It Shouldn’t Happen To A Restaurant Critic (or Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold)

It Shouldn’t Happen To A Restaurant Critic (or Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold)

A Story by J.P. Paradise
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Never upset the chef

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The scent of fresh Bolognese sauce drifted out over the patio, where two men sat watching pleasure boats ferry tourists up and down the Seine. An open bottle of red stood on the table between them. Now and then one of the men would sip from his glass. The sun shone, birds sang, the air smelled of food and blossom. Yes, life was good.

Jules Malin, dressed in his chef’s whites, was taking a few moments away from the kitchen. It was late morning and the welcome distraction of his good friend Patric Mignon calling round unexpectedly gave him the excuse he needed to get away from the bustle of preparing for the lunchtime onslaught. Jules emptied his glass and placed it back on the table. He did not fill it again; he needed to keep a level head. He would be returning to work shortly after all. Patric drained his glass also. Jules nodded and gestured to the bottle. As a writer Patric found wine freed his creative spirit. At least that’s what he told everyone, especially himself. He filled his glass again and drained the bottle, giving it a little twist at the end to shake the last drop or two from the neck. No sense in good wine going to waste. Patric left the glass on the table and leaned back in his chair, making himself comfortable. Jules lit a Gauloise, took a long drag, and let the smoke drift away across the river. Neither man said anything for several minutes, though it was clear that Patric had called for a reason, and Jules strongly suspected he knew what it was.

Eventually Patric picked up his glass, swirled the contents slowly, and spoke. “I was sorry to hear about Henri Mountebank,” he said. Jules eyed him with mock amusement through a fug of heavy cigarette smoke.

“Really?” he replied. “I wasn’t aware that he would be missed.”

“Yes, thank you Jules. You know what I mean.”

“Do I?” said the chef, a wry smile.

“Yes you do, and stop toying with me,” growled Patric, placing his glass down and gesturing towards the packet of cigarettes lying on the table in front of Jules. The chef leaned forward and slid them across the chequered table cloth to his friend, who took one and then tossed the packet back to him. Patric lit up, inhaled, exhaled, and continued. “You know I mean that I was sorry to hear that he had passed away in your restaurant. That sort of thing never does one’s reputation any good. None of us could give a flying fart that the malevolent old git copped it.”

“How sweet of you to say so, and so eloquently too,” said Jules, grinning. There was another silence between them. After a few moments Patric spoke again.

“So, care to tell me about it? Press reports were cagey at best. I understand Inspector Farouche was sniffing around.”

Jules gestured to someone in the kitchen and then turned back to his friend. “It cost me quite a bit in favours but I managed to keep most of the press on side so damage limitation was achieved. As you point out, having someone die in your restaurant is never good for business. If that someone just happens to be Paris’s foremost restaurant critic then the potential repercussions don’t bear thinking about.”

“And a restaurant critic who just happens to be intensely disliked by most of the establishments in the capital. Especially by Le Gribouillage,” Patric pointed out, waving his cigarette around in emphasis and creating small smoke trails in the air. Jules winced slightly at the reference to his establishment. It was true that Mountebank was seriously out of favour after a particularly venomous review on a new range of dishes that Jules had just unveiled. 

One of the kitchen staff brought a large tray laden with a tiny cup of very strong coffee and placed it in front of the chef. Jules nodded a thank you, took the cup and saucer and waved the youth and tray away. “I almost admire his gall in coming back to my restaurant. Almost,” he said.

“So?” asked Patric.

“It is fairly simple really. Mountebank had an unfortunate reaction to one of the dishes and, despite our best efforts and prompt medical attention, he succumbed.”

“And what did Farouche make of it? I mean, unpopular critic dies whilst eating at a restaurant he has recently slagged off. Does look very suspicious, doesn’t it?” Patric pressed. Jules had concede it did. He nodded, slowly.

Quiet descended between them again, broken only by the distant noise of traffic across the Pont de Sully. Patric drained his glass and then leaned towards the chef and spoke in whispered, conspiratorial tones.

