How to Impress a Top Food Critic art by Bo Kaier and the midjourney AI

Finally, a Drabblecast episode for weird foodies.

We bring you a Drabblecast original called, “How to Impress a Top Food Critic and Put Your Restaurant on the Galactic Map” by P.A, Cornell.

Enjoy…

Episode Sponsor– Mothmen 1966

Art by Bo Kaier in concert with the midjourney text to image AI

 

How to Impress a Top Food Critic and Put Your Restaurant on the Galactic Map

By P.A. Cornell

 

“Good morning Chef! I am your holographic guide to getting your restaurant listed in Rothman’s Galactic Gastronomy—the galaxy’s premier culinary guide! As you know, Mr. Rothman—the foremost food critic in the galaxy—will be dining in your restaurant in a few standard weeks’ time. As such, he has sent me on ahead to assist you in preparing the meal he most desires. But before we get started, how may I address you?”

“Chef is fine.”

“How wonderfully concise! Chef it is.”

“Great. So, what’s the recipe? I can cook anything.”

“Ah yes. As you know, Mr. Rothman likes to choose a dish that does not currently appear on your menu, to test your ability to prepare a meal for even the most demanding customer, no matter how complicated it may be. The dish Mr. Rothman has selected for this occasion is Fennish flat eel, served with a morganberry reduction.”

“That doesn’t sound so difficult.”

“Oh, it’s not, Chef. Even your average home cook could prepare this dish. It requires nothing more complicated than a sous-vide.”

“I don’t get it. Why would Rothman want something so simple?”

“The dish is simple to prepare, yes. The skill lies in acquiring the necessary ingredients, all of which are rare and difficult to obtain—and, I’m afraid, substitutions are not permitted.”

“I see.”

“Not to worry, Chef. The ingredients are few and I will be with you the entire time to help guide you through the locating and acquisition of these ingredients. Shall we begin?”

“Today? Isn’t it a little soon?”

“Oh no, Chef. As I mentioned, these ingredients are difficult and time-consuming to obtain. We must get started immediately if you are to prepare the dish in time for Mr. Rothman’s arrival.”

“Okay. I guess no time like the present.”

“Indeed! If you look in the crate my hover projection system arrived in, you’ll also find a duffel bag which contains some tools you may need on this quest. Be sure to review the contents thoroughly so you are familiar with your options.”

“Sure.”

“Now, do you have a ship capable of interstellar flight?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent! Be sure to bring my holoprojector on board. I will power down for the journey, but you can power me back up when we’ve reached our destination.”

“And what exactly is our destination?”

“Our first stop will be the planet Xirada. According to my programming this planet is a tropical paradise. You may want to take some holo recordings of your own while we’re there.”

“I’m not much of a holographer.”

“Well, I hope you don’t mind if I record some of the breathtaking scenery myself. Mr. Rothman may want to see the holos while he dines.”

“Knock yourself out.”

“I’ll be powering down now.”

#

“Ah! It’s good to see you again Chef. I see we’ve arrived on Xirada. My, look at that scenery. It’s every bit as beautiful as my data said it would be.”

“Yeah, that’s great. Look, can we just get what we need here so we can move on to the rest of the ingredients?”

“Of course, Chef! This is your quest, after all. I’m merely here to advise and assist. Now then…on Xirada we will find the morganberry bushes, which grow in the darkest recesses of the natural cave formations of the southern continent. According to my internal sensors, there’s a cave not far from here. How fortuitous!”

“Yeah, great. So, take me there.”

“Of course, Chef. Follow me.”

#

“There’s the cave, Chef. According to my data this is the ideal time to harvest the morganberries. It also says morganberries are named after the explorer that discovered them in 2362, Alistair Morgan—a Terran, like yourself, Chef. According to Morgan’s records, the berries are only edible for a period of two standard hours during each planetary rotation. If we’d come any later, we might have missed the window!”

“Okay, I guess I’ll head in there and get some then.”

“I recommend you take the cryo-container included in your kit, Chef. This way you can flash freeze the berries and preserve their ripeness until you’re ready to use them.”

