A barrage of voices broke out among the judges, voices that were laced with sarcasm and mockery; not the whispering-behind-your-back type of mockery, but the right-in-your-face type.
It was sarcasm done in the rawest and most blatant of ways.
Under normal circumstances, the audience below the stage would think that something underhanded or shady must be going on.
But now, they all thought that the panels reaction was completely natural and justified.
Seriously, how was one even supposed to eat something that was the product of such inept attempt at cooking
On the other side of the stage, Zi Yan frowned slightly at the judges reaction.
Zhao Feng stood up abruptly with a dark look on his face.
But before he could open his mouth, he saw Zhang Han waving him off.
What the hell was that supposed to mean
Zhao Feng turned his rage-filled eyes towards the panel of judges.
In the end, he chose to keep quiet.
That, of course, had nothing to do with Zhang Hans disinclination to cause public unrest.
Instead, it had more to do with the fact that he had noticed, through the restaurants window, a cavalcade of luxury cars pulling up outside the restaurant.
A group of people stepped out of the cars and were soon making their way over to the restaurant with haste.
Back at the judges table, each judge took a portion of Lv Chaos Jin Chan Abalone.
As they ate, they each gave their comments successively.
“Not bad at all.
It has appealing colors and an appetizing aroma.
And the texture is good as well.”
“Ill give 99 out of 100.
The one mark is deducted to prevent Chef Lv from getting ahead of himself.
Well, since I cant give you a hundred, Im forced to give you 99.”
Looks like littleLvs culinary skills have vastly improved from last time,” Luo Sheng said, shaking his head with a smile.
“To be able to make Jin Chan Abalone to this level means that youre already near my own level of skills.
President Niu, looks like youve hit the jackpot this time!”
“Huh He is indeed… Ah”
Niu Xuebo stopped mid-sentence when he suddenly saw the group of people entering through the restaurants door.
“Pfft…” Niu Xuebo broke out in a series of coughs.
“Liu… Chairman Liu”
Niu Xuebo had spat out the abalone which had been inside his mouth when recognized who the newcomers were!
Moments after Niu Xuebo had spat out his abalone, Luo Sheng had noticed the newcomers as well.
All of a sudden, Luo Shengs eyes grew as wide as saucers.
“Pfft…” A piece of abalone flew out from Luo Shengs mouth.
“Ahem, ahem! Master”
Luo Sheng had recognized his master, Wang Long, among the group of people who had just walked in.
After Luo Sheng had spat out his abalone, the same thing was about to happen to Chef An who was sitting beside Luo Sheng.
Chef Ans face changed suddenly.
“Pfft….” And there went Chef Ans abalone.
“Master Chef Bai Mu”
After Chef Ans abalone was sent flying, all the other chefs beside him had pretty much the same reaction.
“Master Chef San Ming Pfft…” Yet another abalone was sent flying.
“Pfft…” Thats right, another abalone.
“Master Chef Bei Kong”
“All four master Chefs of Hong Kong are, are, are all here Pfft…”
“Pfft…” The whole place was practically raining abalones at this point.
Continuous voices reverberated around the hall.
Right then, the eyes of everyone present were about as wide as the plethora of regurgitated abalones lying around.
A group of abalone spitters Was that a thing nowadays
But when the crowd turned around and saw the group of people, all of whom were exuding uncommon temperament, heading towards them posthaste, looks of amazement instantly formed on their faces.
The group of newcomers consisted of around 10 people.
The leader of the group was a man wearing a black Tang suit.
His jacket was unbuttoned, thus revealing the white shirt that he wore underneath the Tang suit.
The man had short hair and thick eye brows.
His expression seemed very nonchalant as he toyed with his bead bracelet with his right hand.
That man was none other than Liu Qingfeng!
“Seems pretty lively around here, huh” said Liu Qingfeng in a rough tone.
Liu Qingfeng kept walking towards the restaurants interior.
The restaurant manager still had no idea who the newcomers were.
In fact, his did not think his mind had caught up to whatever that was going on yet.
The manager was just about to step forward to welcome the newcomers when, all of a sudden, a shadow zoomed past him.
The restaurant manager strained to make out who it was that had run past him with such haste.
“Hey, isnt that my boss, Niu Xuebo” The manager thought.
“But why is he in such a hurry to greet these people Hes acting like hes the restaurant manager or something.”
During that few seconds of the managers stupor, something else happened.
Swish, swish, swish!
President Li, President Hui, and the others had all rushed forward to greet the newcomers.
The managers heart literally skipped a beat!
These must be people of inordinately high status!
Still, the manager had failed to recognize the true extent of those peoples greatness.
That was why the manager nearly bit off his own tongue when he heard President Nius next words.
“Oh, my, my, Chairman Liu.
Nice to meet you! Its a real pleasure! What an honor to have you grace our little restaurant with your presence.
What an absolute honor!” Niu Xuebo said with a subservient expression.
