“I’m sorry Mr. Unwin, we didn’t have enough people sign up for the class and we have to cancel.”
He folded his arms in front of him, trying not to unleash his annoyance on the woman. She was simply the bearer of bad news. “This is a fucking community center, ain’t you guys supposed to help the community by teaching skills and shit?” It had taken him weeks to skulk in and actually sign up for the class in the first place, and he’d dropped a hundred quid on the course. “I already paid for this shit!”
“I understand our dilemma Mr. Unwin, and we’ve been working to find a solution for you. Are you willing to travel at all?”
He slouched down even further in his chair but finally nodded. “Yeah I can take the bloody tube. If it’s at night.”
“Brilliant!” She sounded a bit more cheerful at that. “This is actually an excellent opportunity for you. Kingsman is one of the most elite cooking schools in London, and they so rarely offer evening courses like this. The fact that they were willing to work with us and allow you to attend is a miracle.”
“It’s basic though, yeah?” Basic was what he needed. He just needed to learn enough so that Deanna wasn’t eating frozen pizza or chicken nuggets every meal, and his mum wasn’t exactly in the mood to cook most days. Cooking had always been his dad’s thing, he’d been about to trade up from a sous chef to a full chef when his accident had happened.
Sure, Eggsy could eat junk all day long if he had to, but his half-sister deserved better. He could give her better. Plus cooking classes would keep him away from Dean in the evenings, so he really couldn’t see a downside.
“They said it was fine for a beginner to attend, they don’t expect professionals. Here, I’ll print out the address and directions for you. Classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:00. Good luck!”
She beamed at him and he managed something that might have been a grimace before snatching the paper and walking toward the door. It was only after he’d made it to the hallway that he actually looked at where the class was and swore under his breath. Looked like he’d be heading to a swankier part of town then his usual haunts then.
“Ready for a new batch of recruits?”
Harry didn’t bother looking up, motioning Merlin into his office while he shuffled through the applications. “I noticed one of these wasn’t on one of our forms,” he mentioned casually and the other man nodded as he perched on the edge of the desk.
“Yeah, we had a community outreach program give us a call. Seems they’ve got a lad that signed up for a cooking class and they had to cancel it. She said he was the type she worried about, thought it might be good for him to have an activity off the streets you know.”
“Do you know anything about him?” He placed the form between the two of them, tracing the lines of the young man’s name with his eyes.
“Just what you know.” There was a moment of silence before Merlin sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know Harry. Same last name, same part of London, maybe the right age, but I just don’t know. Thought it might be worth it to take a chance on him. If he doesn’t work out we’ll figure something out.”
“I’m sure I can handle a single student, no matter how difficult. But did you have to make the classes a Tuesday/Thursday one? You know I prefer to dine out on Tuesdays.”
“Mr. King insisted his godson be included in this course. Do you really want to deal with him three days a week? Trust me, it’s not too late to change things.” He moved as if to change something in his iPad and it was all Harry could do not to lunge at him.
Or reach for the chef’s knife on display behind him and throw it.
“No, it’s fine, I’ll just change my reservations.” It never really paid to get on Merlin’s bad side. He kept things running smoothly, ordering supplies and offering opinions when they needed a second palate involved.
“I thought so,” Merlin added smugly, finally sliding off the desk and returning to his actual work.
Eggsy refused to let himself be daunted by a fucking building. Just walking up to the front, the windows proudly spelling out Kingsman with another line in smaller print adding “cooking academy,” made him feel slightly self-conscious, and going inside only added to that. Everything seemed perfect. Perfectly placed, perfectly clean, perfectly organized. He let himself saunter up to the counter where a bald man was waiting, refusing to even hint at the fact that he felt out of place.
“I got a class in a few minutes, yeah?
"Actually your class is starting now," the man replied. "Lucky for you Chef Hart is almost always late, but I'd hurry if I were you. He doesn't like to be kept waiting. Classroom one to your right."
He nodded, tucking his hands into his pockets and moving toward the room in question.
Walking in made him want to turn around and leave. The room was small but filled with toffs, and walking in late meant that all eyes were on him almost instantly.
Instead he just jerked his chin into the air and added a bit more swagger to his step, trying to figure out where to even go.
"There's an empty spot at my station."
The words came from a young woman who was smiling at him, sticking out her hand when he started toward her. "Roxanne Morton, you can call me Roxy."
He clasped her palm, nodding. "Eggsy."
“Eggy?” There was a scoff behind him, and he wanted to ignore them but instinct had him turning, needing to face the threat if there was one.
He knew these types. Rich pricks that didn’t have nothing better to do, and while he would stand up for himself there was no point in trying to prove anything to them. Nothing would sink into skulls as thick as theirs.
“You know you don’t need to attend a school like this to work for McDonald’s, right?” Another one asked, the trio laughing at the joke.
His retort dried in his throat when the rest of the room fell silent, moving back to their stations. The stations were arranged in a u-shape, a demonstration area at the front, and the man approaching the main area looked every inch a chef. His coat was pristine, the edges of his apron crisp, and he looked completely at ease.
“Good evening class. As you may have guessed, I am Chef Hart. After selling my first restaurant I chose to focus on a dual career as a culinary instructor and food critic. In a few moments I’ll begin walking around to meet you each personally, but we’ll hold class introductions until you all present your first dish.
“For now we’ll be jumping straight into the cooking. This is to show me what techniques you have already mastered, a bit of your personal taste, and above all, what you can actually put on a plate. For this reason everyone will be making me an omelette. You have thirty minutes and may begin now.”