“So…what really happened?”

Jules sighed and flicked the stub of his cigarette away. It flew in a lazy arc and landed in the river below. A duck scooted across to inspect and then paddled off, disappointed. The chef looked around slowly and then leaned forward across the table towards his friend so that barely a foot separated them. “What really happened?” he asked.

“Yes,” Patric replied, with the faintest signs of irritation in his voice.

“Farouche found no evidence of foul play and the coroner ruled it accidental death,” said the chef quickly.

“I know that,” snapped Patric, slightly too loudly. He immediately apologised, “Sorry, Jules. But come on, stop spinning me the official line and tell me. Was there more to it?”

The chef took a long deep breath, sighed heavily and spoke, barely looking at his companion for the whole time he did so. “As I may have indicated, I was a touch surprised to see Henri in my restaurant so soon after his last assassination attempt on my business. And it is true that the moment the maitre d’ came and told me that Mountebank was in I began racking my brains for a way to get back at him. But it had to be something creative. Let’s face it, spitting in the soup and bogies in the pasta are a bit passé; the preserve of burger flippers and truck stop cafes. I was still pacing up and down when the waiter came in with Mountebank’s order. And that was when a little, evil spark of genius ignited; he had ordered the soup, the gazpacho soup. You see, Henri had a pine nut allergy. Quite a horrendous pine nut allergy as it turns out. Consequently he always ordered food that did not contain pine nuts, obviously...”

“Go on,” urged Patric.

“Well, the rest is history. We served up the soup, he took a couple of mouthfuls, had an extreme anaphylactic shock and subsequently died.”

Patric drummed his fingers on the table in irritation. “You’re not telling me everything, are you? Farouche would have nailed you if he’d known you were deliberately serving up something that could kill your customers.”

“Ah, yes, that would indeed be the case but for the fact that gazpacho doesn’t contain pine nuts.”

“It doesn’t?” Patric enquired.

“No. Well, not normally. Except I have a new potager...”

“A new what?”

“Potager. Soup chef. And I just happened to notice how he prepares his garlic puree for the gazpacho; he throws a handful of pine nuts into the mortar when grinding the paste. I haven’t seen anyone else do it, but it does add an extra special something to the soup.”

“Especially in Mountebank’s case,” said Patric.

“Yes,” Jules conceded. “It worked rather too well. I knew that he had an allergy, I just never imagined the reaction would be so extreme. Farouche investigated thoroughly, of course, but we all pleaded ignorance. I said I had no idea about the pine nuts in the soup and the new potager knew nothing about Henri’s unfortunate affliction. It was concluded it was all a tragic accident.”

Patric took another cigarette from his friend’s packet, leaned back and lit up. “And medical intervention?” he enquired.

“Well, I have to admit that I put on a very convincing mock show of panic and shock. Just long enough to make a delay in ringing for an ambulance significant. All in all, it worked out rather well. For me at least. My fellow restaurateurs are naturally very grateful,” said Jules.

“I’m sure they are,” Patric chuckled.

Jules checked his watch, decided he had time for one last cigarette and said, “Rather appropriate it was the gazpacho; they do say revenge is a dish best served cold.”

© 2021 J.P. Paradise


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Reviews

Love it! Wonderful ending to the story. Your details paint the setting so well, I felt I was at the table with them, speaking in hushed tones. Great writing!

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


J.P. Paradise

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you, you're very kind. I adapted this into a ten minute stage piece as part of a local am-dram.. read more
Suzanne Sonderleigh

3 Weeks Ago

You’re very talented and I’m so happy I came across your work. Will be reading more!

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1 Review
Added on July 8, 2021
Last Updated on July 12, 2021
Tags: cooking, murder, France, Paris, restaurant, critic

Author

J.P. Paradise
J.P. Paradise

Wiltshire, United Kingdom



About
Occasional writer, serial procrastinator.I write tales that are sometimes comedic, often tragic, and nearly always very dark. Bad things happen to good people, even worse things happen to bad people.. more..

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