OCN C55 Handsome Contestants

Time slowly trickled by. The new host, E Cheng Jun, went down the small staircase in front of the stage and walked to the rows of kitchen blocks to ask a few of the contestants questions.

While the opening had been live broadcasted, this part was only accompanied by the cameramen of the Channel that was hosting the show. They had been filming all the time, trying to get some beautiful shots of the contestants and how they were making dishes, as well as the two judges on top of the stage and the employees that were standing in the common areas and wandering through the rows of kitchen blocks.

Just that would not be enough to fill the first episode though. In the final product, there should be some people introduced and the atmosphere needed to be shown. Whether somebody messed up because they were too anxious or whether somebody who was incredibly calm actually managed to make it through, the more they could capture, the better! That way, the first episode would be more interesting to watch and the viewer rate would be higher. A good, first episode was the best advertisement for a show. And while the cooking was important, the people and their relationships were what made a truly excellent show.

E Cheng Jun didn’t think too much. Right now, there was still no way to know which contestants would make it past the casting. Thus, just getting some random opinions was enough. If a person looked interesting, that was enough of a reason to ask a couple of questions.

She walked over to the closest cooking blocks. Since those who registered the earliest were put closer to the stage with subsequent applicants being spread out to either side, those blocks happened to be the ones that the ninjas of the Si clan were occupying.

E Cheng Jun glanced at Si Jin and couldn’t help but stare for a second. Si Jin was a handsome man despite or maybe especially because of his cold expression. That really set off his facial contours. Unfortunately, it also made him look very unapproachable.

E Cheng Jun finally turned to the next person which happened to be Si Yi. She walked the last few steps, smiled at him, and then raised the microphone while glancing at the cutting board in front of him. “Hello, there! I see you are right in the middle of preparing your dish. Would you mind telling us what you are making today?” She extended the microphone, making Si Yi look up.

“Right now, I’m making rice cakes for a rice cake soup.”

E Cheng Jun raised her brows, a little surprised. That was basically making a dish to make another dish. This was quite ambitious for the casting. It seemed she had chosen the first person wisely. “Ah, that sounds lovely. May I ask if you have a background in cooking?”

While the contestants weren’t allowed to be professional chefs, that didn’t mean that people couldn’t have some kind of background that included cooking. After all, there were other jobs that might require you to know how to do it as well. Just think of how caregivers would often prepare meals for their patients or how a small event planner agency might take care of the catering themselves.

Si Yi slightly shook his head while he continued to cut the prepared dough and then shape it. “I do not. I am a personal assistant. Cooking was never part of my set of tasks. The person I work for has a chef for that.”

E Cheng Jun was quite interested in hearing that. In any case, he looked like he was doing pretty well so that suggested that there might be some backstory. “Oh? That sounds like you might’ve had the chance to ask for some tips.”

Si Yi nodded straightforwardly. Si Shi Qi had mentioned beforehand that they should cooperate as much as possible with the host and other judges. The more of a show they made, the longer they would be shown in the final episode, pushing out the other contestants. After all, the program was supposed to be interesting. It should entertain its viewers, instead of seriously educating them on how to cook. Sure, there would be some tips on what could be done and some recipes would be shared, but that wasn’t the main value of the show. So it was best to make themselves look like they would add value to the show to capture the eyes of the team.

Reminding himself of that, he was very open in answering E Cheng Jun|s question. “That is indeed the case. To be honest, since the food is usually handled by him or we would eat out, I haven’t been cooking for long. To make up for that, I had to ask for some advice to make sure I would stand a chance.” He gave a faint smile but still focused more on the cooking process than the woman in front of him. In any case, they were here to get into the next episode and secure nineteen additional spots for their master to reduce his competition. Being entertaining was good for that but having a decent dish was even more important. A boring person with an excellent dish would be let through while an interesting person with miserable cooking skills didn’t stand a chance. If it was different, the show would lose all its credibility.

