Chef's Table
rating: +49+x

When I'm cooking for myself, my diet goes to shit.

If I'm there, on my own, it's fast food. Takeout. Microwave meals. Pasta seasoned with, dare I say it, cheese slices and ketchup. I see you guff there, the great chef Chaz Ambrose eating microwave meals, but it's true, I promise.

You see, cooking is an art. An Art. And what's the point of art if it's only seen by the artist? Hold on, come close I want to show you something…

Ancho chillies. Known as a Pablo chilli before it's been dried. It's green prior to the process, but, as you can see, it's now a wonderful dark, deep black with a subtle hint of crimson. They pair wonderfully with all sorts of things - the sourness of citrus, the umami of hydra flesh, the savoury effervescence of a spiralised memory.

That's what cooking is. It's transformation. It's magic. And what's the point of magic if you don't have an audience to applaud your tricks? When you cook something, you're creating an experience for others to partake in. A good chef does not. Cook. For. Himself.

Ha, sorry, did I scare you? I didn't even realise I was waving this thing around. It's a fantastic knife, I picked it up a few years ago in Paris. It's a mithril-amethyst composite, enchanted so debris and blood just slide right off it.

Back to the recipe. So we have our chillies. We're going to chop these up, throw them in a pan with crushed garlic and chopped red onions. We'll fry that for say … 7- no, 8 minutes. After that, we'll add quartered plum tomatoes, cumin, oregano, some salt and sugar. Top it off with just around half a litre of hot water and leave it to simmer. Don't forget about it, we'll come back to this shortly.

One of the questions I get asked all the time - how did I get into this? I wish I had some grandiose tale of finding my calling. An enlightened awakening, or spiritual trigger. I was backpacking across the globe when I was younger. I was a kid, to tell the truth. Dropped out of school, didn't know what I was doing in life. But I knew how to cook. See, parents weren't around much when I was younger, and when they were, they didn't care much for either me or my brother. I had to do a lot of the everyday tasks, otherwise they wouldn't get done. I still feel bad about getting out of there as soon as I could, but I'm sure he's okay…

I was travelling, and I knew how to cook, so that was how I paid my way. I'd take odd jobs at restaurants, food trucks, wherever I could. At the same time I fell in with some odd fellas - anartists, and not the kind producing anything good. So a typical anartist! Ha, I crack myself up sometimes.

They were doing some crazy stuff, and it got me thinking. Thinking how much easier my life could be if I learnt how to do what they did. Like I said, this didn't come out of some great vision - it was out of a desire to never overcook a scallop again. Why bother with pan frying when I can say some mumbo-jumbo to instantly cook it through at the ideal temperature?

The chilli mix! I almost forgot about this. This would usually need 25 minutes on the heat, but let's speed that up with some thaumaturgy. Now we've got to blitz it up. Have you heard of the Daevite Empire? A bloodythirsty bunch who've nearly conquered the world a few times. Came up with a good few spells they deployed in battle, including this particularly nasty one whose name translates roughly as "Hurricane of Blades" … ṬEUKM TUṬÁ GIÁH TUṬÁ and done! A centuries old incantation of death, repurposed to perfectly blitz our salsa roja. And the best part about it? No blender to wash up! Like I said, this all came out of a place of ease, the appreciation of the artform came later. I'm not averse to technology - would you and I be here tonight without it? - but sometimes the old ways have a certain magic to them.

On to the main event of this dish. The locals of the pocket dimension this cephalopod is sourced from refer to it as Iktr Thàn Shlane, but at the restaurants we refer to them as Centasquids due to, as I'm sure you can guess, the abundance of tentacles. As you can see, they're a good two times larger than our oceans' source of calamari. Let's chop these tentacles off. We don't need them now, but I'll stick them in the freezer for a seafood bisque later on.

Remember what I said earlier about never overcooking seafood again? Let's just cast some basic fire magic and…voila! Perfectly cooked through squid. I'll just use the blowtorch to give it a bit of colour, and it's done.

Want to try some?

No? Okay, I get it, you want to wait for the finished product. Smart cookie. I like that about you.

There's been a few … controversial changes to Ambrose recently. But when hasn't art been controversial? No-one was applying anomalous methods to the culinary world before I did, at least not on the same scale. I'm always trying to move forward, push the boundaries. You ever heard the story of Tantalus? Greek mythology. He kills, cooks, and serves his son to the gods. He gets punished horribly - obviously, it's a Greek myth - but I think the problem wasn't his art, but more he didn't find his audience. Some of Ambrose's customers are now former customers, but that's okay. Art is never appreciated by everyone.

