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Japan's Next Top Chef: Matsuri Edition

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“So it’s all over now, huh?” Mitsuki exclaims, yawning as he stretches out his arms as he walks ahead of the other three. He turns back, clasping his hands behind his back and grinning. “I’m so full. All the food we had was so great!”

“Guessed as much as how much you were enjoying it on camera, Izumi-ani,” Gaku grins. He picks up the pace and syncs with Mitsuki, leaving Nagi and Yamato in the back.

Yamato snorts, and exchanges a knowing look with Nagi. “Yeah, but I’m sure you can do just as good, Mitsu.”

“Or even better!” Nagi finishes Yamato’s sentence excitedly, and lifts the pumpkin in his hands with a smile. “Oh, Mitsuki…”

Gaku raises an eyebrow, and points at the pumpkin, “hold on, Rokuya. Did you just… take that?”

“No, no!” Nagi shoots back immediately, frowning at the accusation. He stops in his tracks, causing the others to stop to listen to Nagi’s explanation. “A beautiful lady gave it to me!”

“I guess… geez, you’re really charming the vendors, huh?” Mitsuki blinks, shaking his head. “I guess that could make for good stir-fry. The pumpkin looks pretty nice and ripe.”

Yamato grins, “see what I mean, Yaotome?”

“I never said I doubted you.” Gaku grumbles, humming as he looks at the pumpkin in the blond’s hands. “Pumpkin tempura, huh… that might go well.”

Mitsuki grins, “right? It’s really good we came here, it just gives me more inspiration for some more recipes. Cooking with the freshest ingredients depending on the season would be great! Especially since this year’s harvest was really good.”

“Guess the job inspired you, Mitsu?” Yamato smirks, “looks like dinner is gonna be especially great tonight.”

Nagi beams at the mention as well, rubbing at the pumpkin thoughtfully. With the recent success of the four of them functioning as a unit, and perhaps by chance, Pythagoras had another chance to work with Gaku Yaotome of TRIGGER. Incidentally, they had to cover a food fair for a special on the local scene. Filming went smoothly, with the natural chemistry the four of them had in wittily responding to each other, and Mitsuki and Gaku’s experience complementing Nagi’s goofiness-- with Yamato to tie them together and keep them on track. The four of them had fun on camera, which is a definite must for most jobs.

Tsumugi, their manager, seemed quite satisfied with how filming went as well. She already took her leave to handle other matters, and the four of them had their schedules free for the rest of the day.

Mitsuki laughs, snapping Nagi out of his thoughts and putting him back into the conversation. “Dinner will be looking good. Hey, Yaotome, you don’t have stuff to do either?”

“Well, I was--” Gaku clamps his mouth shut immediately upon realization of something, but then he shakes his head. “Nah, I’m free. What, you offering to have me over for dinner?”

“Inviting him over, huh…” Yamato sighs, “well, guess we have no choice. Looks like today is your lucky day, Yaotome.”

“Hey, he’s still our senior,” Mitsuki chides him with a nudge, “it’d be rude to talk about our plans without inviting him.”

Nagi blinks, “is that true?”

“Not that bad, but it definitely can be,” Gaku supplements with a shrug, “but I don’t mind too much. You guys assumed I had stuff, right?”

“Well, you’re always busy, Yaotome.” Yamato shrugs, “naturally, TRIGGER just has more work than us. Must be rough.”

“Still got some free time. It’s good to spend it with you guys, but since you’re going on about how great Izumi-ani’s cooking is… now I really wonder how good it is.” A smirk starts to form on Gaku’s lips, “I can cook too.”

Nagi’s eyes light up, and he speeds up a little, leaning toward them with a grin. “Oh, Yaotome-shi! Are those FIGHTING words I hear?”

Yamato smirks, catching on immediately on to what Nagi would be referring to. “Ohh, I see. Yaotome, you wanna compete with our Mitsu?”

“What?” Mitsuki shouts, “you’re asking me to compete against Yaotome?”

“Oh, but Mitsu. No one can beat you at cooking, you know?” Yamato explains, and Nagi enthusiastically nods in agreement.

Gaku rolls his eyes, “oi. Well, what now? We’re going to compete now like one of those cooking shows?”

