The chef wasn’t the only one who was confounded. The staff member that was supposed to bring Si Jin over to where Xiao Ming and Mister Yu were sitting suddenly noticed that the contestant behind them had vanished. They looked around in bewilderment, trying to figure out just what had gone wrong.
The whole venue was organized in blocks with enough space between the different areas that it was easy to walk around. There really was no reason why any contestant should get lost on the way. Furthermore, this contestant was even from the area that was directly in front of the stage. There was absolutely no reason for him not to be able to keep up. It was barely a hundred steps!
Needless to say, Si Jin hadn’t gotten lost. A ninja without a sense of direction? Now that would be embarrassing! Not to speak of the master of the whole Si clan. No, instead, Si Jin had deliberately strayed from the path and returned to his cooking block because he had prepared something special that couldn’t be ignored.
He hurriedly took care of matters and soon emerged with another bowl in his hands. The cart he had used to bring the first bowl over to the preliminary judge was still in the hands of the staff member but Si Jin didn’t care. Other contestants might accidentally drop the bowl or spill something and thus ruin the way they had plated everything but not he. Keeping his hands steady was an easy feat for the master of the Si clan. He didn’t even glance at the bowl in his hands while he strode over to stand behind the staff member, waiting for them to lead the rest of the way so he could finally meet Xiao Ming for real.
The staff member that was still searching for Si Jin suddenly found him on their other side. They flinched and almost pushed down the cart holding the first bowl.
Si Jin reached out and stabilized it just in time, looking at the staff member with his usual blank look. In fact, he didn’t care much. The important bowl was the one he had carried over. This one could only count as a spare in his mind.
The staff member stared at him in return, unable to get out a word. They just felt that they understood less and less just what was going on here.
Si Jin didn’t bother saying anything and just glanced over to the stage where Xiao Ming was sitting, impatient inside. He turned back to the staff member who seemed to have forgotten that they had a job to do and kindly reminded them. “Stage.”
The staff member was pulled out of their confusion and looked over, finally realizing that they were holding up everyone. The two judges needed to have a look at this contestant’s dish, and then the others could finally follow. “Ah, yes, I’m sorry. Let’s go over right now.”
They reached out to take the second bowl from Si Jin and put it on the cart but the ninja turned away and walked forward himself. While he did so, his gaze was naturally fixed on Xiao Ming up on the stage.
The contestants were supposed to stand at a specific spot and wait for the staff member to wheel over the dish and then the judges’ result, but Si Jin completely ignored the mark on the ground, and walked forward, putting the bowl down in front of Xiao Ming.
Seeing as this was their first real meeting even made himself say a few words to accompany the gesture. “For you.” Actually, Si Jin really would’ve wanted to make another love confession but he felt that right now wouldn’t be the best moment for that so he kept quiet after that and just gazed at Xiao Ming.
Oh, even though he had regularly watched his live stream, that really couldn’t compare to seeing the real him. And being so close made his heart beat faster. From up here, he could even smell the lotion Xiao Ming used.
Meanwhile, the staff member rushed forward, grabbed him by the shoulder, and motioned to the spot on the ground. “Actually, you’re supposed to stand over there.”
Si Jin didn’t say anything and just continued to look at Xiao Ming before he finally turned around, swiftly walked back, and then turned around to stare at him again.
The staff member sighed in relief when Si Jin didn’t make trouble and finally put the second bowl in front of Mister Yu. Then they nodded at the judges and returned back down to deal with matters there.
Despite the time this had taken, Xiao Ming still hadn’t managed to take a look at the bowl in front of him yet because he was completely dumbfounded by Si Jin’s behavior. This guy … he did know that he was being filmed, right?
Next to him, Mister Yu had watched everything but had also taken a look at his bowl as soon as he received it and was nodding. “The presentation is already very good. I like this combination of the bowl with the traditional round shape and this asymmetric plate. Also, just look at the rice cakes. They are completely smooth and a perfect ball shape. This is seldom seen with people who aren’t experienced. I have to say this is very good.” He had spooned up one of the rice cakes and was showing it off to the camera, not noticing that Xiao Ming next to him still hadn’t moved.
