Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(20) by Susan Mallery
The décor was sparse, but beautiful. Lots of glass with accents of brightly colored fabric. The huge dining room was double the size of The Waterfront and spread out in all directions.
As it was a couple of hours before opening, there weren’t many people around. She flagged a busboy who was setting tables and asked for Jim.
The man stared at her. “Does he know you’re here?”
It wasn’t the question that startled her as much as the worry in his eyes.
“I have an appointment with him.”
“Oh, okay. I’ll go get him.” He started to leave, then turned back to her. “Stay here and don’t touch anything.”
“Promise,” Dani said, wondering what it was she was supposed to not be touching.
She returned to the reception desk in the foyer and drew in a deep breath. This was her first interview and it was a big one. Jim Brace’s restaurant was one of the best in Seattle. Restaurant critics argued about which was more exquisite—the food or the service. Starting here was like making a film debut in a summer blockbuster.
She reminded herself she had more than enough experience and that obviously Jim had been impressed by her résumé. If she didn’t get the job, at least she would have the interview experience for the next time.
A tall, slim man walked toward her. She recognized Jim from seeing his picture in the paper and smiled at him.
“Mr. Brace, I’m Dani Buchanan.”
“Call me Jim, please, and I’ll call you Dani.” He shook hands with her and led her toward the back of the restaurant. “Have you eaten here before?”
“A couple of times. The food is incredible.”
“Secret recipes,” he joked. “My mother is half Chinese and my father’s brother spent years in Japan. I grew up in both places, learning the language, but more importantly, studying the food. I summered here in Seattle, so I have American sensibilities. The combination has allowed me to be incredibly successful.”
He paused as a young woman in a kitchen uniform approached with a large tray.
Instead of thanking her, Jim looked over the tray, took it, then said, “You can go.”
The woman bowed slightly and left.
He began putting dishes on the table. “I know you’ll want to get another taste of the food. It’s excellent. Our executive chef, Park, has been with us about six months. I didn’t like all the changes he wanted to make, but I’ve let him do a few things.”
“The Waterfront went through the same sort of thing when it reopened,” Dani said with a smile. “Penny Jackson was determined to get her way. But who can argue with brilliance?”
“I can and do,” Jim told her. “It’s my place. What I say goes.” Without bothering to ask what she liked, he dished up the food onto two plates.
Dani took hers and studied the eclectic offering. There were several kinds of dumplings, tempura vegetables, a casserole that smelled heavenly.
Jim poured her tea, then added a small amount of sugar. Okay, maybe it was just her, but this was a guy who enjoyed taking charge just a little too much. She would be lucky if he didn’t cut up her food and put it on her fork for her.
“I’ve been looking for a manager for a while,” he said. “I need someone who can respect my vision. This restaurant is me.” He shrugged. “I’ve been called difficult.”
Dani thought about all Gloria had done, letting her work her ass off and think she had a chance with the company only to finally admit Dani would never do better than Burger Heaven.
“I can handle difficult,” Dani said. “As long as there are clearly defined goals and targets.”
“Hey, that I can provide.” Jim dug into his food and urged her to do the same. “Isn’t it great?” he said when he’d chewed and swallowed.
She sampled the various dishes and had to agree. When they’d finished, Jim rose and invited her to tour the restaurant with him.
He explained about the specific arrangement of tables and how regulars who spent big had special seating areas. He preferred overbooking and didn’t mind sending people away.
“Won’t they be unhappy and unlikely to return?” she asked.
“Some will be, but in my experience people want what they can’t have and for a lot of them, that’s dinner at my place.”
Dani wrinkled her nose. She was more of a “please the customer at all costs” kind of manager.
They walked through the swinging doors that separated the front of the store from the back. As they stepped into the pristine, open kitchen, she braced herself for flying insults and swearing in several languages. Instead there was an unnatural silence.
She stared at the men all working hard—chopping, blanching, prepping. The tallest of the group walked toward him. The embroidered name on his white jacket identified him as the executive chef.
“Park, this is Dani Buchanan. She’s interviewing for the manager job.”
Park turned to face her, then bowed slightly. But he didn’t speak.
Dani had worked with enough brilliant chefs to expect attitude, opinion and a volume that would shatter the eardrums of the uninitiated.
“Hi,” she said brightly. “I loved the sample menu. This is one place where making recommendations would be easy.”
Nothing about Park’s handsome face changed. He blinked slowly.
Before she could figure out what else to say, there was a loud clang in the back of the kitchen as two metal bowls fell into a metal sink. Jim immediately turned and spoke harshly in a language Dani didn’t understand. Everyone froze in midmotion, even Park.
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