An hour later, the last contestant’s dish had been presented to Xiao Ming and Mister Yu, making the casting come to its official end.
Even though most of the contestants had already left the venue and there were only a couple of the most curious still sticking around, the host, E Cheng Jun, stepped forward with a smile to give the small speech.
“Time’s up, everyone! I hope that you were successful in making your dishes and had fun. By now, all of your dishes should have been tested by our judges. Our two main judges, Mister Yu and Mister Xiao, will now make their way behind the stage and discuss which dishes they deem to be the best.
“This process will likely take a couple of hours as I’m sure there were a lot of awesome dishes presented to them today. So you don’t have to stick around. You will be informed through the contact information that you left with us whether your dish made the cut or not and a list of the contestants that made it to the first official episode will go online at eight pm today.
“So for now, I will have to bid you farewell. On your way out, you can take a look at the lobby. We have gathered some of the dishes that the preliminary judges thought of well so that you can give them a taste as well and see how you compare.
“These dishes were all provided by the other contestants in the hope that you will provide them with feedback. So, after giving them a taste, you can leave your opinion on the cards that are provided next to each dish. We will show these on the website of the show later on. It is up to you whether you want to leave your name or if you’d rather provide your comment anonymously.
“Now, let me wish you all a wonderful day and I hope to see you again next week!” She smiled and bowed before she waved at the contestants and indicated the way out of the hall.
The remaining contestants clapped her hands, save for the two that were standing in the first row, just staring behind her.
E Cheng Jun wasn’t quite sure what to make of the two of them but she still continued to smile and wave, finally going behind the stage together with Mister Yu and Xiao Ming.
As soon as they were out of earshot, she couldn’t help but heave a sigh of relief. “Phew! This was harder than I thought it would be. The two contestants left in the first row were staring so intently, I was afraid there was something wrong with my clothes.” She hurriedly patted her chest and hips, making sure that nothing was peeking out anywhere. No, everything seemed to be alright.
Xiao Ming gave her commiserating smile. “Yes, they were like that when we were testing their dishes as well.” He could imagine that it had absolutely nothing to do with either of their work and was just the way that Nin Sha usually behaved but it was still a little unnerving when you were stared at all the time. And there really was no way not to notice it. If somebody stared at you like that, it just made your skin crawl.
Even Mister Yu furrowed his brows and rubbed his chin, nodding slowly. “Those contestants were indeed rather strange. In fact, I’d like to have a word with you about that, Xiao Ming. Let’s go and start the discussion.”
Xiao Ming inclined his head and hurriedly bid his goodbye to E Cheng Jun before he followed Mister Yu. For this part, there wouldn’t be too much on camera, just a few shots of them sitting there with their notes, discussing. So after just a scene or two being filmed, they could actually discuss things all by themselves.
Mister Yu usually wasn’t somebody who would keep anything back but considering that this was a show and that he wasn’t quite sure how much would be shown on TV later, he still felt that it would be better to be a bit more careful. After all, his granddaughter had warned him several times.
Sitting down, he immediately took out the notes he had made at the side between tasting the dishes and pointed to a couple of them. “I marked down a few candidates that I felt had very notable dishes, whether that was in terms of how they presented them or their taste being really refreshing. They would be the first I would choose to let into the first episode.”
Xiao Ming tilted his head, looking at the list, and then compared it with his own. “Ah, of these, I also have quite a few on my list. For example, that Fan Mei, I felt that while the taste was a bit lacking in terms of how she seasoned the meatballs, it was overall a very good composition with how the parts worked together. That shows that she has a good grasp on how to combine ingredients but also has her own ideas about how to do so. The seasoning might just have been adjusted to her own taste which didn’t agree with mine. In any case, I think that she could do something even better than this in the future. So I agree there.
“Then … Hao Ming really surprised me. His dish didn’t look very appetizing but it was really tasty. I think that as long as he focuses on making his dishes look a bit better, he will also be able to give us some more surprises in the future. So I will definitely agree with him as well.
“About this Zhao Li Yu, I’m a bit surprised though. I felt that while his dish was alright, there was nothing very surprising about it or anything that stood out to me compared to the other contestants. Might I ask what Mister Yu’s thoughts on him are?”
Mister Yu didn’t seem too surprised that he would ask about that. This Zhao Li Yu had indeed not seemed like that much in comparison to some of the others. What he had made was fried shrimp with cashew nuts. This couldn’t be called a difficult dish so, naturally, it might not compare as well to the others who seemed to have put in a lot more effort.
Mister Yu didn’t mind though. “Well, some of the contestants really went all out in preparing their dishes. They chose something complicated that would really show off a wide variety of what they could do.
“This Zhao Li Yu was different in that he chose just this one simple dish and finished fast. Nonetheless, I have to say that what made this dish special was precisely its simplicity.
“We aren’t necessarily looking for somebody who can cook something complicated. We are looking for somebody who can make good food. And good food might as well be a dish with only a handful of ingredients that were done very well.
“And I think that Zhao Li Yu was able to do that. Also, looking at the shrimps, the cashews, and the sauce individually, all of them were done perfectly. The flavors of the sauce were blended well together, the texture was also on point with being slightly thickened but not too stiff, and the shrimp were cooked to where they were just done but not any longer which shows that he has control over heat and timing.
“This was definitely not a dish to show off but nonetheless a good one and one that managed to show that he can cook. And I think that it is important that we don’t overlook this type of person.”