“Fine. Thanks.”

“Good luck, Chef!”

“Whoa, wait, what the hell is that?”

“Oh my! It appears the cave is inhabited by one of the local species of fauna. According to my database it is a male of the species commonly known as Oura Dragon.”

“Dragon? It looks more like a cross between a seal and a turtle.”

“That it does, Chef.”

“Well I’ll just wave it off and get it out of the way.”

“Excellent idea. Uh, Chef, you may be interested in this other informational tidbit about Oura Dragons.”

“Not now. Yah! Move it! JESUSFUCKINGCHRIST!”

“Very prudent of you to run, Chef. I believe you’ve discovered for yourself what I was referring to. The reason these creatures are called dragons despite their appearance to the contrary, is that they’re the only species in the known universe capable of expelling their breath as fire. They are very rare, Chef. What a singular privilege to have seen one in the wild!”

“That thing nearly flambéed me!”

“Yes, and I have a wonderful holorecording of it! And, you know the old saying, ‘If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.’”

“Ha ha. Well I’m not going in this thing’s cave. We need to find another one.”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that, Chef. The nearest cave is at least a half a day’s walk from here. We would never be able to reach it while the berries are at peak freshness.”

“So they won’t be as fresh. I’m making them into a reduction anyway. I can work with that.”

“I’m afraid it’s much more serious than that, Chef. If the berries are not at peak freshness, they turn not only bitter but poisonous. Your reduction would kill Mr. Rothman within seconds of tasting it. Then it would indeed be very difficult to have your restaurant listed in Rothman’s Galactic Gastronomy.”

“Great. Well, you’re going to need to help me then. I need you to draw that thing’s attention while I slip in behind it to get the berries.”

“I’m not so sure I should take such a risk, Chef.”

“You’re a hologram. It can’t hurt you.”

“Yes, but my hover projection system is physical and could easily be damaged by rough treatment—and of course, fire.”

“Look, you said you were here to help me, so help.”

“Very well, Chef.”

“Okay, I’m heading in.”

“Chef…Chef…I don’t think it’s fooled. It’s turning back toward the cave…I advise you to hurry.”

“Aaah! Quick! Get back to the ship!”

“As you wish, Chef. And may I say, I had no idea a man of your girth could move so swiftly! Such agility!”

“Yeah thanks. That thing singed off the seat of my pants!”

“Indeed, it did, Chef. Nature and it’s wonders!”

“I got the berries though. I hope these are enough.”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine, Chef. The dish only requires a light drizzle of morganberry reduction.”

“Okay, where to next?”

“Our next stop is the planet Eroden where we will find the eel. You’ll be relieved to hear that this will be far less challenging. The streams on Eroden are teeming with Fennish flat eel. My data says they practically leap right out and into your net.”

“Great, I need something easy after all that. Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have some burn cream in that kit, would you?”

“Did you not review the contents as I advised, Chef?”

“I didn’t want to waste any time.”

“I see. Well, I’m afraid there is no burn cream to be had.”

“Great. Okay so give me the coordinates for this planet Eroden.”

“I’m afraid that’s quite impossible, Chef.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, the planet Eroden was destroyed millennia ago. It no longer exists.”

“What? So how the hell am I supposed to get the eel?”

“Excellent question, Chef! We will journey to the Neemish system. There you will negotiate with the Neemish for use of their time portal. The portal will allow you passage through space-time so you can reach Eroden.”

“Okay. But I’ve never even heard of the Neemish. How am I supposed to negotiate with them? I don’t even speak their language.”

“I’m sure the Neemish will provide an interpreter.”

“Can’t you talk to them for me?”

“Oh no, Chef. The Neemish despise holographic technology. It goes against their deepest beliefs. I’m afraid I will have to be powered down until after the negotiation, so as not to offend them.”

“Ugh. Fine.”

“However, I can advise you before I power down. The Neemish respect a tough negotiator, so don’t be afraid to push back on any terms.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Excellent. Good luck! Powering down.”

