Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Sunshine Bistro

I hope you enjoy yet another chapter! I'm sorry if you think that these interesting titles (sometimes, not so much today) are about my life. I do put labels on them but I'm not sure what else to do. I found that it's really annoying to have a super long title fully describing that it's part of Coffee Shop. I'm open to any of your suggestions. 
The story that I've written is almost done now... I haven't had the time to sit down and write, nor the energy. I'm oddly not enthusiastic to write on Pages or Open Office. I miss my Microsoft Word. 
I'm thinking about doing book recommendations too on some day of the week. I don't read for fun anymore so I'm not sure if you'd like that since Sparknotes is so handy. I put up some of my favorite links so check that out. I depend on those links for everything. 
Just to clarify the schedule that's already up so far, this sentence is placed. Fridays are question days and I'd love to answer any questions. If there aren't questions (which is common), then I pick some random personality questions and answer them. Saturdays is usually my Coffee Shop day but on days that I don't have much to say, I place one randomly. I'm not sure what I'll be doing when Coffee Shop runs dry. Sundays is my app day now! xx
The Sunshine Bistro 
Noah Harrington hesitated when he saw that someone was calling his phone. Look who was interested in making a second appearance in his life. Noah decided against answering and wondered what Ryan needed now. Noah ruffled his hair and tossed his phone on the snowy white carpet of the new house. None of the furniture had arrived yet. He was back from France and everything was going smoothly for his adjustment into Le Cordon Blue, New York branch. People described starting school in November as suicide but Noah had just scoffed. It probably would’ve been suicide for anyone else. Word spread fast but one person that shouldn’t have known about his arrival was Ryan Nichols. Noah had left New York because of Ryan and he definitely hadn’t returned to New York for this. The phone rang again and Noah was slightly amused. The Ryan he once knew did not call anyone twice. Noah crossed his arms and patiently waited for Ryan’s next move. He could just see Ryan’s aggravated expression. The phone rang one time more and Noah was curious to see what was so urgent. He picked up the phone. 
“Hello? So who has the pleasure of speaking to a Harrington today?” 
“More like you have the pleasure of talking to a Nichols. Where are we, France? No, Noah, you’re in my home territory. You do not make me call you three times.”
“I couldn’t find my phone. What a welcoming person you are.”
“Okay let’s cut the small talk. It isn’t working for me.  Now you owe me a favor. Did you forget?” Noah swallowed. Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead. 
“No, I just wasn’t aware that you knew I arrived already. You ruined my big entrance.”
“I need my favor now.” Noah had hoped this day would never ever come. 
“Fine, what do you need?” Four years ago, Noah had thought that it’d be fun to shoplift something. They were in the huge downtown mall in New York and his friends chose a relatively sketchy without any cops. Ryan had been there but he was one of the only people who refused to participate. Noah chose a relatively small watch to steal but somehow in his nervous state, he had forgotten to cut the tag off in the dressing room. The watch triggered the alarm and his so called friends trickled out. They disappeared and the storeowner found the worthless thing tucked in his backpack. Ryan had covered for him stating that they had a backpack miss up. It was by fate that they had the same backpacks. Ryan was able to work it off with a couple of community service hours. That was the last time Noah did anything against the law. 
“My girlfriend just set up a restaurant on campus. She needs another chef.”
“Vanessa set up a restaurant?”
“No, I dumped her.” Noah’s face brightened. He had a chance with Vanessa, a chance he didn’t have four years ago. 
“Oh I understand, I guess I can work a few shifts.” 
“Okay thanks, bye,” Ryan said and hung up. Nothing sounded so serious for three consecutive phone calls. Noah shrugged. He still didn’t know what he had signed up for. It was about time to take a school tour anyway. He grabbed the car keys and left with the address on his GPS. The campus was about twenty minutes away from his house. It was a Tuesday afternoon but things were oddly busy. 
