Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(6) by Susan Mallery
She walked to the back of the dining room and through the large, single swinging door. The smell was worse here, but she ignored it as she took in what would be her domain.
At least it was clean, she thought as she looked at the large wood grill, the steamer, the eight burners, the ovens. There was the prep area, a long, stainless counter with a sink for salad, stacks of pots, sauté pans and bowls. She didn’t even have to close her eyes to know what it would be like. The blinding heat from the grill and the burners. The hiss of the steam, the yells of “order up” or “ready to fire.”
Because of the age of the restaurant, the kitchen was large and well ventilated. The mats looked new and when she picked up one of the pots, it was heavy and of good quality. Now for the storeroom.
“You could pretend to be interested,” Cal said from just inside the kitchen.
She turned to him. “In what?”
“The front of the store. The color scheme and how the tables will be set up.”
“Oh, sure.” She thought for a second, not sure what to say. “It was great. Impressive.”
“Do you think I’m fooled?”
“No, but you shouldn’t be surprised, either. The only thing I care about is how big the dining room is and the table configuration.”
It was important to know how many tables of six and eight and the policy on large parties. There were few things a kitchen staff hated more than a surprise order for twelve.
“I’ll get you that information,” he said. “So what do you think?”
She grinned. “Not bad. I’ll need to take a complete inventory. How much is my budget for new equipment?”
“Get me a list of what you need and I’ll get back to you.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I’m the executive chef. I should have final say on what I buy.”
“You forget that I know you. You’ll be online picking up God knows what from Germany and France and sucking down twenty grand before I blink.”
She turned away so he wouldn’t see her smile. “I’d never do that.”
“Oh, right. This from a woman who asked for a set of knives for her wedding present.”
She spun back to face him, more than ready to take him on. “Cal—”
He cut her off with a quick shake of his head. “Sorry. I won’t bring up our marriage again.”
News of her relationship, or former relationship, with Cal Buchanan would be common knowledge to the kitchen staff within fifteen minutes of opening. Kitchens didn’t have secrets. But that didn’t mean she wanted it shoved in their faces. Or hers.
Seeing Cal, talking to him, was strange. She wasn’t sure what she felt. Not angry. Awkward maybe. Sad. Things had been good once. But he hadn’t cared. He’d…
Okay, maybe she was a little angry. It had been three years. Who would have guessed there would be so much unfinished emotion?
At least she wasn’t going to have to deal with him on a regular basis.
“I’ll get you a list,” she said. “I’ll take an inventory after we’re done.”
“Okay.” He looked at her. “Try not to scream.”
“There are contracts in place.”
She knew he didn’t mean with employees, which only left food and services.
“Not my problem,” she told him.
“It is, because you have to deal with them.”
So typical, she thought. Cal was management. He might intellectually understand what it took to get dinner out for two or three hundred, but he didn’t feel it in his soul.
“I’m not working with crap,” she said.
“Can they screw up before you assume it’s crap?”
“If the food had been good quality, the restaurant wouldn’t be shut down,” she told him. “So there was something wrong, and I’m guessing it was the food. I have my own people I like to deal with.”
“We have contracts.”
“No, you have contracts.”
“You’re getting a cut now, Penny. You’re part of us.”
As there weren’t any profits from which to get a cut, it wasn’t a happy thought. “I want to bring in my own suppliers.”
“We honor these first.”
She recognized the stubborn set of his mouth. She could fight and scream and possibly threaten physical violence, but he wouldn’t back down. Her only option was logic.
“Fine. I’ll use them for now, but if they screw up even once, it’s over. I’ll go to someone else.”
“You better have a talk with them. I’ll put money on the fact that they haven’t been delivering their best here. That had better change.”
“I’ll get on it.” He pulled a PalmPilot out of his jacket pocket and wrote on the small screen. Cal was such a guy—always in love with his toys.
“Shouldn’t the new general manager be handling that?” she asked. “Don’t you have coffee you should be selling?”
“Funny you should mention that,” he said.
She leaned against the counter and looked at him. All the warning signs were there—the brightness in his eyes, the slight smile, his sense of being totally in charge of the situation. Not that he was. This was her dream they were talking about and she wasn’t going to let anyone mess with it.
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