#

“Hello again, Chef! I see by the view of planet Eroden that your negotiation went well. Very well, judging by the Neemish marital bracelet you’re wearing. By the number of color bands, it appears you acquired not one but three spouses, one of each Neemish gender. What a blessed day!”

“Yeah, and I was a tough negotiator, like you said. I agreed to the marriage but on condition that I never have to live with, or procreate with, or interact in person with my spouses ever again. It’s a marriage in name only. All I have to do is wear this bracelet.”

“Yes, that is the Neemish tradition. How wonderful for you. That said, your restaurant will have to do well indeed now.”

“Why’s that? They don’t expect me to support my spouses, do they?”

“Oh, nothing like that, Chef. However, there is the Festival of Grentat.”

“The what?”

“Think of it as the Neemish equivalent to your Valentine’s Day. Except that Neemish tradition demands that you send your spouses multiple gifts over a period of one standard month, each more lavish than the last. Something that could get pricy with three spouses.”

“Great.”

“Not to worry, Chef. A mention in Rothman’s Galactic Gastronomy should get you all the business you need to keep your spouses happy.”

“Alright. I’d better go get that eel then.”

“Good luck, Chef.”

#

“Okay, we have the eel and the berries. What’s next?”

“Let’s see here…according to the recipe, the eel is to be salted using the tears of a Krillixian virgin.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“I’m afraid not, Chef. The challenge here is in finding a Krillixian virgin. Apparently, the females are in heat from the moment they emerge from their chrysalis. A chrysalis which will certainly be surrounded by expectant males. Their virginal status is unlikely to last long.”

“Wonderful.”

“Yes, the sexual practices of species can be quite beautiful.”

“That’s not what I—oh never mind. So, what do we do then?”

“I believe the best course of action is to be among the males as a female emerges from her chrysalis.”

“That’s it?”

“The female must choose you, of course. Fortunately, thanks to your magnificent negotiation skills we made good time acquiring the eel and therefore have additional time to spend here, should we need to locate another female.”

“Alright then, let’s give it a shot.”

“My sensors indicate a large grouping of Krillixians not far from here, surely males gathered in expectation of an emergence. Shall we join them?”

“Let’s.”

“Follow me, Chef.”

“I think I see the crowd. Ugly little buggers, aren’t they?”

“Beauty is relative, Chef. I suspect many Krillixians might make the same assessment of your appearance.”

“I guess.”

“I’m told the females are the most attractive of the two Krillixian genders.”

“Great.”

“Ah, there’s the chrysalis and I can see it’s beginning to open. This is a special event not many Terrans ever see.”

“I’m humbled.”

“As am I. Ah, and there she is!”

“Good god! She looks like a giant praying mantis!”

“I know! Isn’t she gorgeous?”

“She’s coming over here. Why is she coming over here? She’s not going to bite my head off or anything, is she?”

“Oh no, Chef. Krillixians are a gentle species. Quite delicate.”

“What is she doing?”

“It appears she’s taken a liking to you. Look! The males are leaving, a sure sign this female has imprinted on you and chosen you for her mate. I’m afraid your Neemish spouses would not like that. They can be a very jealous species.”

“Okay well, she’s a lot heavier than she looks, can you get her off me? Maybe tell her I’m already married.”

“The Krillixians have no concept of marriage, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“Ah, that’s better. What did you say to her?”

“I simply told her that due to an unfortunate birth defect you lack the necessary male genitalia to impregnate her.”

“Wait, what?”

“Look Chef, she’s beginning to cry. This may be a good opportunity to take out the tube provided with your kit and save some of those tears.”

“Okay, sure. Man, she sure is crying a lot.”

“Yes. I believe you have more than enough tears. Due to their high concentration of sodium, a little goes a long way.”

“Okay. Can you get her to stop crying now?”

“I’m afraid not, Chef. She’s quite upset. You see, once a female imprints on a male, it’s permanent. She can never again choose another mate. I’m afraid you’ve doomed her to a life of loneliness and childlessness.”