Jessie marched straight into her mother’s office. Her mother was the assistant dean and Jessie had the dean wrapped around her finger. The Sunshine Bistro opened a month ago and yet her multiple complaints were not addressed. The dean was filling out paperwork with Beethoven in the background. Her mother was the one always frantically running around doing everything. 
“Mr. Aldridge,” Jessie said. 
“Ah Miss Lexington, it’s always a pleasure to see you. Your mother isn’t in currently.” 
“When are you going to shut that place down?”
“Does it concern you? They aren’t even established yet.” 
“We need to crush it before anything else goes on. On opening day, you will close it down, right?” 
“Jessica, I understand your concern but the Sunshine Bistro has received a fair amount of funding. I personally believe that having another cafĂ© will enrich student life here at Le Cordon Bleu. We like to encourage students to make their own choices. Now, if it loses revenue for our school then that’s when I’ll take action. Jessica, have you seen the Sunshine Bistro? It’s run by that girl, Claire. What good can come out from that? It’ll close within another month and I’ve already secured the demolishing fee. Run along, Jessica.” 
“What if I wanted to close it down next week? Saturday is opening day. I want it closed by Sunday. Can’t we have a culinary duel?” 
“What now, Miss Lexington?” 
“A culinary duel, Mr. Aldridge, Claire against the people who serve us lunch every day. Why keep a restaurant around when it’s far worse than the image we promote? Le Cordon Bleu is not for amateurs. I don’t want something like this to blemish my perfect school record.” 
“Interesting idea, fine, that sounds rather ravishing. On Saturday, opening day, there will be a competition. You, Miss Lexington, can see to it. Dismissed, you are.” Jessica left with a smug smile. Claire wouldn’t last even a day. For a whole month, Ryan’s money had been going towards building an amazing restaurant. The outside looked exactly like something Le Cordon Bleu would advertise on its website. The whole building was made out of glass and the last time she had seen it, the whole back wall was decorated with computerized drawings without so much as an inch of blank white space. It was a truly amazing collage that only a professional could pull off. Jessica wondered exactly how much money everything cost. Claire only had four more days to pull off this whole little stunt of hers. Jessica’s thoughts of revenge for Vanessa were interrupted by Mara. 
“Jess, where’s Nessa?” Mara looked frantic and her hair was even starting to uncurl. Mara never forgot hair spray. 
“I dunno, I just talked to the dean about orchestrating a culinary competition between I dunno three-star chef, appraised by Michelin of course, Michel Roux.”  
“Whoa, that’s legendary. How do you know him?”
“He’s a family friend,” Jessie said shrugging. “We’re going to crush Claire.” 
“But seriously, where’s Vanessa? She’s missing out on this whole thing.” Was Mara even listening to her accomplishment? Jessie sighed and they went around looking for Vanessa. 
Vanessa could feel how stressed and edgy everyone was.  They were a small team backed by Ryan’s enormous sum of money. That money supplied builders and architects and designers. Almost everything was done. No one besides Claire knew that Vanessa was part of this team. Vanessa put her sunglasses back into her tote bag and took out the manila folder. It made her feel so official. She was carrying the menu. The Atkins were composed of printing moguls. They were practically related to Gutenberg. Vanessa’s sister, Halle, was a “freelance artist” who had offered to do the wall for free. Even Vanessa was impressed by its perfection. There was not a single smudge or a flaw anywhere. The colors were vibrant and not one white space lingered on the entire wall (unless purposeful of course). Claire was in the new kitchen. Dust was all over her work clothes. Ryan wasn’t anywhere to be seen. He was rarely here to do any physical work. The three members of the kitchen staff were unrolling the sheets of bubble wrap to reveal the glossy hardwood floors. Olivia and Jonah were moving tables and chairs in. Everything had a homey yet sophisticated feel. Some other people were going through napkins and silverware while others were inspecting the cool sunshine lamps that hung on the ceiling. They rotated and all the music was projected from them.
“Here’s the menu, thanks for agreeing to meet me here.” Everyone was too busy to notice her. 