There was a moment of near silence before the scrambling began. Suddenly the carton of eggs at their station made sense, but all Eggsy could really do was look around to see what other people were doing. Grabbing ingredients it looked like, so he trailed after them. He knew what an omelette was of course. He’d had them once or twice, and from what he remembered they just had stuff in them. Ham maybe? Or peppers? Cheese? He wasn’t sure, grabbing a bit here or there, not really sure what he was taking but moving it all to his station nonetheless. He could deal with the rest when he got there.
People were getting pans from the back and he followed them back, grabbing one at random, seeing it was black inside and deciding that was familiar enough before going back to stare at his ingredients.
Right. He had to do something with these.
Eggsy knew you were supposed to rinse shit off, so he ran the pepper under the water before shaking it somewhat dry and setting it on the board before him and grabbing a knife.
Hacking into it seemed the best option, and he went to it with gusto. He didn’t really remember the seed things, so he tried to separate them a bit, not sure quite how to but then working on making them more roughly bite-size.
Smells of cooking already permeated around him, so he had a feeling he didn’t have time to watch indefinitely. He knew no one would really want a chunk of raw pepper, and other people seemed to be cooking, so he turned on the stove and went ahead and threw the peppers in the pan. They were just starting to sizzle when he finished cutting the ham up and that went on top of the eggs.
The common technique around the room seemed to be cracking them into a bowl and mixing it so he copied, not entirely sure when to pour the eggs in. One man in the group was already finished, fussing at his presentation, but that was just the one man. Most people seemed to be waiting, though for what he wasn’t sure.
He shifted the peppers and ham in the pan, thinking that they looked cooked enough to be something he'd eat. With a shrug, mostly to himself, he snagged one out of the pan and popped it into his mouth. Perfect. He scraped the filling out of the pan, belatedly realizing the chef was standing by their station, talking with Roxy.
At that moment Chef Hart turned, eyes finding his. "Gary Unwin I presume?"
"Yeah," he said, trying not to sound like he was entirely out of his element. "I go by Eggsy though."
"Eggsy. By any chance are you related to Lee Unwin?"
He wasn't expecting the question, eyes narrowing as he tried to figure out how Harry knew to ask about him. "My dad's Lee," he confirmed, continuing to watch the chef for some sort of reaction.
He simply nodded, not showing a hint of surprise. "Lee showed excellent promised when he worked for me. Welcome to Kingsman, Eggsy."
He moved on to the next table and Eggsy tried not to just stare after him. Instead he looked over, realizing Roxy had already put her eggs in the skillet and swearing.
Just pouring the eggs in he knew something was wrong. There was a thin layer, and it wasn't enough egg. It was too late to do anything now so he just started sprinkling on the cheese and dumping the peppers and ham back on, hoping he'd figure out when it was finished.
It didn't look burnt, nor was it oozing on the plate as he set the plate out, moments before their time was up.
Harry surveyed the plates in front of his students and tried not to be relieved that at least they all resembled omelettes. Sure, some were a bit browned, a couple were overstuffed, and at least one was falling apart, but they were somewhat all the proper shape.
There were different combinations of flavors, none terribly adventurous, but none that he was actually tempted to spit out when he tasted them. Still, every single one had at least a small flaw, and for now he simply critiqued.
Finally it was Lee's son's turn, the young man glancing down at his plate before focusing on a spot behind Harry as he introduced himself and his dish to the class. "I'm Eggsy, first time taking a class. This is," he glanced down at his dish. "Well it's a fucking omelette I guess. It's got peppers, the green kind, yeah? And ham and cheese." He didn't seem too disturbed by his presentation, jerking his chin up a bit higher almost as an overcompensation for not being entirely sure.
Harry knew before he cut into it the omelette had issues. The pan used had been too large and it was too thin, not nearly as fluffy as necessary, and he feared the worst as he cut a bite from the middle and bit into it.
He set down his utensils and wiped his mouth, just as he had with each of the others. A short nod followed before he spoke. "Obviously for a fluffier omelette it needed to be in a smaller pan. Be cautious when you're only cooking with two eggs, the 8" pan is large enough. Also, the eggs themselves need salted. That said the flavor combination was well balanced and worked quite nicely."
Nothing he couldn't work with. "Watching you work and tasting your final products has been very informative. Now I'll be doing a demonstration so I would like you all to gather around my station."
He didn't wait on them, simply moving back to the station and working on setting out all of the materials he would need.
"As most of you realized, the majority of fillings need to be cooked before being added to the omelette unless you desire them to taste raw. For the sake of time I will be making a basic cheese omelette, so I won't be prepping any fillings.
"You'll want to start with two to three eggs. Whisk them together until the color is consistent. If you can still discern between the whites and the yolk you've done a shitty job. When your egg is starting to froth you should add salt and pepper, though you can add other herbs and seasonings if you so desire." While he spoke he took a pinch of salt from a bowl, sprinkling it in before adding the pepper and giving it another quick whisk.
"Melt your butter in the pan," he intoned as he let the pat liquefy. "Then add your eggs. You'll notice I haven't added cream or water, they aren't necessary to a fluffy omelette. At this stage, if your pan is too hot the eggs brown too much on the bottom and remain runny in the center, so keep the pan on medium.
"When the eggs are mostly set you can move your pan like so to give your omelette lacey edges, or you can simply add your ingredients." He took the time to simply grate the cheese directly onto the egg before loosening up the edges with his spatula and folding it in half.
"Do you see the light golden color on the egg?" he asked, moving the pan away from the burner and holding it out for them to see as he turned the fire off. He let them observe, not missing which ones merely glanced and which ones studied the color, trying not to be relieved that Lee's son was among the later. "This is what you're looking for."
He slid the finished product onto a plate and quickly cut into it before setting a handful of forks in front of them. "Bon appétit."