“Of course!” Nagi exclaims, “then, Yaotome-shi! We will hold a competition between you and Mitsuki! Whoever wins gets to have…”

“Oi, we’re making a prize for this, Nagi?” Yamato grumbles, “Onii-san’s wallet is feeling pretty light lately, so if you’re planning on anything…”

“A Cocona marathon with me!” Nagi finishes, seeming to ignore Yamato’s protests.

“That doesn’t sound like a prize at all!” Mitsuki retorts back, crossing his arms. “Well, I suppose bragging rights would be good enough, right?”

Gaku shrugs, “works for me.”

Since the other members of IDOLiSH7 were occupied with their own jobs, the four of them had the dorms to themselves.

Yamato situates himself at the dining table, only because Nagi insisted that he had to be in the dining room for judging. Yamato only relented on the basis that he could just drink away and judge this little competition completely wasted. Nagi shakes his head at the deplorable setup of the dining room at the time, but shakes it off and decides to twirl his sparkly pink MagiCona™ themed microphone in his hand.

The microphone isn’t connected to any speakers, but Nagi’s voice is loud enough to forego it. The microphone is more of a prop than anything else, anyway-- just Nagi having some fun with it.

Pushing some of Yamato’s beer cans to the side, Nagi settles down in the seat next to Yamato at the dining table. Staring at nothing in particular as if a camera were there, Nagi starts humming as he starts off the competition.

“Goood evening, everyone!” He exclaims, “I am Nagi Rokuya of IDOLiSH7… today, we have something EXCITING!”

“What audience are you even talking to, Rokuya?” Gaku calls from the kitchen.

Mitsuki is quick to chide him, “Let him have his fun, Yaotome!”

Nagi simply grins, “Oh, all for our viewers back at home!”

“Huh? There’s a camera?” Yamato drawls, looking around before he simply shrugs and gives up. “Ahh, whatever. Not like this is official.”

“ANYWAY! Yes! Today, we have a competition between Mitsuki and Yaotome-shi! They will face off to become Japan’s Next Top Chef!”

"More like I--"

"So! A word from our contestants?" Nagi cuts off Yamato from saying a snide remark, instead springing up from his seat and placing the microphone near Mitsuki's mouth.

"Uh… I'll do my best! Yaotome got nothing on me!" Mitsuki hesitantly says into the mic. Nagi nods vigorously, and then immediately turns to place the mic near Gaku’s mouth.

Gaku furrows his eyebrows, and scowls as he gingerly pinches the frilly apron. “What’s with the apron, Rokuya? You didn’t have extras--”

Nagi pretends to cut him off by yanking the microphone back to himself. “Wow! Such amazing fighting words!”

“Let me finish!” Gaku protests, snatching the microphone back from Nagi.

Nagi gasps, with a mix of both surprise at Gaku’s sudden enthusiasm and distaste at how rudely he’d been cut off. “No, no! Yaotome-shi!”

Gaku rolls his eyes, and speaks into the toy microphone again, “what I was going to say was that I’ll definitely win this.” He then relents with a huff, passing the microphone back to Nagi.

Nagi coughs, clearing his throat as he segues in his MC-ing act. “Then, chefs! Are we ready for our challenge? This will be the only round! So make it count! Yamato and I will be your judges!” He explains, gesturing toward Yamato.

He backs away from the two competitors, and settles in front of them. He hadn’t acknowledged that there wouldn’t be much of a space for the two of them to cook here, and it seems like Mitsuki has the home advantage-- whatever, Gaku is pretty confident in his skills.

“You’re not going to let me speak?” Yamato jokes, feigning offense, “gotta make this fair, Nagi.”

“Oh!” Nagi’s eyes widen, and he skips over back to the dining table and holds the microphone near Yamato’s mouth. “Go ahead!”

“Mitsu’s cooking is pretty good, so you gotta work pretty hard here, Yaotome.” Yamato grins again, “not to mention that he’s got the home advantage… the odds are against you.”

Nagi bobs his head up and down excitedly in agreement, and then takes the microphone back. “Spoken like a true judge, Yamato! What will you do, Yaotome-shi? Now… that out of the way! Let us introduce the ingredients!”

Expectant, although knowing of what ingredients they’ve decided upon, Mitsuki and Gaku crowd around the counter, watching Nagi as he takes each ingredient out of the bag. He sets down two pumpkins on the counter from the bags. Along with that, he places their designated bags of ingredients in front of them.