“Thanks so much Vanessa. None of this would have looked as fantastic without you.” Vanessa shrugged. 
“I know,” she simply said and flipped her hair. “The hanging lamps are really cool. Who designed those?”
“Huh, I thought your sister did.” 
“No, but she did do this menu,” Vanessa said. She handed the folder to Claire. The place was really coming nicely together. 
“It looks amazing. I can’t wait until people try my food too! Ah, that’s the last thing. I need the food delivered. ” Claire was squealing. Claire had somehow become a great chef. Her enthusiasm was cut short by . . . Noah?
“Claire, one thing before you talk to him. Don’t be afraid,” Vanessa lowered her volume. He was already entering the main doors and Vanessa couldn’t believe that a, he was back, and that b, someone let him in. 
“Noah, what are you doing here?”
“I’m executive chef. What, did you think that this little girlie was playing restaurant by herself?” Having another chef didn’t exactly enter her mind. It was a good thing she wasn’t funding this project. As much as she disliked Noah, his culinary expertise couldn’t be denied.
“Welcome,” Vanessa said backing away slowly. 
“Pleasure to be working with you,” Noah said. He took the manila folder from Claire’s hands and inspected the menu. How did he know that was there? Claire seemed just as confused as her. 
“Yes, I’m Claire. Ryan told me someone was going to be helping me.”
“Noah,” Noah said shaking her hand. He stared her over and Vanessa felt violated. Yup, it was the same Noah all right. She left the restaurant immediately and Noah unfortunately was trailing her. Didn’t he have to study the menu or anything?
“Vanessa!” Jessie shouted. Mara look befuddled about the whole Noah situation. 
Claire couldn’t believe how fast time went. She approached her calendar at the break of dawn. Everyone was up and ready for the big day. Lola was excused for the day and she was in charge of teaching everyone the art of folding napkins. The hardest part was finding someone to be a waitress or a waiter. No one at this school wanted to be affiliated with her. Even Olivia had passed the offer. Jonah was busy working and Claire didn’t have any other friends. She had finally stumbled upon someone who wanted the job. Susie was a year younger than her and was a shy meek person. Claire was a little worried about how she’d fare in the tough world that would become the Sunshine Bistro. She worried about her own personality. It was a good thing that Noah seemed to be the exact opposite of her. The Sunshine Bistro was on the other side of Jonah’s bookstore. She waved good morning before opening up. Noah had agreed to cook all their savory dishes while Claire would stick to baking.  Noah was already in the kitchen and Claire tied her hair up. She donned the chef wear that Olivia’s aunt designed for her and the whole team, which as of now consisted of three people. 
“Good morning Noah,” Claire said washing her hands. He nodded his head and only looked up when he saw Mara walking in. 
“Sorry we aren’t open yet,” Claire said coming out of the kitchen. Mara crossed her arms and whistled. Jessie stormed in with a chef? Claire couldn’t wrap her mind around the situation. 
“They’re going to challenge you,” Noah whispered. She realized she was still holding the double doors open. 
“Er hello, good morning. I guess we could serve you early,” she said in place for Susie. 
“We don’t want to be served, Claire. He wants to challenge you for the sake of your restaurant.” Claire started to hyperventilate. He was the guy whose face was plastered everywhere on the Le Cordon Bleu website. She heard the doors open for the second time and saw Ryan enter. 
“Who are you?” He immediately asked. He had brought flowers but discarded them to a table. 
“Follow us, Claire,” they said.
“C’mon Claire,” Ryan said grabbing her arm. “You can’t lose now or I want a refund.” Claire was a jumble of nerves. Ryan held her hand and they walked slowly behind Mara and Jessie. Noah was talking to Vanessa. Did they have some kind of history? He never took the time to talk to Claire. Claire almost balked when she saw the makeshift kitchens created on the quad. She really was supposed to battle this renowned chef. 
“Hello everyone,” the dean said. Claire stared up. Almost everyone from the entire school was here. She could see Jonah standing near the edge with Olivia. 
