Xiao Ming still felt as if he could feel the gaze on him so every now and then, he would glance in Nin Sha’s direction. When he finally noticed the stiff smile, he inexplicably calmed down. Looking at it, he had the distinct feeling that this man just wasn’t very expressive. Just look at his smile! Even though he himself was so handsome, his smile was ugly to the point that it was hard to look at. Clearly, he wasn’t used to displaying his affection. So most likely, staring at the person he admired was the only thing he could do.
Well, considering that Nin Sha had been watching him on the live stream before, it probably wasn’t that strange either that he would just stare. After all, when it came to food anchors like him, people only knew them from the screen. They didn’t need to pay attention to their own expressions when they looked at them. Maybe there was also a bit of a disconnect between that and the reality right now. Having realized this, Xiao Ming looked over, and seeing that the two of them had some type of relationship, actually gave a faint smile of his own.
The corners of Si Jin’s mouth immediately fell again and he stared at Xiao Ming, completely unable to believe what he had just seen. This smile … he really wanted to take a screenshot! Unfortunately, this right now was real life and he couldn’t do it. But just the feeling that Xiao Ming was smiling at him personally made him feel as if he was walking on clouds despite the fact that he was standing on even ground.
Pondering for a moment, he realized that this seemed to have been the result of following Si Er’s suggestion. Thus, he forced himself to smile again, maintaining this kind of stiff expression that was difficult to look at.
As a result, Xiao Ming couldn’t help but feel that it was a little cute. He continued to glance at him every now and then, but also looked at the other contestants a little to try and get used to the scene a bit. Looking at the many people that were coming in and the staff that was incredibly busy, showing everyone to their places, his heart thumped faintly, and nervousness started to creep up on him again.
The minute changes in his expression naturally didn’t escape Si Jin’s sharp eyes. Inwardly, he couldn’t help but feel distressed for Xiao Ming. If only there was something he could do for him! But unfortunately, he could only stand in his spot, waiting for the casting to start. Ah, but most likely, he would be able to say a few encouraging words to him later on. His cooking skills by now should be good enough to have this dish be tasted by Xiao Ming. At that time, he would definitely be able to step forward and really get to know him.
Soon enough, all the other contestants had arrived, and it was time for the casting to start. At this moment, Xiao Ming and Mister Yu didn’t need to do anything yet. Instead, it was the new host who stood up, a microphone in her hand, and smiled at all the contestants.
“Welcome, everybody, to the casting of Golden Spoon! I am E Cheng Jun, your host for today!” She made a small pause there while the people in the audience started to whisper. “You might be a little surprised to see me here. Originally, Mister Ren was supposed to the hosting this show but, unfortunately, he had an accident just yesterday on his way back from work. Thus, I will be filling in for him.
“Now, I hope you are all excited for the start of the show. I’m not going to bore you with too many words as I’m sure that you’re all eager to start swinging your spoons. Just let me give you a short reminder of the most important things that you need to keep in mind so nothing will go wrong when you’re at the height of the battle.
“All of you have three hours to make your dish. You have most of the utensils that you will need right in front of you, completely at your disposal. As for the ingredients, seasonings, dishes, and everything else that might be necessary to make your dish, you can find those over in the common areas.
“Now, let me show you how to find your area.” She motioned up to somewhere over their heads, and the light suddenly went out. Then, a row of cooking blocks was lit up. E Cheng Jun was covered in a spotlight as well and motioned over. “This is group one. All members of this group will share the common area one. So if either of you needs something, you have to head over to the place that is going to light up now!” Just as her words fell, another area was lit up, showing some dazzling colors on top.
The next moment, all of the lights went out again save for the spotlight on E Cheng Jun. “Now, your common area is usually the one that is closest to you. We will light up the different zones now so that you can take a quick look around and orient yourself. If you are unsure later on, just take a look at the floor, as we’ve printed on some arrows that will lead you to your common area on the shortest way possible.”
One after the other, the areas lit up with their own common areas. The participants looked over and also checked the ground, realizing that there were indeed some arrows painted on the ground.
Finally, all of the lights went on again, and E Cheng Jun motioned at a row of staff members that had moved to the front of the stage while the lights had been out. “If there is something that you need but can’t find, please wave over one of the staff members and ask them for help. You are able to recognize them with one look at the uniforms they are wearing.
“Now, if you have finished preparing your dish and plated it, you should also wave over one of the staff members or bring the finished dish over to them together with your number plate. The dish will then go to one of the chefs to be pre-judged. If your dish manages to convince this chef, a staff member will then lead you over to the stage to present your dish to our two main judges: Mister Yu and Mister Xiao. Please give them a round of applause!” She motioned over to the two men that had been sitting at the table behind her.
The two of them got up and bowed in the direction of the audience. They weren’t required to say anything yet though and just sat down again and left things to E Cheng Jun.
“Now, we have covered everything you need to know and can start. Please have a look at the clocks below the ceiling to make sure you keep the time in mind. Dishes that aren’t finished within the allotted time of three hours will not be tasted anymore. Now, I wish every one of you good luck for advancing to the first episode! Jiayou!”
With her last word, the clocks were lit up, displaying three hours of time that slowly started to trickle away.
The contestants immediately started to get nervous and scrambled for their common area to get their ingredients. On the other hand, Si Jin took a moment longer to look at Xiao Ming who was still smiling faintly before he turned around, and headed toward the common area himself.
