There was an odd moment of silence on the stage as both judges stared at the bowl with the rice cake soup. Behind the scenes, everybody was taking a cursory glance at what was going on to already filter through the things that would be kept in the episode about the casting and what could either be deleted or should be saved for later. The situation on the stage soon attracted some views.
“What’s going on there? Why aren’t they saying anything?” The producer, Mister Bian, furrowed his brows a little, wondering if maybe this was because of Xiao Ming.
Even though he had invited him, it was indeed the case that he had mostly done so to bring in more viewers and especially get the younger people interested. After all, he was sure that that would finally benefit them in the end. But he had also been a bit worried about whether Xiao Ming was up for the task.
Now, seeing the situation of the stage, he felt like his worst nightmare was coming true. If it was just one scene, it could be cut out but this was only the casting and if something like this happened more often, then that would be quite difficult to deal with.
One of the staff members that had been keeping a close eye on things shook his head though. “It’s both Mister Xiao and Mister Yu, director. I listened in and apparently, the dish that this contestant made is quite surprising. There seems to be some kind of hidden meaning behind it as well. I actually think we should leave the scene in. We can cut out a bit to make it seem less long but I’m pretty sure that the viewers online will like this.” In fact, looking at those rotten women online, he was pretty sure that something like this had the potential to be shared widely in their circles. Even though the show was a serious one, why wouldn’t they want some more viewers? So this was actually a good opportunity.
The director didn’t quite catch his drift since he hadn’t heard the discussion about the shapes and also hadn’t looked too closely at what was in the bowl but he still nodded.
In his mind, this would at least make for a comedic touch. While the overall tone of ‘Golden Spoon’ was on the serious side, having a good laugh every now and then would also be good. Also, an interesting dish that could even make a seasoned chef like Mister Yu speechless was definitely something worth showing. They could even put this in a trailer!
“Alright, you keep it in then. Keep up the good work! Make sure that we have the most interesting tidbits ready this evening. We need to make some teasers before the episode airs next week. Hype it up online as much as we can!”
“Yes!” The staff members got back to work while the director walked off.
Not too far away, Qian Huang was also staring at the monitor. This one wasn’t part of the ones that the staff members used but actually the one in the waiting area where family and friends of the contestants could wait for them.
Since the three of them had come early, he had managed to snatch a good spot and was now watching whatever the camera showed outside. These clips were selected at random so he wasn’t able to see Xiao Ming all the time. But now that the judging process had started, there were quite a few more bits and pieces from the stage than there had been at the beginning when it had mostly been scenes of contestants cooking.
Right now, the cameraman was indeed showing the scene of Xiao Ming and Mister Yu staring into the bowl, looking at the rice cakes. There wasn’t any tone to make sure that not too much info would be given out to the public by some bloggers that had sneaked in and so as to not disturb the people that were waiting and cause too much of a commotion that might even disturb the people inside the hall. Still, he could see quite a bit from this.
In any case, Qian Huang knew Xiao Ming quite well. To show this kind of expression … something had to be seriously wrong. He squinted his eyes, trying to get a better look at the dish in the bowl. Were those … hearts?
It seemed like it. Unfortunately, he hadn’t seen the round rice cakes in Mister Yu’s bowl so he wasn’t able to make any kind of inference from that and just felt that it had to be something cute that the two judges hadn’t expected.
He couldn’t help but chuckle to himself. From what he remembered, you were only allowed to take part in the casting if you had come of age already. Could it be that some fourteen-year-old girl had sneaked in because she admired their Xiao Ming? That would definitely make the news!
But just then, the image that was shown already changed again and showed the long line of contestants down in the contestants’ area that wanted to turn in their dishes as well, taking away the view of the scene on stage.
Qian Huang sighed. He really would’ve liked to stay closer to Xiao Ming but he knew that there was nothing he could do. While the casting was running, it didn’t really matter where he was. And he’d rather not mingle with the staff members all the time or they would probably also get in trouble.
After all, while he was officially Xiao Ming’s assistant, he knew that they weren’t treated like other people. Letting Li Shui stay around with the cameramen was already pressing the matter. To add him into the mix … He really didn’t think that director Bian would let that happen that long. So he could only camp out here and hope that he could catch a glimpse of Xiao Ming every now and then. In any case, he could still ask him how things had gone when they went back in the evening.
Back on the stage, Xiao Ming and Mister Yu finally pulled themselves out of their shock. They looked back up at Si Jin, their expressions a bit subtle.
Xiao Ming finally cleared his throat. “Thank you very much. We’ll be told if you made it into the first episode after all the dishes have been rated.”
Si Jin nodded and took a moment longer to stare at Xiao Ming before he finally left. He didn’t even bother to glance at Mister Yu as if he couldn’t see anyone else around.
Xiao Ming followed his receding figures with his gaze, not sure what to think. In fact, his thoughts were in turmoil. The way Nin Sha had looked at him … it really was difficult to ignore. Also, this dish was really tasty. To think that he had only been cooking for four weeks … he could hardly believe it.
Could it be that Nin Sha had been lying about that and had actually been cooking beforehand? But then again, what reason would he have to do that? Showing that they shared something he loved would probably have made him feel closer than him picking it up just for the show. So this really had to be the truth.
While Xiao Ming’s expression was complicated, Mister Yu picked up his bowl and had a few spoonfuls more. “So far, I think this is the best dish that we’ve gotten. I know we shouldn’t judge before we have tasted all the dishes but I think that this man is a good contender for entering the first episode.”
