by Charles C. Cole
Late. A closed restaurant. MOLLY sits alone at a table set for two. She pours out grated parmesan cheese on a clean salad plate and quietly recreates cave drawings with her index finger.
The CHEF stands at the bar, rubbing sanitizer into his hands. Finally, he crosses the main dining area to her side.
CHEF: I thought everyone would never leave! Your date, if you’ll excuse me, is a bastard. N’est-ce pas? He is a role model for the dark side, for how not to behave in public with a lovely lady! I saw the way he treated you. Disrespectful. Unconscionable. A cad. You are better than he, certainly better without him.
MOLLY: You probably want to close. I’m sorry. I’ve been enjoying your wine list.
CHEF: I am here now to make amends for all the men who have ever mistreated vulnerable women as you were mistreated tonight. Maybe it’s legal in our otherwise great country, but it’s not right ethically, and it’s bad for business.
MOLLY: Forgive me. I probably scared off a few customers with my gloomy loitering. I wasn’t thinking.
CHEF: In truth, you were thinking too much; I know that face. And if their hearts did not break with yours, then they are barely human and don’t deserve my quality cuisine. Like your handsome date, they are not welcome back. My door is closed to their kind.
This is a restaurant, yes, but we don’t merely serve pretty food on pretty plates to pretty people; we build lasting relationships. People eat and drink and look into each other’s eyes, maybe hold hands, rub shoes experimentally, and sometimes kiss to close the deal. And we, all of us, are the victors. Society is a better place, for a modest price, one tender couple at a time.
MOLLY: That’s a lot of pressure for your customers.
CHEF: I see it as a win-win. May I sit?
MOLLY: Is society a worse place because of me?
CHEF: Maybe just a little.
MOLLY reaches up to feel the calming smoothness of her pearl necklace.
CHEF: I joke. Sometimes we have a bad fit. Most visitors are only meant to be brief guests; they come and go. But this is not the case with you, I’m feeling.
MOLLY: Apparently not.
CHEF: You, my dear, are meant for something more enduring. You belong with us in the kitchen.
MOLLY: Me? I don’t cook. I’ve never even boiled an egg.
CHEF: Not as a chef. Perhaps as a rare dining experience. You, ma chère, would make an absolutely delightful appetizer. Am I right? Of course I am. You know this. A delectable snack at the banquet of love! You’ve heard this from past lovers?
MOLLY: Not exactly, but it’s very nice of you, I think.
CHEF: Sometimes, after a long day or week, a weakened man of ordinary character depends on a hearty meal to carry on, to fortify himself for Monday morning’s battle. You have all the best ingredients, I’m sensing, and just need a pinch of professional preparation.
This is why I have approached you, because I know here is a golden opportunity on a silver platter. So, I have come down from my high throne in the kitchen where everyone must obey me without question because, God help me, I have been commissioned by Dionysus himself!
MOLLY: Maybe I should go.
CHEF: With the philosophy of nouvelle cuisine, we will transform you, my poussin, elevate you, from apéritif to a wonderful bonne bouchée, from hors d’oeuvre into a soul-satisfying, savory entrée. Peeling back layers, à la portefeuille, to reveal rich, complex flavors. I want to transform you into — what do they call it? — a seven-piece course, a feast for your lover’s heart. Together we will introduce réchauffée to madam’s boudoir. Your lover will join you at the banquet, and he will rise up in your careful hands, from bâtonnet to a croque en bouche. Together you will create a wondrous bavarois.
MOLLY: Oh, my.
CHEF: With my singular expertise, I can turn you into something savory and marvelous, and together we will let the language of food déglacer your passion. You will see this, maybe not at first, and surrender to my exacting professionalism. Give in to me for, you should know, I am the grand master chef of amour.
MOLLY: That’s quite an offer, though a little abstract, so long as it doesn’t require dicing me up into little tasty bits. Maybe we should start fresh tomorrow. Your wine is very... winey.
CHEF: Of course, many people back away from the unexpected, even when it’s good for them. We only disappoint ourselves.
MOLLY: I’m through with disappointment, stuffed to the gills on the stuff. I’ll come back, you have my word. I’m interested, really. I’m also a tiny bit scared. This is a lot to take in. Did I tell you, this is my first time here?
CHEF: Good. And honest. Food is honest. Except in the Bible, water never pretends to be wine.
MOLLY (Standing, reaches for her purse. He steps back.): I can give you my business card, if you want. Is that too formal? The menu says formal dining, so I just thought you’d expect it. You can call me or email me or text me. Molly Sinclair, at your service.
CHEF: There’s no need. Return to us when you’re ready. You know where we are. Tomorrow at close of business, I can take you on a life-changing journey. No passport required.
MOLLY: You’re French, aren’t you? I can’t. I wish I could. I have to travel for business, late tomorrow. It’s a conference out of state. Everything’s booked.
CHEF: Then don’t come and continue your life raw and poorly prepared.
MOLLY: I don’t want to be poorly prepared. I want to learn. I’ll bet you’re a great teacher. Aren’t you?
CHEF: But you’re going away, Molly Sinclair.
MOLLY: Not tonight, I’m not. I can go in late tomorrow. They won’t mind. They’ll expect it. They’ll have me up to all hours traveling tomorrow. I’ll make it up to them. So...
CHEF: You’re not tired?
MOLLY: How about we start with a tour of the kitchen: the basics, the pots, the pans, the tools of the trade. And we work up an appetite. How does that sound? Unless you’re tired.
CHEF: Follow me. Right this way. It will be my pleasure, Molly Sinclair. Let’s work up an appetite together.
Copyright © 2014 by Charles C. Cole