Compared to the other contestants that looked like headless flies, Si Jin really seemed too collected with going from one end of the common area to the other, picking everything up he needed without a change in expression like a robot that had been programmed to do exactly this sequence of actions.
Whether it was the staff members or the other contestants, they all couldn’t help but glance over when they saw his systematic approach, wondering just who this person was. Then, they noticed that other than Si Jin, there was actually a Si Yi and a whole row of other men that had pretty much the same bearing in their common area.
Immediately, the other contestants’ faces fell. Even though some of them were just here for the excitement and others had joined in to give it a try without having many expectations, being presented with twenty men that seemed self-assured that they would take the win home, their spirits couldn’t help but take a big hit.
Si Jin and the nineteen ninjas of the Si clan that were following him didn’t bother about them, and just calmly selected everything they needed. Considering everything that Xiao Ming had said in the live stream yesterday, they even selected the bowls and plates that they wanted to use, making sure that they would have everything they needed by the time it was necessary.
Because they had so often cooked together and were well acquainted with each other in general, their movements seemed almost uniform. The fact that all twenty of them were making the same dish made this even more obvious. Even the tableware that they chose only had minimal differences between them. It really was looking quite strange.
One of the staff members couldn’t help but furrow their brows and then silently left, going to inquire if maybe this was some case of cheating that they should keep an eye out for.
As a result, the crew behind the scenes was stunned. Cheating? Well, just because they used the same recipe and utensils, it was hard to call it that. As long as everybody cooked their own dish, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. Although they had to say that it really was quite odd. And it did make them question if maybe this would be a problem in the future.
Just imagine if these twenty were all able to cook the dish perfectly and had to be let into the next round! Would they still continue to try and cook the same thing then? The viewers at home would definitely laugh their heads off.
While the producer already started to worry about that kind of thing, the ninjas just quietly cooked. Since they were close to the stage, Mister Yu and Xiao Ming both couldn’t help but watch them after a while.
Mister Yu faintly turned to Xiao Ming and motioned over. “What do you think about them?”
Xiao Ming watched, a little amazed. “They seem like they have a lot of routine.” They even seemed like they had a lot of routine doing this together which was quite strange. His first guess might’ve been that these twenty guys were somehow working at the same place, doing this regularly. But then, that didn’t make sense. If they were actually working as chefs, they would be disqualified right off the bat. So they probably wouldn’t do that. On the other hand, he really couldn’t find another explanation for this.
Mister Yu nodded, feeling puzzled as well. “It reminds me of these sports where people will do everything at the same time. I wonder if there’s some online trend about cooking synchronously as well?” He looked at Xiao Ming questioningly, wondering if he knew something more. Even though this person had disdained his granddaughter, he still felt that he was generally a good person. Thus, he wouldn’t refuse to talk to him.
Xiao Ming could only look on in puzzlement so and shake his head. “If there is, I’ve never heard about it. I know that there are a lot of food blogs and streams and also people who stream themselves eating but I’ve never heard of something like this.”
Mister Yu nodded. “Well, maybe it’s not something that has made it big. Actually, my granddaughter has told me quite a lot about the things online. It’s really puzzling sometimes to an old man like me.”
Xiao Ming cautiously glanced at him when the granddaughter was brought up again.
Seeing his gaze, Mister Yu huffed. “You are looking as if I said something wrong. In any case, didn’t you also say she was pretty? Why are you looking so uncomfortable when I bring her up?” He really was puzzled by this. At first, he hadn’t even told Xiao Ming who she was. So he hadn’t had any reason to mindlessly flatter her. But then, after knowing who she was, why didn’t he seem interested at all? Shouldn’t the fact that she was going to become a professional chef and was even his granddaughter help in making him interested?
Xiao Ming looked at Mister Yu with a complicated expression, not sure what to say. He had really admired this person for a long time. Also, he had a soft spot for the elderly and Mister Yu really seemed like a kindhearted elder. He didn’t want to disappoint him. But at the same time, he had also never needed to come out like this. Now, he was really put in a bad spot.
Mister Yu was still looking at him, faintly raised his brows. “What’s the matter? Young man, just say it out loud! In any case, I won’t disdain you just because you have bad taste.”
Xiao Ming’s lips twitched when he heard that. So, if he just said that he didn’t like her that way, he would immediately be seen as somebody with bad taste? This really was harsh. Mister Yu was surprisingly biased when it came to his family. But, well, who wouldn’t be?
Glancing at the rows of participants again, Xiao Ming finally smiled faintly. “I’m sure that Mister Yu’s granddaughter is a lovely lady and whoever marries her in the future will definitely be a very lucky person.”
Mister Yu nodded along, feeling that this was really a sensible thing to say.
Xiao Ming’s smile turned apologetic and he couldn’t help but shake his head. “Unfortunately, I don’t like women that way. So I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. Pretending that it was otherwise would just be making your granddaughter unhappy and offend you.”
Mister Yu who was suddenly presented with this kind of truth widened his eyes. Meanwhile, nineteen pairs of lips hooked up into a satisfied smile while one other person just looked up at Xiao Ming again, blindly cutting his vegetables. Xiao Ming … had finally said it out loud. He actually wasn’t interested in women. His pursuit of five years … had indeed not been in vain.