E Cheng Jun felt a bit awkward that he wouldn’t look up. After all, she had noticed that he was quite handsome. That was something that would make potential viewers more interested. It was a pity that he didn’t seem willing to show off his good looks. But then again, these people were here to cook so it was also good that he took it seriously. They could probably turn that into an advertisement as well.

She made another attempt to get some more information from him. “Then, how do you think are your chances of getting into the next episode?”

Si Yi stilled for a moment before he resumed cooking. “That is difficult to say without knowing the opposition’s skill level but I have prepared as well as I could. So I would think that I definitely shouldn’t be among the last ones. Even if I can’t win, I would see myself at least in the middle field of the contestants.”

“Oh, don’t you think that that is a rather generous statement if you haven’t been cooking for long? What makes you so confident?”

“As a personal assistant, I am often required to take care of several tasks at once. In high-stress situations, I will not be as easily flustered as others. Furthermore, the person I work for will often be in situations with high stakes. Thus, I am not nervous when attending this kind of event. So I think that I will be able to triumph over quite a few contestants just by the grace of this fact alone. In this kind of show and especially in the casting and the first few episodes, not only one’s skills in the kitchen are important, but also one’s attitude. I think that I excel in that area and will be able to make up for my shortcomings in the former through that.”

E Cheng Jun smiled happily now that she had gotten a better answer out of him and went on to ask her last question. “Then, we might indeed be seeing you again in the first episode. Would you mind telling us your name?”

“Si Yi.” Si Yi inclined his head in greeting, a faint smile on his lips.

The other ninjas had to go by an alias outside in the real world. But as the first one of the clan right after his master, he had the honor of using his real name. Why wouldn’t he be proud when he got the chance to profess his identity this openly?

Next to him, seventeen pairs of eyes shot over with varying degrees of complaints written in them. Only one pair held a faint indulgence and maybe a hint of worship deep below. Si Yi didn’t seem to notice either of the other ninjas’ reactions and just focused on cooking again. By now, the rice cakes had already been cut. He thought for a moment and decided not to shape them further. In any case, their dishes also shouldn’t be completely identical.

E Cheng Jun also said her goodbye now that she knew and turned to look for the next person. She didn’t need to search for long. The person right next to this one was another handsome man. For a moment, E Cheng Jun was stunned. Who would’ve thought that this kind of show would actually interest so many good-looking men? Well, this was really good! Just showing a highlight reel of their most handsome contestants would probably drive the number of viewers up by half.

She went over and gave Si Er a smile. This time, she changed the sequence of the questions, already feeling like she might be lucky to get an interview that could be incorporated in full. “Hello, there! Might I know your name?”

Si Er was different from Si Yi and looked up, actually pausing in his movement. He loved to sit at home with his computer the most but he also loved fun things so he felt like he was in his element in this interview. “Sima Qiu!” He smiled at the camera mischievously, clearly not having any kind of stage fright.

E Cheng Jun smiled back, feeling that this would be an interesting contestant as well. “Then, Sima Qiu, might I ask what you are doing for a living?”

Si Er gave a hum, not quite sure how to answer that. In any case, he was a hacker. While he felt that it was a good job, he knew very well that it wasn’t a good job to speak about. What else to say was a bit of a problem though. “Well, you could say that I’m somewhat of a programmer.” This wasn’t quite the same but at the very least, it came slightly closer than most of the other things he could say.

“Ah, so you have nothing to do with cooking?” Her impression of people working in IT were guys with beer bellies that would only eat instant noodles. She knew that couldn’t be the truth but seeing Si Er not only be handsome but also take part in a cooking show, she felt like this was really too good to be true!

Si Er smiled. “If I had, I bet I’d be disqualified already. Didn’t the show have some rule on not allowing chefs?”

“Yes, it did!” E Cheng Jun felt even more that talking with him was nice, so she happily continued. “Now, then what exactly are you making today?”

Si Er smiled triumphantly and lifted the rice cake he had just shaped. “Rice cakes soup.”

E Cheng Jun’s expression changed and she glanced back at Si Yi. How come there were two contestants and both of them were making rice cake soup? She hurriedly hid her expression though and just smiled. “Rice cake soup, so? That is quite ambitious. You must be pretty skilled at cooking, right?”