“Ah?” Xiao Ming turned to the side to look at him and then slowly nodded. “Yes, he really put the bar quite high.” He looked at the bowl in his hand and then picked up the spoon, going ahead and eating a bit more as well. In any case, if Mister Yu was doing it, why shouldn’t he as well?
Even though all the dishes that they got today would be good since they were the best ones in the minds of the other judges, that didn’t mean that they couldn’t enjoy it when there was one that was especially well-made. And Nin Sha’s rice cake soup definitely qualified for that.
Meanwhile, Si Jin went past the spot where Si Yi stood, silently nodding at him before he went back to the workstation where he had originally been cooking. The spot was in the first row from the stage. Here, he mostly had an unobstructed view of Xiao Ming. Why would he leave the venue in such a case? Since he finally had the opportunity, he should make use of it.
Meanwhile, Xiao Ming and Mister Yu had finally put away the bowls that Si Jin had prepared. Looking at the dish that Si Yi was presenting, the two judges looked at each other and faintly raised their brows.
Before, there had also been a few people who had made the same dish. It wasn’t strange considering that there were hundreds of contestants so even if only a couple were chosen, it was quite likely to end up with similar dishes. But those people had arrived with quite a bit of time and several other dishes between each other.
Now, they actually had the same thing once again with hardly a minute in between. It actually made them feel a bit sorry for Si Yi. After having a taste of Si Jin’s dish just now, it would be more difficult to rate this one as highly. Even though they wouldn’t be unfair, it still couldn’t be denied that tasting a dish that was excellent and then having another version of it right after might lower the impression of the second one if it wasn’t of an even higher standard. And neither of them expected the latter to happen simply because Si Jin’s dish really had been that good.
Well, the two of them picked up the glass of water standing to the side and took a gulp, hoping that it would help with making them able to judge this dish a bit better. Then, they scooped up a spoonful of soup containing one of the rice cakes and gave it a taste.
Xiao Ming’s expression immediately turned blank and he couldn’t help but mumble under his breath. “This tastes virtually the same.”
Even if you followed the exact same recipe, it was unlikely for the taste to be completely alike. In any case, nobody would measure the food down to the milligram and everyone had their own taste. It would be quite likely that things like spices and the weight of the ingredients would’ve been adjusted to their own tastes or maybe to that of the people living with them. But this … it really tasted as if it came from the same pot.
Mister Yu was a bit more seasoned so he managed to hold back from saying anything but his expression was also slightly strange. He took another spoonful, closing his eyes to try and taste a difference. As a result, his brows twitched a bit. “I think there might be a slight difference in the amount of salt used.” But honestly, it could hardly be tasted. This one wasn’t over-seasoned and Si Jin’s couldn’t be called under-seasoned. It was really just that there was the slightest hint of them not being exactly the same but it was barely distinguishable if you didn’t go and look for it.
Having found this, he opened up one of the rice cakes that were suspiciously round and nodded his head. “Well, his rice cake is also very well-made. Looking at the inside, they are done to the same point everywhere, which is something that will often not be achieved by people who don’t have a bit of experience.” This was basically the same they had told Si Jin before so he couldn’t help but feel a bit strange.
These two wouldn’t have teamed up, would they? He wasn’t sure if there was some kind of joke being played on them. It might very well be. Nowadays, this kind of show was also about getting the highest number of viewers instead of just being about how to cook well. He didn’t necessarily have a problem with that as long as the cooking was also taken seriously. Now, he wasn’t quite sure.
He turned to Xiao Ming and faintly raised his brows. “What do you think?”
Xiao Ming had taken another spoonful but had to shake his head. “I’m sorry, senior Yu, I’m afraid I’m not able to taste it.” If he said that he thought there was more salt in this than in the one before … it would be a lie. He just couldn’t distinguish it.
Mister Yu nodded though. “To be honest, I’m not even sure myself.” He turned to look at Si Yi and couldn’t help but question him. “Young man, you wouldn’t know the contestant right before you, would you?”
Si Yi was a person who was rather straightforward in his dealings and this information might be revealed later on anyway so he saw no reason to lie. “As a matter of fact, I do know him. That person would happen to be my employer. We learned to cook together.”
“Oh.” Mister Yu nodded, feeling that this at least explained it somewhat. It was still an amazing feat to achieve though. Thinking of that, he couldn’t help but look down the stage and realize that these two people were actually among the ones that they had talked about before. The ones who had stood in a row of twenty men and had rather simultaneously managed to cook. It couldn’t be …
His lips twitched a bit when he figured that maybe the surprise wouldn’t end here. He already saw a bit of a problem ahead of them. Still, that was something to worry about when that time came.
Now, he just sighed and put down the spoon. “Well, what can I say to you? You’ve probably heard would I’ve told the contestant before you. Now, your dish is very similar to his, and I don’t think that Mister Xiao and I would’ve anything more to tell you. So unless you want us to repeat ourselves, I’m afraid we can only leave you with the very same feedback: The dish is very well done from the way it is presented to how the taste has been achieved. You will get the final response when all the dishes have been tasted.”
Si Yi inclined his head, not showing any kind of big response like the contestants before the ninjas of the Si clan had. “Thank you very much. If you’ll excuse me then.” With that, he just turned and walked off the stage, clearly not interested in staying any longer.
Mister Yu sighed and then leaned closer to Xiao Ming, making sure to give him a warning. “Xiao Ming, ah, think of the row of men from before. I’m afraid that we will have another eighteen dishes like this ahead of us. Better make sure you keep your composure or the two of us will look bad on camera. Millions of people will be able to see that. My granddaughter already warned me about it. You better remember that as well.”
Xiao Ming nodded with a dazed expression. This whole matter of the casting … he had really imagined it to go a little different.