Klaroline AU Week: All Human - this turned out to be a monster drabble, hope you enjoy it!
Klaus is a food critic and Caroline is the sous chef of the restaurant he is reviewing. He’s opinionated and fussy and she’s a control freak that doesn’t take too kindly to any sort of criticism. What happens when they clash?
“Klaus Mikaelson is on table four!” Lexi squealed excitedly as she rushed into the restaurant’s kitchen laden with an armful of dirty plates. Saturday was their busiest night of the week when they did their most covers and they were currently at the peak of dinner service.
“Lexi!” Caroline hissed, joining her at the sink as she unloaded the plates. “You shouldn’t joke about things like that; I don’t want the rest of the kitchen staff to be nervous for no reason.”
“It’s not a joke,” she reiterated. “He’s really here in all of his gorgeousness. Seriously, those pictures in the newspaper don’t do him justice, Caroline.”
“Well if that’s the case, I’m not sure why you thought it was necessary to alert the whole kitchen.”
“I thought it would motivate them.”
“Klaus Mikaelson is a shark when it comes to reviewing, he takes no prisoners. It was only last week that he berated the Head Chef at Aldea for the worst Cochinillo Assado he’s ever tasted.” Klaus Mikaelson was the Food Editor and Chief Restaurant Critic at the New York Times, his reviews could make or break your career and that’s what scared the hell out of Caroline.
She always knew she wanted to make food her career and shortly after graduating she’d travelled to Paris to study at the famed Le Cordon Bleu under some of the best chefs in the world. She’d always favoured French cuisine over others and after returning to New York she had taken up a number of apprentice positions across the city and worked her way up the very competitive ranks of the hospitality industry.
Her hard work and determination had finally paid off when she was appointed sous chef at the famed Per Se restaurant on Columbia Circle. She knew she was a talented chef otherwise she wouldn’t be there. According to her best friend Katherine and the restaurant’s Maitre’d, it was mainly due to her control freak tendencies and obsessive attention to detail.
“Okay, I have no idea what you just said, but the food here is delicious,” she reasoned. “So, he’ll have nothing but great things to say.”
“Yeah, well when it comes to that man I don’t trust him; I think sometimes he complains about things just for the shock and awe factor.”
“That man doesn’t need publicity, have you seen those dimples?” Caroline rolled her eyes by way of response, walking away towards the service window. Luckily she had a pretty good view of table four from there. Her breath hitched in her throat as she spied those familiar dirty, blonde curls and those crimson lips she could see even from this far away.
“Perving on our resident reviewer, are we?” A familiar voice asked, joining her by the window.
“Last time I checked this is back of house and you are very much front of house, Kitty Kat.”
“I came here to warn you about Mr Foodie in my front of house but obviously you already know.”
“Our gossipy waitress Lexi has already told me about him and all of his apparent gorgeousness,” she drawled. “You know a little heads-up that the Times most revered food critic was dining here would have been helpful.”
“He used a pseudonym,” she hissed, defensively. “Do you really think a food critic calls to pre-warn the restaurant that he’s coming?”
“Sorry, I’m just a little…”
“Flustered?” She teased, sending Caroline a knowing grin. “He’s even better close up. I can’t say much for his dinner companion though, talk about snobby.” Caroline’s eyes flickered across to the other side of the table where a long haired brunette sat. From the unimpressed look on her face Caroline didn’t doubt Katherine’s assessment.
“Is that his girlfriend?”
“Who knows? He has a different female every week according to the social pages.”
“You’re not paid to stand around chatting!” the Executive Chef barked from the pass. “How about we try something where Pierce sees to the customers out front and maybe you could come and help me cook this century, Forbes.” They gave each other a knowing look before parting ways, Enzo always was a grumpy ass mid-service.
“He’s just another food critic,” Enzo said, breaking Caroline from her chopping trance a few minutes later. “Don’t worry about him.”
“I can tell you’re anxious my little grasshopper but you’re going to have a lot more reviews over the course of your cooking career and the sooner you start to develop a tough skin the better.”
“Easier said than done,” Caroline muttered, realising she was going to have to produce the best meal of her life yet, hoping the nerves swirling violently in her stomach wouldn’t impede her progress.
The next two hours flew by in a flurry of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Lamb and Pressé of Yorkshire Porcelet. Caroline found that at least keeping so busy she didn’t have much time to think about him and his possible thoughts about her food.
“Apparently he wants to speak with the chef,” Katherine announced, coming into the kitchen twenty minutes after the dessert and cheese selection had been served.
“What? Why?” Caroline asked, absentmindedly holding up her knife, wondering if that was a good sign or a bad one. She’d snuck a look at his table only ten minutes earlier and he seemed to be enjoying himself, even if his dinner companion wasn’t.
“I didn’t ask questions,” she huffed. “I figured when New York’s most well-known reviewer makes a request you don’t question it.”
“Enzo,” she called out in the direction of their freezer. “You need to go out to Klaus Mikaelson’s table.”
“I’ll do no such thing,” he complained, coming back into view.
“You heard me, I shouldn’t have to go out there and pander to yet another food critic. My food should speak for itself,” he replied, stubbornly. “And given I own this place I think it’s my right, don’t you?”
“Oh, so now you’re going to choose to be pig headed,” Katherine shot back.