A look of confusion formed on Liu Qingfengs face.
“And you are”
Niu Xuebo answered quickly, “Me Im little Niu! And Im the owner of this restaurant.
Last time, during the trade show, I was lucky enough watch you in action, Chairman Liu.”
“Oh, little Niu, is it” Liu Qingfeng nodded blandly.
“Nice to meet you, Chairman Liu.
Im little Li.
Well, last time…”
“Hi, Chairman Liu.
Im little Hui…”
If the people in the crowd were all bespectacled, their glasses would have fallen off their faces right about now.
Earlier, when Niu Xuebo and the others made their entrance, they had acted as if they were kings and monarchs.
But now Now, they were acting like they were mere eunuchs at the service of an emperor.
Liu Qingfeng glanced at the few men whose names he had never even heard before.
He nodded and gave a superficial answer: “I heard that a culinary competition is taking place here Its not over yet, right”.
Niu Xuebo quickly said, “um, no, no, no.
The two chefs had just finished preparing their dishes.
Chairman Liu, please, take a seat.”
I might as well sample a few bites.
Will it be appropriate if I were to become one of the competitions judges” Liu Qingfeng asked, looking at Niu Xuebo.
“Of course! Of course itll be appropriate! How can it not Chairman Liu, youve tasted all kinds of delicacies from all around the world.
Youre the best judge we can ask for!” Niu Xuebo and the others led Liu Qingfeng to his seat.
When he walked past Zi Yan and Zhang Han, Liu Qingfeng gave each of them a pointed look, though he said nothing; through that gesture, he was letting them both know the reason he was here.
After that, Liu Qingfeng and those who had arrived together with him walked towards the table and seating area that was reserved for judges.
Under normal circumstances, Niu Xuebo would have fawned over Wang Long and the other famous Master Chefs too; but Liu Qingfengs presence was so powerful that his mind was actually swooning a little.
He had completely forgotten to greet Wang Long and the other master Chefs even after they had all taken their seats.
Still, Wang Long and the other master Chefs had acted graciously and with much understanding.
After all, the old man beside them was Liu Qingfeng, a man who possessed top-notch financial resources and whose influence extended throughout the entire nation!
Lv Chao and other members of the culinary world, on the other hand, cared more about Wang Long and the master Chefs.
It was not every day that they got to see all four master Chefs gathered in one place.
Lv Chao quickly greeted Wang Long when the latter walked past the chefs counter.
“Grandmaster,” said Lv Chao.
Wang Longs reaction to his greeting was something that he had never anticipated before; Wang Long had acted as if he had not even heard his greeting.
In fact, Wang Long barely spared Lv Chao a glance.
It was like Lv Chao was just another stranger to Wang Long.
Lv Chao felt his heart stopped for a moment.
Based on the look on his face, the grandmaster doesnt seem all that happy!
Wang Long received another greeting when the group finally reached their seats.
It was Luo Sheng who had quickly stood up and greeted Wang Long.
This time, Wang Long did react, and his reaction was a powerful one.
Wang Long glared at Luo Sheng with eyes that were filled with ice.
Luo Sheng shuddered.
Uh-oh, this is bad.
The master is obviously pissed off!
Everyone took their seats.
At the judges table, more flattery and fawning ensued.
Meanwhile, murmurs and voices broke out in the audiences seat.
“Wait, youre sh*tting me, right Youre saying you dont know him Hes Liu Qingfeng! Chairman Liu! And Ill be d*mn*d, because you want to know what his net worth is Seven f*cking hundred billion, thats how much hes worth!”
“Good Lord! So hes a VIP of that caliber! I cant believe I saw Chairman Liu with my own two eyes today!”
A series of gasps sounded among the crowd.
The moment Zhao Feng saw Liu Qingfeng, Zhao Feng knew what Liu Qingfengs purpose was in coming here.
Still, he figured the masters wife might not be aware of the Liu Qingfengs reason for being here.
That was why Zhao Feng was now standing beside Zi Yan, quietly explaining to her that Liu Qingfeng was here to help.
Now Zi Yan knew, though Zhou Fei and Zhang Li, who were both seated beside her, were still clueless.
The whole grand entrance scene made Zhou Fei feel a little curious.
So there she was, gawking at Liu Qingfeng with a look of surprise and suspicion on her face.
Although she knew who Liu Qingfeng was, this was still her first time seeing him in person.
Zhang Li, on the other hand, had already been harboring feelings of frustration ever since she heard the judges mocking remarks just now.
She stood up from her seat and stared right at the judges.
“Whats the matter with you people Is this competition still on or what The dishes are already prepared, so will you please hurry up and taste them Do you know how annoying it is to watch you people dilly-dallying and dragging things out”
The enter restaurant plunged into silence.
Everyone turned their eyes towards the bold spitfire that was Zhang Li.
“What did you just say” Niu Xuebo was a little irked.