“What? For real? Well…that’s not what…I mean, I didn’t want to ruin her life.”

“It was an effective means of obtaining tears though.”

“I guess. Look, why don’t you tell her she has an open invitation to come eat at my restaurant whenever she wants. Free of charge. Anything on the menu.”

“Chef, I’m not sure—”

“Just tell her, okay. It’s the least I can do.”

“Yes, Chef.”

“Good. At least she stopped crying now.”

“Chef, I’d be remiss in failing to inform you that adult Krillixians eat only rarely. However, when they do, they gorge themselves on as much food as they can eat, over a period of several standard weeks. After which they molt.”

“Great. Well I won’t be seating her in the dining room, I guess.”

“A prudent decision, Chef.”

“I’ll figure it out. Let’s get off this planet before I make any more promises I’ll live to regret. What’s next?”

“Ah yes, the final ingredient. You’ll be pleased to know, Chef, that the final element of this dish is a leaf from the legendary Shero plant. There is only one such plant in existence and it grows at the top of Mount Vrayna, on the moon of the same name.”

“Sounds like another hard ingredient to get.”

“While the plant is exceedingly rare and produces but a single leaf, it is actually quite simple to obtain. Mount Vrayna is more of a small hill, than a true mountain. The moon’s lower gravity makes the journey easier for your anatomy. It’s a matter of walking up to it and plucking the leaf.”

“Okay, let’s head to Vrayna, I guess.”

#

“What a lovely moon this is. And look, you can see the top of Mount Vrayna from here!”

“Yeah, it’s great. Okay, I have the envelope you provided to put the leaf in. I guess I’ll just run up there and get it.”

“Wonderful! Chef…one moment.”

“What is it now?”

“My sensors detect another ship. Oh look, I see another person approaching. He’s heading up the mountain, and it appears he has a holographic companion of the same make and model as myself. One moment while I make contact. Ah yes, it appears this individual is also a chef and is likewise here for the leaf.”

“What?”

“It seems Mr. Rothman gave you both the same dish. Oh, he’s such a character! He has always enjoyed lively competition.”

“Are you saying I have to race this other guy to the leaf?”

“Oh no, Chef. I’m afraid the rules state you must do battle—to the death.”

“What?”

“In your kit you will find several tools you could use for weaponry or defense. Might I suggest a meat mallet and ground ghost pepper combination?”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, I am, Chef. You can blind him with the pepper and take the opportunity to knock him unconscious with the mallet.”

“Jesus Christ! Fine.”

“Excellent. And it seems your opponent has likewise chosen his weapons. Looks like a carving knife and a torch.”

“Torch? I could’ve chosen a torch?”

“I did advise you to review the contents of your kit, Chef. I’m afraid once you’ve made your selection you can’t change it. Those are the rules.”

“Oh, for god’s sake. Okay, let’s just get this over with.”

“That’s the spirit. I’m afraid, however, that I’ve grown quite fond of you throughout this quest, Chef. I couldn’t bare to watch you be injured or worse. I will therefore be powering down while you face your foe. You may power me back on again should you survive.”

“I—okay.”

#

“Chef, how nice to see you again, and in one piece! Well, almost. Not to worry, you can still make this dish even with those two fingers missing from your left hand. I suppose it’s fortunate the torch cauterized the wounds.”

“I…I…”

“Oh yes, I can see you have the leaf. I’ll see to it that the ship makes it to our next destination should you lose consciousness. And may I say it’s a testament to the kind of man you are that you haven’t died of shock, given the state of your body.”

“Wait…next destination? Thought you said this was the last ingredient.”

“Oh, it is, Chef. The final ingredient for the eel dish. You’ll simply place it on the plate for Mr. Rothman to crumble over it just prior to taking the first bite, and therefore releasing all it’s flavor at the precise moment.”

“Then why aren’t we heading back to the restaurant?”

“Well we can’t do that yet, Chef. First we must acquire all the necessary ingredients for Mr. Rothman’s most desired dessert!”

 

The End