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Uluru Steak

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It’s hard not to squirm right now.

Not that Yancy doesn’t have his pride - in himself, in his food. He does. The beat down of the last few years not withstanding, he knows he’s a good cook. Herc wouldn’t have made him that overly generous job offer if he wasn’t a good cook, right? Or at least, he’s got the potential to be. To cook at this level.

It’s still hard not to squirm.

Chef Trevin Gage is intense.

And Herc’s leaving Yancy in the - gorgeous, spotless, massive - Uluru Steak kitchen with him.

“I think you should know, I didn’t watch your episodes,” Chef Gage says, no preamble at all, now that they’re alone. “Didn’t want to be infected by the bullshit.”

“I thought they were pretty fair...”

“I don’t care about that damn show,” his new boss says, drumming his fingers against one of the many gleaming stainless steel surfaces. “What I do care about is the big guy sending me a kid who’s apparently run his mom’s restaurant into the ground, praising the fuck out of him like he’s the second coming or some shit like that.”

It’s boilerplate ball busting, and Yancy knows he should be paying it more attention than he should, but he just can’t. Not standing in this space, ivory tile and Wolf stoves, the scent of the hardwood grills full of promise. Yancy’s torn between not watching to touch anything, and wanting to touch everything. He can’t believe he’s going to get to cook in this kitchen. Of course, if he fucks today up, he probably won’t ever be able to cook in here again, so he decides to give it everything he can and savor it, just in case.

But Chef Gage is going to expect an answer, and like Raleigh told him before he left the room this morning, don’t forget, you’re interviewing him too, so be honest with the guy. Even if it’s not really an interview, not with his signature on file with Hansen Group HR. “I was as surprised as you were he offered me a job.”

“Yeh, I bet.” Chef Gage gives him a once over, real obvious about it. “I’m gonna ask you something, in hope that you’re not going to be a jackass about it. You fuck him?”

“What?”

Chef Gage starts to say something and then just sighs and bends down, coming back up with a tray of meat. Filet mignon, New York strip... “I had a joke I was workin’ on, about meat and dick sucking or something, but now it’s kind of slipped my mind. Cook me some shit, okay?” Chef Gages checks his watch. “It’s not really fair, but how’s twenty minutes sound?”

“Sounds fine, Chef.”

With Chef Gage watching him like a hawk, Yancy takes a moment to gather his thoughts. He took the time to look this place up before he came - only an idiot would walk into another man’s kitchen unprepared. He knows the menu here, he knows what they’re known for, what kind of specials they run. Heirloom pork, Montana venison, free-range chicken, fish flown in straight from San Francisco’s markets daily. Good produce - excellent produce, judging by what he sees in front of him here. But the star of any steakhouse is the beef, and everything here is top, top, top quality. Grass fed, dry-aged to perfection.

So whatever he does with that, the temperature, the carmelization, the seasoning all has to be perfect. Not too fussy; not overdone.

But simply grilling up a steak isn’t going to cut it.

Not at the number two steakhouse in Las Vegas.

No, he needs to do something grand.

So Yancy figures a calculated risk is in order.

“Where’re you going?”

He grits his teeth. Chef Gage might look exactly like his brother, Bruce, that happy-go-lucky camera guy on Pentecost’s crew, but dear god, he’s weaponized his disapproval. “Walk-in, Chef.”

“I gave you a tray of meat.”

“What’s a good steak without a side or two?” Yancy says as he cracks the door to the massive fridge, trying not to go weak at how well stocked this damn place is. They have everything. Including a massive selection of mushrooms. At least five different varieties... and when he sees the small stash of bottles with Japanese labels there in the back, he knows exactly what he wants to do.

“Mushrooms ain’t exactly creative there, Becket.”

Yancy grabs the fish stock. Onion, mirin, soy sauce, ginger... they’ve got everything he needs. It’s a gamble, but this place has a sort of West Coast, almost Australian vibe, to it and this could be something he could see on as a special. Maybe. If that’s not too arrogant a thought to be having at the moment. “They are the way I do ‘em.”

+++++

“So what do you call these?” Chef Gage asks, spearing another of the little mushroom caps.

“I call it a Las Vegas take on Japanese gyudon,” Yancy replies, and dear lord, that boy is nervous, hands fiddling with the cloth he’s got tucked into the waist ties of his apron. Herc wants to tell him to knock it off, but honestly, his newest employee needs to handle his hardest executive chef on his own. Trevin acts like an asshole most of the time - losing your pilot’s slot due to colorblindness does that to a bloke - but he’s a true leader. Team focused. Bends over backwards to mentor and grow his people. He’s exactly what Yancy needs right now, but Yancy needs to prove himself first. “It’s pretty straightforward, I guess, but I was going for...”

“Fuck me, I’ve been to Tokyo and I’ve never put fish stock on a steak,” Chuck interrupts, cutting him off with a wave of his fork. “I take it you were going for a dashi substitute?”

“Yeah, I didn’t see it back there in the walk-in.”

“You worked some magic, because this is fucking delicious,” Herc says, and looks very pointedly over at Chef Gage. “Told you he was good, didn’t I?”

“Beef’s a bit overdone for my taste,” Chef Gage replies, and spears it, holding up the cut section. “What temperature is that, Becket?”

“Just to the south of medium, Chef,” Yancy answers immediately, and Herc can see the self-recrimination in the slump of his shoulders.

Cut of meat this good, really should have been done medium-rare.

Herc shakes his head. “This is one of the reasons I wanted you to have him, Trevin.”