The several cameras were focused on what was happening on the stage, one of them directed at one judge each while another one filmed the respective contestant. There was even another one that was giving more of an overview to show the dynamic of the three people. So far, things had been rather standard. The contestants were nervous, the judges gave the dish a test and then some feedback, after that, there would be a goodbye already and then it was time for the next person.
While this was something that needed to be filmed to introduce the contestants later on, it wasn’t that spectacular. The show was definitely missing a highlight. Now, the option might have finally arrived: There was Mister Yu on the one hand who was judging the food in earnest, while there were Xiao Ming and the contestant on the other hand, who seemed to be having some kind of secret thing going on that the cameraman giving the overview couldn’t really judge.
Li Shui was actually standing next to this one. Seeing what was happening over there, he pondered for a moment and then realized what had to be going on. He hesitated for a moment longer but then figured that the more one knew, the better one could do their job. Thus, he took out his phone and typed something, holding it toward the cameraman who raised his brows in response.
Having seen the message, he made sure to focus on this part of the equation. This was definitely something that the bosses wouldn’t want to miss out on! He had to capture it well.
Meanwhile, Xiao Ming finally managed to pull his gaze away from Si Jin and look over at what Mister Yu was holding up. Seeing the rice cake, he hurriedly nodded his agreement. “It’s very well-made.”
It might have been his misconception but Si Jin looked as if he was straightening up a little, as if happy about Xiao Ming’s praise.
Mister Yu tasted the soup and put on a pensive expression.
Xiao Ming also realized that he had to do something or it would seem like he wasn’t taking his job seriously. He picked up the spoon and also scooped up a little bit of the soup and one of the rice cakes. Just when he wanted to take a bite, he stopped and lowered the spoon again only to raise his brows at it. “Ah, the rice cakes are actually in different shapes!”
This definitely needed a bit more effort than to just make one shape. It also showed that this person was somebody who had quite a bit of experience. It was actually quite strange considering that from what he knew, Si Jin had only started to learn how to cook four weeks ago when the press conference for ‘Golden Spoon’ had ended. How did he manage to gain this much experience in such a short time? It seemed unbelievable.
After a moment, Xiao Ming shook his head at himself and took a bite, closing his eyes to focus on the task at hand. He definitely couldn’t get distracted anymore. There would still be more than enough time in the evening to think about whatever was going on with Si Jin. By then, he could even talk it over with Li Shui and Qian Huang.
After a moment, Xiao Ming nodded and opened his eyes again, giving Si Jin a smile. “Very good. The taste is very well-rounded. There’s the sweetness of the rice cakes, the saltiness from the soy sauce, and also a bit of heat from the spices. When eating it, the tastes intermingle, with neither of them being too much compared to the others.
“Looking at what’s inside, I can see that you put a lot of effort into preparing the ingredients. The cuts of the vegetables are even.” To be honest, they were so even that he felt Si Jin might have been able to become a chef himself without trouble. Clearly, this man was quite talented in cooking. “In regard to the rice cakes, not to mention the form, I also think that the texture is just right.”
Next to him, Mister Yu nodded and spooned up another one. “It is indeed very good. Sometimes, if they weren’t prepared well or weren’t cooked well, it will be uneven but I have cut open another two after eating the first and couldn’t find any problems. Also, did you say you had different shapes?” He leaned closer to Xiao Ming, looking into his bowl. Then, he realized that this was a bit wrong. He furrowed his brows and looked at the rice cakes that were floating in the soup, pointing at each of them as if to count. “Xiao Ming, say, how come they are all hearts?”
“Ah?” Xiao Ming looked up, not quite sure what he meant but after a gesture from Mister Yu, he looked back into his bowl, examining all of the rice cakes, only to realize that while Mister Yu’s rice cakes were all perfectly round, he had only gotten hearts.
Xiao Ming and Mister Yu both stared at his bowl, clearly completely puzzled. On the other hand, Si Jin was standing there with a blank expression, wondering if he had done something wrong. Clearly, he had tried to show his feelings with this bowl of rice cake soup. How come Xiao Ming wasn’t able to understand? Actually, he felt a bit down thinking about it.