His phone was ringing in desperation, but he was too occupied to realise so. “Chef ! Chef !! Your phone has been crying for long.” Bhavin, a handsome young head chef came out of his thought and answered his girlfriend, Neha, “Babe! In a meeting…shall call you later,” he cut the call without listening to Neha’s voice.
“I am scared! I hope they don’t shut our restaurants…” Chef John said.
“Chef, we are a 5-Star hotel. How can they shut our restaurants? It’s just some development in the rules due to the pandemic,” Bhavin replied positively.
The executive chef arrived as the discussion was going.
“I regret informing all of you….”,
“Are we shutting our restaurants?” With a trembling voice, John asked.
The executive chef avoided looking at him and continued with a sigh, “Looking at the current Covid-19 situation, the management has decided to suspend all the services of the hotel for an indefinite time!”
There was a pin drop silence. John fainted listening to this. Chef Sameer dropped a glass.
Chef Christopher cried, “Chef, how can this be possible? My wife is pregnant. What will I do? Where will I go? Without a salary, I can’t afford a life here, in the USA. I have no savings!”
The executive said nothing except giving an apology. He said, “I am sorry! I request you all to clean the areas, discard every product and shut our kitchen like it was never used”
He walked out of the meeting room with a heavy heart. He wasn’t able to see the scenario inside and neither had the guts of handling it.
Bhavin was dumbstruck by the news. A chill went through his spine, his hands turned cold, eyes welled up and he kept looking at everyone.
He was not even a year old in this hotel, but his warm smile and humble approach had touched almost all the hearts in the hotel.
He was walking on the pavement, towards his kitchen that he was heading. His phone was ringing but he was lost. The noise of clanking utensils, the sound of running tap, the voice of blowing chimney and the wiping of the floor, were some sounds that felt like melody to Bhavin’s ears everyday, but they were haunting him today.
The memories of his journey with the hotel flashed in his mind. His appointment letter from The Hotel California, his family going gaga over the news and much more. Bhavin was never in favor of leaving his country. Neha was the only reason behind his decision. He loved her immensely.
“Chef! Cheffff !!!….” A junior, Sam, touched Bhavin’s shoulder. Bhavin didn’t realize that Sam was calling him for a while. His juniors gathered around him for the briefing. An intern moved closer to Bhavin, all excited and joyful.
“Chef, I made this Amuse Bouche for today’s lunch. I hope you like it!”
He looked at the intern and then his beautifully plated dish. He tasted the dish. The intern
“So, I’ll prepare this for all the guests. How many reservations do we have? It’s a weekend, there will be rush… I am sure!”
Bhavin was blank and nervous, his feet trembling in shock of the news he had just heard.
“We are shutting down our kitchen,” he choked.
The juniors were shocked to hear this.
Bhavin gathered courage and addressed as if nothing had happened, “Clean this kitchen in such a way that it looks like there was no food cooked here. Clean the appliances in a manner that you feel they were just delivered to us.”
The juniors responded but this tragic revelation was taking a toll on them. They had become jobless in just a few seconds; some had their parents depending on them, and some were the only financial support for their family. Bhavin picked out a couple of things from the store for himself. He ran back into the memory lane. His father always bought some groceries for the people staying on roads.
“Bhavin, always help those who need something more than you. This world is humanity-deprived. Be the one to spread it!”
Bhavin saw rice packets in his hand and called a kitchen steward, “Do you have anything to eat?”
“No, Chef! Food is too expensive, so I always ate in the hotel cafeteria.”
“Can you cook at home?”
Bhavin gave him the rice packet.
“Here! Take this and whatever you want from the store. Tell your colleagues to take the food if they need.”
The kitchen steward was speechless. He held Bhavin’s hand and cried.
“Chef! You don’t know what you have done. Thank you!!!”
Bhavin smiled and walked away. His phone buzzed again. It was his sister. He answered.
“Bhavin! Where are you?”
“Great! I have couriered masks, gloves and sanitizers for you, as you had informed me that these things are out of stock…”
“Who would courier that from Singapore to the USA?”
“I!!! I do it for my brother. I am 3 years elder to you, so better not teach me what I should do for you…”
Bhavin wanted to cry out loud. He wished to tell her about the situation he was facing, but he didn’t. She would have been horrified to learn about his plight.
Instead, he laughed at it, “Okay!!! I won’t. Thank you, I’ll talk to you later.”
Bhavin looked at a chef’s hand cleaning the gas range with so much affection as if wiping his baby’s cheeks. Those tough hands had gotten burnt a hundred times while feeding people. They wouldn’t burn anymore.
He looked down and saw another chef’s heavy shoes with sauce stains on it. These feet that stood for 14 hours every day to whip up beautiful memories, wouldn’t stand for so long anymore.
The face that was once adorned with sweat while working in front of the tandoor, had tears rolling down the cheeks today.
Bhavin couldn’t handle this and started discarding the cooked products, sauces; his phone had a notification from Neha.
Since morning I need to say something to you… please call when free.
Bhavin was so shattered with the actions around him that he didn’t realize he had received a message from Neha. His heart sank while pouring the sauces in the dustbin. He went back in time to the day when his mother had caught him pouring a glass of milk outside the window and he was slapped for it.
What do you think, Bhavin? People are starving for this. You need to respect food.” Bhavin realized he was pouring 20 liters of milk in the dustbin. His phone buzzed. It was his mother.
“Beta (son), are you crying? Why sorry?” Bhavin was silent. He took a deep breath and cleared his voice, but his eyes were watery.
“No, Mom!!! Suffering with cold and cough nothing else. I’ll talk to you later”
She had called Bhavin to inform him that Neha wanted to speak to him, but his mom could sense there was something else that Bhavin was hiding. She was unaware of the situation that her son was going through.
“Chef! Are you okay?” an intern passing by asked Bhavin.
“Yes! I am all good…”
Bhavin gathered some strength and went back to work when Sam cried it out.
“Chef!!!! I am an orphan. Since the time I am working here, this kitchen has become a home to me, and you all became my family. I don’t want to be an orphan again, Chef.”
He ran and hugged Bhavin.
“Chef, please don’t throw food. It’s our bread and butter. We worship it.” Said Chef Anthony
Chef Ralph suggested, “Chef, we all should have our lunch together and use the food for ourselves. Please don’t discard it…” Bhavin approved with a nod.
Finally, from the cooling of tandoor to the wrapping of all the equipment, the day came to an end.
It was midnight and the weather was breezy. Bhavin was walking back home, thinking of his mother’s pampering, sister’s love and father’s friendship. That day, Bhavin kept crying and didn’t take the effort to wipe his tears. The breeze was gentle enough to dry those tears for Bhavin. He reached home with tear marks on his cheeks. He knew the only person to calm him was Neha. He switched on the lights. The room was cold, and his phone rang.
“Hi baby!!! I missed you so much! I had a completely topsy-turvy day; my hotel has suspended all the services for an indefinite time…”
“Bhavin, Bhavin! Please listen to me before you say anything. I have been calling you since morning to say…” Bhavin interrupts Neha.
“I know what you want to say… I love you too, baby!!!”
“It’s all over between us, Bhavin. I am sorry!”
“WHAT?!!! LISTEN… You can’t…”
And she hung up. Bhavin called back but only to find that he was blocked.
Silence is the best compliment but when silence doesn’t compliment, it eats you up. That’s what Bhavin faced. A family that brought him up, a family he made in the hotel, and the one he was working for, he lost it all in a day. He cried out loud. It was the end of his life, that’s what he thought. A broken heart and teary eyes, were all that he was left with, and of course a question in mind, “Why am I even living?”