Now, we've got our cooked centasquid, our salsa roja, and some avocado puree I prepared earlier. What's the difference between standard cooking and fine cooking? Presentation. The appreciation of the effect aesthetic presentation can have on taste. I'm going to hasselback the squid, pour the salsa into the slits and then sprinkle it with concentrated class-IV ectoplasm. It's colloquially known in culinary circles as anti-gravity powder. See why? The squid floats a few inches above the plate, then I pipe the puree, already mixed with the ectoplasm, in a spiral pattern both above and below. There we go! The finished piece.

It's… it's been a while since I cooked like this. It's slightly ironic, founding my own restaurant due to a love of cooking led to me having less time to cook. Things were good at first - aren't they always? The renown came quick, and I had a few years of being truly free to experiment, to take risks with my art.

I cooked a cockatrice egg sous vide, seasoned it with black garlic and crushed draconite. The critics said the first taste gave them a moment of clarity they had never experienced before.

To be eaten by the whole table, I created a scale replica of the Bang Gioc Falls from celeriac, rib-eye, and Café de Paris sauce. I worked with an interdimensional physicist, we hired him as a consultant, to keep the falls flowing indefinitely. For a finishing touch, I fashioned finches from spring onion and tarragon, enchanted them to fly and sing. To sing!

The Italians still haven't forgiven me for my reimagining of acquacotta, but I stand by it!

Then we started expanding. Less time in the kitchen, more time scoping new locations. More time negotiating with suppliers. More time in the office. All my time in the office. I get why it's needed, Marius doesn't think I do, but I do. I just wish there was something outside of the office for me. You don't make many friends as a boss, in the boardroom or the kitchen. And it's tough, it's really tough, to meet people outside of work when work is all you do.

I said I ate like shit when I cooked just for myself.

I've eaten like shit for a while now.

Do you know when we'd begin lunch service? No prizes for this one, midday. So you're in the restaurant by 9am at the latest for team meetings, menu revisions and redrafts, stock checks, pre-cooking, I could go on. In the evenings, last orders leave the kitchen by 11pm, but that's sure not when you leave. Clean-up, cashing up, disposing of leftover produce, staying behind an extra hour to make sure the hobs have cooled down because the lack of sleep, or what you took to deal with it, has made you paranoid your restaurant's going to burn down the second you walk out the door.

But all that was preferable to the inane boredom of another quarterly projections meeting, or a review of customers' perception of our brand. If you think kimchi is sour, you should meet a pissed off investor.

I came across a new recipe the other day. An escargot, grapefruit, and paneer curry. A mash-up of a French delicacy, a sour, once-exotic fruit, and an Indian classic base. No magic, no monsters, yet it still took me back to the good years - bringing those diametrically opposed things together seemed mad. I had to make it.

I left the office early, bought the ingredients, took them home. In fact, I went round quite a few stores, looking for the best quality ingredients. I ended up back at the place I started, but at least I did my research, huh?

I arrived at the flat, unpacked, got all the ingredients out on my worktop and a pan on the stove. I re-read the recipe. And that's when I saw it.

"Serves 4 people."

A chill ran through me. I tried to ratio the ingredients down to one lonely portion, but it wouldn't work out. I pulled out my phone, scrolled through my contacts. Entry after entry of people I didn't really know. 3 others wouldn't be possible. 2? I kept scrolling. Marius? We hadn't spoken in a while, we disagreed on where to take the restaurants next. 1 person, Could I find 1 other person to cook for? Andrew Head of Marketing? That was his name, his name in my phone. I didn't even know his surname, I couldn't invite him. My secretary? That seemed uncouth. Awkward.

My brother? I don't know why I thought of him. I do more often nowadays. He was on the other side of the world, and I didn't even have his number. But after what happened, he wouldn't accept the invitation if he lived next door.

I kept scrolling. I remember what I ate that night.

It wasn't escargot.

But right now, none of that matters.

Tonight, for the first night in some time, I'm an artist again. And that's why this dish is special. That's why tonight is special, and why you are special. As I said - what's the point of art if it's only seen by the artist?

I've shown you the materials. Shown you my process. Shown you how they come together.

I guess there's only one more thing to say:

Bon Appetit.

Well, that's not strictly true! I'd be pretty bad company if I was silent for the rest of the night. Here's your plate, let me pull up a chair, and we can start to eat.

Gee, I've talked a lot, you've barely got a word in. Sorry about that - can you tell I've not done this in a while? Tell me about yourself! Do you have any siblings? What do you do for a living, what makes you happy?

Actually, let's start with an easier one:

What made you download Tinder?

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