Xiao Ming nodded slowly and thought back to the dish. He really couldn’t find much about it that he would have done differently if it was him. “Well, he definitely is a good cook. I guess that I really felt it was too low-effort to consider him before. He didn’t even add any rice.” His brows twitched a bit when he thought of that but he finally shook his head. This was the type of thing that could still be worked on. After all, the show also wanted that the contestants showed some progress if possible. “Well, now that Mister Yu has explained it like this, then I have to say that I agree. So that is also a person that I agree should indeed enter the first episode.”
At this time, the cameramen had already finished filming enough and packed up, giving them a short wave before they left the room.
When the door had closed behind them, Mister Yu couldn’t help but turn back to Xiao Ming. “Now, there is one thing that I really want to talk about and that is those twenty contestants from the first row with the rice cake soup.”
Xiao Ming raised his brows. “Oh? I felt that they were all very good.” To be honest, he was still a little weirded out by the incident.
The differences in taste had been so small that he really hadn’t noticed at first, making him doubt whether he was even able to taste any kind of ingredient. By the end, the difference had probably been bigger but because the change had been so gradual, it had been difficult to pinpoint it. Mister Yu had done a much better job, making him realize that he really wasn’t seasoned enough in this regard.
Mister Yu faintly furrowed his brows. “Well, the dish was made well indeed. It is just that I still feel like maybe we shouldn’t let them into the next episode despite that. You see, I know that on TV, a lot of things are done for show. It is just that I feel like they are making a mockery out of this. Twenty men making the same dish, only having this kind of minuscule differences between them, just what was the plan? Clearly, they take this whole show as a joke!”
Xiao Ming was a little surprised. Even when he had rejected his granddaughter, while Mister Yu had seemed a little miffed, he hadn’t really gotten angry. Now though, he could perceive that deep down, the man was actually furious.
He thought for a moment and then realized that in Mister Yu’s life, cooking was something that might be even more important than his own family. To have somebody treat that passion of his as a joke, naturally, he wouldn’t feel happy.
He pondered further, wondering what his own thoughts on that were. It was really difficult to put into words. “I think I can see where Mister Yu is coming from. But at the same time, I think that maybe we shouldn’t judge them prematurely.
“You see, it isn’t like they banded together and made one big pot and then just slightly poured it into twenty bowls where everyone slightly altered it. No, everybody made their own soup from scratch.
“Since they were in the first row, we were privy to the whole process. And I think every step from preparing the ingredients to actually cooking the soup was done with a lot of precision. Getting a result that is so close that we even had a hard time distinguishing it, I’m afraid that most people couldn’t do that. The kind of talent needed for that is … terrifying. I’m not sure if I would be able to do it.”
Mister Yu’s expression became a little tangled. Right. They had seen them cook. And he had actually been wondering what that was about. “Still, why would they do that?”
Xiao Ming thought back to Nin Sha and couldn’t help but wonder if it had anything to do with him. Why that man had come here, he could imagine very well.
His face heated up a little and he hastily lowered his head, hoping that Mister Yu wouldn’t notice. Still, he tried to explain at least part of it. “To be honest, they might be viewers of my stream.
“I didn’t know about the others but I think I know who the first contestant is. Four weeks ago, when the press conference had finished and I told people to sign up and give it a shot, he said that he would definitely do it. From what he said himself, he had no idea how to cook back then. So I’m afraid maybe he felt like he wouldn’t be good enough and roped some other people in. At the very least, that is the only explanation I could think of.”
Mister Yu’s eyes widened and he raised his brows, not quite sure if he understood that right. “You mean to say that he reached this kind of level in just a month?”
Xiao Ming hesitated but then nodded. “I mean it could be that he lied. Online, that kind of thing could easily be done. Actually, if you want to know more, you could ask Mister Ai. The two of them know each other. Maybe he would know more about that.”
Mister Yu pondered for a moment and finally nodded. “Well, no matter what, I’m a little unhappy with their behavior. But I do have to agree that there’s quite a bit of talent there. It is a strange one but you’re right. We shouldn’t punish them for whatever they have thought of. I’ll talk to the director later to see that something like this doesn’t repeat itself.”
Xiao Ming actually heaved a sigh of relief. “To be honest, I would also be happy about that. I really felt out of my depth when we suddenly had to judge a number of dishes that were this close together. I really couldn’t perceive a difference at all. If that was shown on TV, I’m afraid people will say again that I’m not worth my salt.”
Mister Yu shook his head and waved. “Don’t listen to people. Believe me, when I was young and just started out, people were also telling me that I would never be able to do it.
“They always do that. The only thing you can do is continue going your own way and laugh them in the face with the results.” He reached out and patted his shoulder, giving him a genuine smile. “In any case, when it came to the other judgments, I always felt that you were on point. So I wouldn’t be worried about the future. As long as those twenty don’t people don’t pull another stunt like this, you wouldn’t have a problem.
“Now, let’s talk about the others.” He pulled over his list again and then started to slowly talk about a few contestants that he had thought were rather promising, soon writing the list up close to the number that they needed.
As for the last few spots, their discussion became a lot more detailed there. Deciding on just who to let through wasn’t that easy. In any case, most of the people that had taken part were good. They had also only seen the best of the best. Now, it was difficult to say just who to choose since everyone had their own strengths and weaknesses.
They also had to consider that most likely, everyone had put their best foot forward and done something that they were especially skilled in. Even if they chose somebody, who knew how the next episode would be? If they were confronted with a task that they couldn’t really do much with, then maybe they would disappoint again.
But in the end, this was also what made this kind of show interesting. And they both felt that if everyone was able to learn a bit more while ‘Golden Spoon’ was running, then that would be for the best.