“So I can teach his over-achieving ass the importance of technical precision?”

“Something like that.”

“It’s a steakhouse. Overcooking the steak isn’t a small problem.”

“Thirty seconds less cooking time, Trev. You tellin’ me you can’t fix thirty seconds?”

Trevin gives Yancy a once-over and then takes another bite of the steak. “The seasoning’s right, at least. But we’re not cooking for a bunch of overweight fishermen and lumberjacks or whatever the fuck it is you boys up in Alaska do, you understand me, Becket? You want to keep your job here, you better step it up.”

“Yes, Chef.”

“Good. Go clean your mess up. My prep guys need that space.”

Yancy gets up, making to clear the plate away, but Trevin just waves him off. Herc sits back, sipping at his water, playing it cool until the boy walks off, and only then does he look over at his chef.

“The fuck, Trev?” Herc half-groans, the second the kitchen doors swing shut. “He made you a fucking delicious dish, and that’s how you fucking respond? I can’t remember the last time you were that critical of a new cook.”

Trevin’s just watching the door, not really listening. “I can’t believe he took that.”

“Boy’s exhausted. I believe I mentioned that in my email.”

“Oh you did, boss, you did.” Trevin cuts himself another bite of that steak. “Wasn’t really expect him to be... he made love to this thing. I was watching him. He’s got good instincts, that’s for sure. I’d expected a bit more arrogance out of him, honestly.”

“I’d like to have him around for a while, Trev.”

“I can fix the technical issues I see here, but I’m gonna do it my way.”

“I’m counting on it,” Herc tells him, firm as he can.

“He’s gonna be a surgeon in the kitchen by the time I get done with him,” Trevin promises, and his eyes flick over to Chuck. “What’re your thoughts on this guy?”

“Shows promise. Needs to stop sulking around like a kicked puppy,” Chuck answers promptly, and shrugs. “He can fuckin’ cook at least. Not like a lot of the sad sacks who send us resumes.”

“Well,” Trevin drawls, “I suppose it’s better to have him down here than wasting away up in Alaska.”

“Exactly my point,” Herc agrees.

Chuck, silent as he normally is when there aren’t any cameras around to ham to, finishes the last of the mushrooms. He’s thinking about something. Herc’s got a sneaking suspicion it’s probably sex.

+++++

Up to his elbows in soapy water, i’s difficult not to feel deflated; it’s been a while since Yancy’s had the opportunity to cook a cut of meat that nice and screwing it up hurts. But at the same time, it’s not as if he fucked the thing to well-done. Pasture raised beef is fucking expensive, and it’s been so long since he’s had the chance to cook the stuff, he forget to adjust his times. It cooks faster. He knows that.

But still, he’d worked his ass off for that dish, delivered above and beyond what he was asked to, and personally, he thinks he did damn well. Not that he’s going to stand there in front of a man who recently received his first Michelin star and argue with him. If Chef Gage doesn’t like how he cooked his meat, he’ll just have to keep plugging away at it until he gets it right.

He can do this.

He has to do this.

Things have gotten... weird, maybe, on him this week.

Jaz is staying with one of their aunts for a while. The rest of the summer, no doubt. Dad’s step-sister, the one who isn’t related to them but always sent them Christmas gifts; Dad’s step-sister, the one who always hated him. She reached out the night after the last episode aired - your grandpa’s been wondering why we haven’t heard from that asshole in months, but you’ve got no excuse for not calling me, young man. Yancy hadn’t thought too much about contacting any of the extended family - Grandpa’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and the last thing he wants to do is add to the stress - but Jaz, well. Jaz needs more normalcy than Yancy can offer her right now.

At least Aunt Gloria paid for the plane ticket. The one way plane ticket to San Diego.

Yancy’s pretty sure he’ll be shipping Jaz’s stuff down there, instead of to Las Vegas when they move at the end of the month.

At least it’s not that far of a drive.

Yancy’s ashamed that he had to ask her not to tell anybody about him and Raleigh, when he dropped her off at the airport. And Jaz just threw her arms around him and kissed his cheek and promised him she still loved them and wasn’t mad at either of them at all.

Raleigh, at least, is sticking around. He’s already put in an application to UNLV, but is probably going to have to start in January, instead of this September, and is looking at construction jobs in the area. At least they’ve got a degree program that works for him, and there are some financial aid options available, with their circumstances. He’s out there today, actually, talking to an adviser, and he seemed pretty excited about it this morning over breakfast, down in the Caesar’s Palace buffet.

But things are still strained. Jaz leaving... Raleigh took that pretty hard. And now he’s pulling back, all that sweetness from the past few months withering. Yancy wants to tell him it’s okay, wants to offer him comfort, but everything’s gotten all fucked up between them all now.

Yancy’s not sure what to do about it.

He’s got a job now, at least, a shot at a better future, and that’s got to be worth something. Chef Gage can’t fire him before he even starts, can he? Well, maybe he can, but he probably won’t. Not with Herc and Chuck out there in the dining room.

Yancy’s not sure if it’s fair to consider that reassurance.

He doesn’t want anybody’s charity. Even if he does kind of desperately need it right now.

“Oi, Becket?”

Chuck. Yancy, hand on the hose, just raises an eyebrow. “What?”

“Gage is fucking with you, but he can piss off. You’re our guest right now. C’mon. Let’s go see the rest of the hotel.”

Despite himself, Yancy finds himself smiling. “Yeah, sure. That sounds nice.”