“I can’t do this,” Claire said shaking. Ryan held her hand tighter. 
“You can,” he said before pushing her into her kitchen station. Both chefs were supposed to make a strawberry cake with a thirty minute limit. Claire had been practicing with Anderson on his signature strawberry cake. It was one of the desserts she made most confidently. Did they know of its importance to her menu? The only people who had seen the menu were her, Noah, and Vanessa. Claire bit her lip. Vanessa was very well connected. She must have known that plans for a new restaurant were in the gist when she said she wanted to be friends. Vanessa probably even offered to do the menu in order to get secret knowledge. Claire’s heart broke mainly because she knew that Vanessa was exactly that kind of shrewd person. Claire looked up at the audience again. She found Anderson and he smiled while closing his eyes. Claire had always meant to ask why he did that but it felt reassuring that he trusted her to win this. She heard the timer go off and rushed to the ingredient counter. Even the baking pans and tools were the same. How appropriate that Claire was already wearing chef’s clothes. Claire grabbed two eggs and a bag of flour. She closed her eyes for three seconds and felt reenergized. She sifted the flour and sugar and added a cup of milk to the other bowl. Claire whisked her eggs and butter and remembered not to whisk too fast. Claire diced strawberries quickly and made sure to zest lemon. Lemon was her secret ingredient to this one. She stood by the oven, it was its own separate island, and held the batter close. It was already poured into the baking pan and she truly hoped that her restaurant would be able to operate. There were only fifteen minutes left and Claire didn’t know if that would be enough time. The cake was safely nestled in the oven and she ran back to her station. It was time to make the icing.  
Thirty minutes flew by but no one had left the competition. Her cake was sitting on the judge’s table and she had never felt so nervous before. The star chef rolled his eyes at her and she wondered if she would’ve done the same if she was up against some high school-er. The dean, the assistant dean, and some lady in a business suit were sitting on the judging panel. 
“Now, we’re not the only ones who will taste these cakes today. Several random students will also taste test.” The dean was slicing both cakes and passing them out to random students. Claire desperately wanted to hold Ryan’s hand. It was truly the worst ten minutes of her life. “Here’s cake A and cake B.” Claire wondered why the dean even tried to make anything anonymous. Everyone already knew which one was her cake. The restaurant was practically doomed. 
“Line up by Claire for cake A and line up by famous Michelin three-star chef, Michel Roux,” the dean said. Claire closed her eyes. She opened them a minute later to see that people were actually lining up near her. Claire even saw Vanessa gravitating towards her. She didn’t know why since it was most likely Vanessa who gave her whole menu away. In the end, Vanessa lined up next to Mara. After another two minutes, Claire opened her eyes. The dean was chuckling but the assistant dean looked puce. They were writing down their final evaluations. Claire was euphoric when she saw that her line had about twenty more people than Chef Roux’s. 
“The winner is clearly Claire,” the dean announced. “Her cake didn’t have as refined a taste but we could taste her hard work and the love she put in it.”  
“What went wrong?” Claire heard Mara screaming to Chef Roux. 
“I made it the same way I normally do. Great job Chef Claire,” Chef Roux said approaching her with a warm smile. He shook her hand. “I wish good luck to your new restaurant.” Claire nodded. 
“Thank you,” she bumbled out. She was too amazed to say anything else. The restaurant had its busiest day ever. People were lining up outside after the contest. Olivia agreed to help out a waitress for the day. Noah was an amazing chef. Claire was awed by his talent until he snapped at her to get back to work. The restaurant work was difficult but she enjoyed it. People would be happy after eating her food. That was all that really mattered to her. Noah always stopped working when he saw Vanessa. There was always a backstory and a weakness to every supposedly tough guy. 
“Do you like her?” Claire asked after closing the shop down. Vanessa ordered something to go quickly. She didn’t even talk to him but yet he stopped working. 
“Nah, there’s just this old thing between me and her,” he said shrugging it off. It was something he did every so often. Claire wondered how her life would change now. 

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