Si Er shook his head though. “No, I only started learning recently. Actually, I guess I’m not that good.”

At this moment, E Cheng Jun felt a little helpless. “Ah, even though that’s the case, I’m sure that if you give it your best, you’ll be able to make a tasty dish even if you won’t be able to make it into the next episode. In any case, with how many people there are around, the competition is really hard.”

Si Er slowly nodded his head. “Naturally. But in any case, I still think I’m in the upper half of the contestants. You know, as a … programmer, it’s my talent to directly pierce problems with a glance and recognize what lies at their core. So with cooking, I’m also able to see the true heart of the matter.”

Not far from them, Si Shi Wu glanced over, giving Si Er a mocking glance. What seeing through the heart of the matter? This guy was always clowning around. It was a wonder that he was actually able to finish the dish. But considering that he had still been doing better than Si Qi or Si Shi Qi, he also couldn’t scold him for it. As long as the work was satisfactory, that was enough.

Meanwhile, E Cheng Jun was stunned that she had once again picked such a confident person. Was nobody here worried about how they were doing? Seeing that she wouldn’t be able to have a talk with him either about how difficult everything was, she hurriedly bid her farewell and then continued to look down the row of contestants.

This time, she actually stood rooted to the spot for a moment before she turned to the camera. “I am actually wondering if the producer is playing a little joke on me. Look at this row of contestants. Doesn’t it look as if they are all models or actors?”

The cameraman had a quick look himself, and then gave a close-up, starting from the face of Si Jin at one side of the aisle, and then went down from Si Yi to Si Er Shi. Just like E Cheng Jun had said, they really were all good-looking men. The most surprising was that quite a few of them actually weren’t nameless people but known in the industry.

The producer who was watching from backstage hurriedly had E Cheng Jun informed and directed her to go over to the people in question. She actually felt a little incredulous when she was told but when she came closer, she realized that it was true. A politician, a famous athlete, a novelist, a musician, who exactly wasn’t here? Who would’ve known that cooking had actually this much appeal?

Even though she often had to do with high-profile people, she still picked out a person that was a little more low-key and went to Si Wu’s side. “This contestant here, I’m sure that I recognize you from somewhere!”

Si Wu who had been warned about cutting a good figure just like everyone else glanced up and gave her a scrutinizing look. “Oh? Did you go to Yangshe University?”

E Cheng Jun laughed, feeling that this person was quite straightforward. This was great! This way, she would be able to ask him a few more questions than the other two. “I didn’t but I know some people who did. I’ve gone to visit them a few times and I think I’ve seen you around there. Are you working at the university?”

Si Wu inclined his head and politely put down the knife in his hand that he had just used to cut the other ingredients for the soup. “I do. I happen to be teaching physics. My name is Sikou Yun.”

E Cheng Jun raised her brows as if in surprise, and then repeated what she was being told through her earpiece. “Sikou Yun? Oh my, now I feel bad for not recognizing you immediately. I remember that Professor Sikou has managed to become a professor before even reaching thirty years of age. That is quite the feat! I never would’ve thought that a man like you would also be interested in cooking.”

Si Wu smiled politely and glanced at the things in front of him. Contrary to some of the others who were a bit more obscure or who didn’t have to pay too much attention to their reputation because this kind of thing wouldn’t seem frivolous, it was a bit different for him. Thus, he was one of the few who really needed to weigh their words in this kind of interview.

“Well, I think that in the pursuit of knowledge, it is always important to keep an open mind. Trying out new things every now and then is a way to change our perception of the world and knowledge. So every now and then, I like to try new things. Cooking is something that I recently picked up. I’m afraid I probably won’t be able to compare to most of the other contestants here but I will definitely try my best so as to not lose face in front of my students.” He laughed lightly, delighting the host to no end.

Look at this! These men weren’t just good-looking, they also had such nice voices. She was loving this more and more. “Then, I’m wishing Professor Sikou good luck! I’m sure that even if you don’t manage to get into the first episode, your students will already be proud of you for even giving it a try. You truly are leading by good example.”

