takes a few hours so Li Shui didn’t really have time to eat anything. The poor guy is probably starving.”

Li Shui also laughed and then motioned at the table. “You should hurry up a bit. If you don’t have a cameraman, how are you going to do live streams from now on?”

Xiao Ming laughed and then took one of the carrots, handing it to Li Shui. “Here, poor boy, eat this first. You’ll get something tasty in another hour.”

Li Shui gave a dissatisfied grunt but there was still the sound of somebody noisily eating a carrot heard by the audience.

Qian Huang couldn’t help but laugh when he glanced at the comments again. “Nin Sha is saying that he also knows how to operate a camera.”

Xiao Ming chuckled and shook his head. “Li Shui, did you hear that? You have to be careful or somebody is going to take your job.”

There was the sound of swallowing coming from behind the camera. “No, no, no! I won’t let him! The place behind this camera is mine.”

Xiao Ming flashed a smile but then glanced at the camera. “It seems like you’re out of luck, Nin Sha. Well, we’ll remember it should Li Shui ever get sick.”

Li Shui harrumphed but didn’t say anything more and just let Xiao Ming continue with what he was doing.

He once again prepared the ingredients first before he finally started to wrap them in the dough. “This reminds me of things we could talk about in the live streams until the show: There are actually several ways to form the dough that will result in differently shaped carrot puffs. I’m going to do something simple today since we aren’t talking about in detail but I could imagine doing a special just on this alone.”

Qian Huang turned towards the comments and picked up the notepad and pen at the side, taking some notes on what the viewers were saying. “Seems like people are in favor of that idea. Oh, ‘Cuddly Lion’ is asking if you could also do something on what kind of dish would be good for doing in the casting round.”

Xiao Ming looked up, seeming a bit thoughtful. “We definitely can. I actually think that this isn’t something that will require too much time to talk about though. Maybe I’ll just mention a few things that I have in mind right now? What do you think?”

Qian Huang gave a thumbs up and Xiao Ming smiled at the camera. “Well, if you’ve checked the description of what the casting round is about, you will have seen that you are supposed to do one dish that highlights your skills. For this, I think it would be good if you take a dish that you are familiar with because that would allow you to bring out the best in it and allow you the biggest chances to get into the next round.

“What kind of dish that is, isn’t really important. I think that with every dish, you have the opportunity to showcase something that you are especially talented with. I can get a little more into that in the next few streams to give some more examples but at the end of the day, this is a round where you don’t necessarily need to be innovative or very creative but just need to show that you have solid basic skills.

“I think that I would suggest doing something that you have done a lot of times already but still enjoy doing. That could be a favorite dish or something you have a nice memory of that you would always like to revisit. Because I think that in that case, you will never get tired of doing that dish. It’ll always be something you like to do.

“I do think that this happiness that you feel when you cook is the most important thing. At the very least, it always has been for me.” His face lit up a little further and he looked at the small carrot puffs that he had almost finished preparing.

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