A dark glower formed on his face as he injected iciness into his tone.
“Do you even have the right to voice out your opinion here”
“Why not” A sudden voice sounded.
That voice had come from the person beside Niu Xuebo, and it sounded much rougher and louder than Niu Xuebos own voice.
“This isnt a business setting.
Nor is this a formal meeting.
Surely, anyone is allowed to voice their opinions”
Niu Xuebos face froze.
He glanced at Liu Qingfeng with a vacant look on his face.
It took him two seconds to recover from his stupor.
He blushed and quickly backtracked.
“Yes, yes, yes,” he said, “Chairman Liu is absolutely right.
Okay, um, well, everyone, feel free to speak casually.
Free speech, right”
Niu Xuebo had already noticed something amiss before he even finished his sentence just now.
Obviously, Chairman Liu had not brought the four master Chefs here today to support his restaurant.
If that was the case, then…
His eyes instantly darted to Zhang Han.
Shock creeped onto Niu Xuebos face just as a scary thought formed inside his mind.
Him! He knew Liu Qingfeng!
Argh, what the heck have I done! If I somehow ended up on Chairman Lius **list, I…
Niu Xuebo would burst into tears right then and there if only he had the tears to shed.
Now, he looked entirely deflated and subdued.
At the same time, the other big shot presidents dared not utter a single word.
Their spidery-senses had alerted them that whatever that was going on today was far from ordinary.
If even the hotshot presidents had chosen to remain silent, it went without saying that none of the other judges and the audience would dare make a sound; once again, the entire restaurant descended into silence.
“This beautiful lady is right.
If this is a competition, then you should all show some competitive spirit.
Arent the dishes ready Now, serve them up so we can sample them!” Liu Qingfeng said with a wave of his hand.
“Yes, right away,” Niu Xuebo said.
Then he turned to the manager and said, “Bring them up.”
The restaurant manager swiftly carried the two dishes to the judges table.
Then, he placed a clean plate and new pair chopsticks in front of Liu Qingfeng.
“Please help yourself,” the manager said quietly.
Liu Qingfeng picked up the chopsticks and, before sampling the food, he asked, “Who made this abalone”
“Its made by this restaurants head chef, Lv Chao,” Niu Xuebo answered.
Then why hasnt anyone sampled this fried rice” Liu Qingfeng asked.
“Just now, they said it was because it had been prepared sloppily and that it was no better than pig fodder.
They all refused to taste it,” Zhang Li said loudly.
The faces of Niu Xuebo and the other judges froze the moment those words were thrown out.
All of them were now eyeing Liu Qingfengs expression warily.
Liu Qingfengs facial expression did not reveal much.
His words, on the other hand, made Niu Xuebo and the others break out in cold sweat.
“Oh Pig fodder, I see Then why dont I have a taste of this so-called pig fodder” Liu Qingfeng said casually.
Then, he picked up a mouthful of fried rice with his chopsticks and placed it into his mouth.
During his first bite, Liu Qingfeng thought it tasted rather bland; it was as though it lacked saltiness as well as the kind of flavor that could only be produced by a special blend of seasoning and spices.
But when he took his second bite, the aroma of the rice burst open.
On the third bite, the taste of the egg began to spread; and on the fourth, the egg and rices flavor formed a tantalizing combination and invaded his entire oral cavity.
The more he chewed, the tastier it became.
It was a bit like those better quality steamed buns and rice; even if they were eaten plain, they would produce a similar effect too when chewed.
Still, the rice from New Moon Bay was on another level entirely.
Swallowing, Liu Qingfeng eyes brightened.
This pig fodder isnt bad at all, eh Well, I think Ill skip the abalone.
Ive eaten it so many times that Im tired of it already.
Ill skip the comments as well.
Ill leave the comments to the four master Chefs beside me.”
By then, Niu Xuebo and the rest had already come to the realization that Liu Qingfeng was actually here as the opponents backup!
A slight chill went through Niu Xuebos heart.
If he got on Liu Qingfengs bad side, and if Liu Qingfeng really was serious about ruining him, it would just be a matter of minutes before he was forced to file for bankruptcy!
This was nothing if not a cause for a full-blown panic attack!
Right now, Niu Xuebo was so anxious that he could barely sit still.
His mind was a complete blur and he had no idea what to do.
Following Liu Qingfengs statement, Wang Long and the other master Chefs of Hong Kong each sampled the dishes.
When they were sampling the abalone, their demeanors were as if they had done the same thing 1,000 of times before.
They all thought that the abalone would turn out much better tasting had they been the ones who prepared it.
They could readily identify many weaknesses and flaws in the dish, be it regarding flame control or other nitty-gritty details of the culinary arts.
But when they tasted the fried rice whose presentation looked unsavory and off-putting, a few bites were all it took for the aroma of the rice and the eggs to take over.
Their expressions changed instantly.
Wang Longs pupil constricted.