“I have to agree with Kat.”
“You know most employees would get fired for speaking about their boss like that.”
“Oh come on Enzo, we all know that under this prickly exterior lies a harmless pussy cat,” Katherine cooed.
“Flattery won’t get me to the front of house, Pierce.”
“You have to go out there, it won’t be a good look, Enzo,” Caroline insisted.
“Well, if you’re so concerned about appearances my little sous chef, I think you should go in my place. Consider this first-time experience my gift to you.” Caroline felt ill all of a sudden. The nerves that had begun to settle after she’d sent out the last meal returning with a vengeance.
“Oh, I can’t go out there,” she hissed, almost like she thought he was going to hear her from the kitchen.
“Oh, so now you can’t go out there,” Enzo quipped.
“Well someone better bloody well get out there,” Katherine ordered. “You’ve been bickering in here for five minutes now; I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s left the restaurant in the meantime.”
“Off you go mon protégé,” he ordered, before busying himself at the sink. “And Katherine go away and prance around or whatever it is that you do.”
“I can’t go out there, Kat,” she whispered, pulling her aside.
“Yes, you can.”
“No, I can’t.”
“It’s just nerves, you’ll be fine, Care.”
“You don’t understand,” she replied through gritted teeth. “We’ve sort of had prior relations.”
“Define relations,” she shot back before consulting the deep blush that had crossed Caroline’s face. “You did the nasty. How the hell do I not know about this?”
“It was five years ago when I was studying in Paris, I didn’t think I’d ever have to see him again.”
“Yet, you didn’t think it would be useful to mention this little piece of historical information when he arrived?”
“I was planning on hiding out in the kitchen as usual,” she rambled, her breaths becoming shallower with every word. “And excuse me for being more distracted about my cooking rather than recounting my sexual history.”
“Okay, just calm down, Care,” she soothed. “How were things left? Please tell me it was a happy parting of ways.”
“Mmmm, kind of unfinished.”
“After we, well you know, I sort of left while he was still sleeping.”
“Why would you want to walk out on a handsome, male specimen like that?”
“Oi you two! Enough with the bloody mother’s meeting,” Enzo called out. “Last time I checked I gave you both an order.”
“You’ve got two choices. One, you don’t go out there and he leaves here and writes bad things, or two you go out there, he remembers what you did and then he writes bad things.”
“I’m not a fan of either of those options, do you have a third?”
“You try to get our stubborn ass Executive Chef out there, but I don’t like your chances and at the moment we’re really running against the clock.”
“Just great,” she muttered, removing her hat and trying to make some effort with her appearance.
“Uh, you might also want to relinquish the dangerous weapon before you go out there, he might think you’re trying to threaten him into a good review or something.” She said, taking her kitchen knife from her grasp. In all the drama, Caroline hadn’t even realised she was still holding onto it. “Good luck!”
“I’m going to need it,” The restaurant was almost empty this time of night, one thing she was glad about if things went south. He looked just as good as she remembered in a blue, unbuttoned at the neck shirt that emphasised his eyes. She could make out familiar necklaces peeking out from underneath and was trying to ignore the memories they were evoking.
She couldn’t miss the shock and familiarity that crossed his features as she approached him and his date.
“Mr Mikaelson, it’s certainly a treat having the New York Time’s premiere food critic dining at Per Se tonight.” She figured if she was polite enough he’d return the favour, well she hoped so anyway.
He regarded her curiously, obviously composing himself before responding for his date’s benefit. Although she looked completely unimpressed with her appearance at the table, Caroline was glad she was there so it couldn’t get too personal.
“Now, you don’t look like Enzo St John,” he smiled, flashing a rogue and completely disarming dimple her way, she’d really tried to forget those, bastard.
“Chef St John sends his apologies for not being able to meet you but something personal came up at the last minute and he had to leave after dessert was served,” she lied.
“So, who are you then?” The brunette asked, her sour expression not lost on Caroline.
“I’m Caroline Forbes, his sous chef,” she said, trying to ignore his intense gaze as she addressed his rude excuse for a date. “I hope everything was to your liking this evening.”
“I don’t usually like to comment in too much detail before my review comes out but I thought it was okay,” he replied, lazily. Just okay? This was worse than she thought. “The combination of flavours was good for the most part and the wines were well matched to each course. The lamb was rather disappointing though.”
“Disappointing how, if you don’t mind me asking?” She baulked, incredulously.
“Frankly, it was overcooked.” She wanted to scream at him but Caroline knew that would probably make things much worse. She cooked the lamb herself, it was her signature dish and she sure as hell knew it wasn’t overcooked; he was just being an ass because his over inflated ego had been a little crushed. After five years you’d think he’d be over it but obviously not.
Caroline had always regretted leaving him that night without saying goodbye but looking at his smug smirk as he told her about the lamb she didn’t any longer, her initial instincts about him were obviously right.
“Well, thank you for the feedback, I hope you both enjoy the rest of your evening,” she murmured, nodding her head by way of a farewell and walking away trying to contain her rage, until she was back in the kitchen at least.
“How did it go?” Katherine asked, scaring her momentarily.
“You should have let me take my knife,” she growled stalking past, not elaborating any further. She wasn’t in the mood to chat right now.