Si Wu nodded his head and thanked her for her words before he went back to cooking when she finally left. He sped up, trying to catch up with the others that had been able to cook uninterrupted and had already finished cutting the other ingredients. He had to make sure that nothing went wrong now.

Meanwhile, E Cheng Jun went on to Si Qi, and this time, she didn’t make a show of not quite recognizing the person. “Isn’t this Mister Shi?”

Si Qi glanced up and smiled, looking a little flattered. “To actually be recognized by Miss E, I feel like I must’ve reached the pinnacle of my line of work. Usually, I don’t have this kind of good luck.”

To be honest, the people backstage had indeed not been able to recognize him as easily, but when Si Shi Wu realized that they had taken note of the other ninjas of the Si clan, he went to provide them with some more information. After all, he had also been informed by Si Shi Qi. Thus, he casually mentioned the relevant information to a team member who then went on to tell the others.

Back in the front, the host was once again glad that she was having somebody be cooperative. “Ah, Mister Shi must be joking with me. I’m sure you get recognized all the time. Didn’t your latest novel just win an award?”

Si Qi smiled faintly, looking a little awkward. “The novel sure did but I don’t think most people know who is the one behind the work. As a novelist, I’m not the same as those people who are usually seen on TV. What people know is my voice or what they take for it. Not so much my face.”

“Ah, it seems like such a pity. Mister Shi sure has a face that is worth remembering.”

Si Qi chuckled in response. “Thank you very much for the compliment. To be remembered by Miss E is my good luck.”

E Cheng Jun couldn’t help but laugh as well and leaned in closer. “I can be your good luck fairy if you want me to. How about you reveal some information for me in return?”

Si Qi smiled. “Is that how it works? What do you want to know then?”

“Well, I’m personally a fan of Princess Mei Guo but the latest volume made it seem as if she might not return. Can you reveal a little something about that? Will she be the final love interest?”

The corners of Si Qi’s lips curled up a little further. The series E Cheng Jun was asking about was the one that had been inspired by his own life the most. The male lead … he was modeled after a certain somebody. Naturally, he wouldn’t want to see him end up with one of the women that had been introduced to the story. In his mind, either this person ended up with the character that had been modeled after him or he would simply refuse to write a happy end in that regard. At the very least, those were his thoughts at this point in time. Not that he could really tell the host that.

Si Qi faintly shook his head at her, the smile still in place as if it wouldn’t hurt every time this was brought up to his face. “I’m afraid I can’t talk about that. How about choosing something else?”

E Cheng Jun pretended to be disappointed but then switched back to talking about the topic of the show. “Well then, let me ask you something more personal: It seems that you are also quite fond of cooking. Is that true?”

Si Qi’s expression seemed to turn troubled even though this question should have been less difficult to answer. “To say that I’m quite fond of it … I’m not quite sure. To be honest, it is something that I recently picked up.”

A muscle in E Cheng Jun’s cheek twitched when she heard the same sentence for the fourth time in a row, but she managed to stabilize her smile before it had gotten too awkward. “Is that so?”

Si Qi nodded his head as if he hadn’t realized her mood swing at all. He still decided to give her something more “Yes. To be honest, this is a bit embarrassing but there is this person that I like.” He stopped there, his expression still complicated.

E Cheng Jun who had just felt that maybe speaking to him hadn’t been such a good idea was immediately intrigued. “Oh? A person that Mister Shi likes? That must be somebody quite special. Is it somebody that we know?”

For a short moment, Si Qi glanced to his left where Si Yi was already marinating the meat. “Somebody you know … it depends on how you would define knowing somebody. In any case, it is a person I have known for a very long time. It is just that even if you spend a lot of time with somebody, it isn’t always easy to convey these feelings. It is especially difficult when the person you admire is somebody very self-reliant and independent who doesn’t really need you at their side. So, I can’t help but feel that I should make myself a bit more useful. Cooking just seemed like an obvious choice when I thought about it.”

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