“Please implement pumpkin into your dish for the judges!” Nagi announces, smiling as he then points at the other two bags. “And the rest are the ingredients you have requested!”

“Not just requested, you made Onii-san pay for them.” Yamato calls from the back.

“Shut it, old man! You’re the one benefiting from this!” Mitsuki retorts in response, shaking his head as he takes the products out of the bag. “Course, any of the spices and stuff we got here are free for you to use, Yaotome.”

“Thanks,” Gaku grunts in response, inspecting his own pool of ingredients.

“Then, the clock is ticking! You have an hour!” Nagi announces, taking out his phone and setting the timer to sixty minutes.

“Hold on, Rokuya.” Gaku interrupts with a frown, “if I was making the soba from scratch, it’ll take a bit longer.”

“... an hour and thirty minutes.”

“That’s better.”

Nagi bumps up the timer to ninety minutes, but this earns a grumble from Yamato. “What’s wrong, Yamato?”

“Just a bit hungry.”

Mitsuki sighs, “listen, old man! Good food takes time! Just drink some water or something.”

Yamato shrugs, and takes another long sip out of his can of beer. “Hey, Nagi. Can you get me some more beer?”

“Of course!” Nagi grins, “can I have one too?”

Yamato’s response is swift and immediate. “No.”

“But why! I am of age in Northma--”

“This isn’t Northmare. You still got a year left on you, Nagi.” He sighs. Nagi pouts and whines like a kicked puppy, but relents and takes a break from MCing in order to fetch Yamato another beer.

Yamato accepts it with grace, and then Nagi returns to starting the countdown.

“Without further ado… let’s start the timer! Go, chefs! Go!” Nagi booms, pressing start on his phone’s timer.

Mitsuki and Gaku immediately get moving, with the two of them having agreed on keeping to two separate spaces somehow. Thankfully, the kitchen is decently big enough to let the both of them have enough room to work.

For a while, Nagi leaves them alone and watches them intently, but also attempts to bargain with Yamato to let him drink too. He slumps into a seat, making puppy eyes as he stares at Yamato expectantly. Sadly for him, Yamato refuses to budge on the matter and starts to check his phone instead.

“No can do, Yamato! You have to watch them!” Nagi whines.

“It’s boring. Ah, wait. Nagi, you go make them talk.” Yamato suggests, dedicated to making Gaku’s life as difficult as possible. He smirks as Nagi gets up from his seat to do just that.

Being rather invasive, Nagi saunters over to Mitsuki’s work area first, grinning as he surveys all the ingredients he’s working with. First, Mitsuki seems to be preparing something in the rice cooker.

Edging on being too close, Nagi swoops in with his microphone with a wide smile, “Mitsuki! What is your plan?”

“Oh, I’m just going to be making mushroom rice.” Mitsuki starts to explain what he’s currently doing, nodding to himself as he shuts the rice cooker and starts it. “While that’s cooking, I’ll start on the fish and then the pumpkin too.”

“Oh! Sounds tasty…” Nagi hums, but frowns. “I wanted hamburg--”

“I don’t care what you want! It’s not like I can change what I’m making!” Mitsuki bites back, making gestures at Nagi to go away. Nagi continues to linger around to poke around at Mitsuki’s workplace, but this earns him another glare from Mitsuki. Feeling threatened enough, Nagi steps back and then goes to bother Gaku.

“Annnnd Yaotome-shi! What do we have here?” Nagi bounces back immediately, enthusiastic as he steps into Gaku’s work area. He’s currently occupying himself with making the soba. It’s surprising how much he seems to like soba, and also has that soba delivery man running around resembling him. It’s really a shame that the two of them haven’t met yet, but it seems like the world will end if those doppelgangers ever met each other.

“I’m making soba. Sorry, Rokuya, but I’m kind of busy here.” Gaku frowns, trying to bat Nagi away as if he was an annoying gnat as he works the dough.

Nagi makes gestures as if telling the imaginary camera to zoom in on Gaku’s hands kneading the dough, and grins. “As expected of Yaotome-shi! How do you plan to implement the pumpkin?”

“Ah? Tempura soba.” Gaku says brusquely with a nod, “it’s best to enjoy them in their purest form, but making them tempura adds another crunch. It’s a good way to prepare the vegetables.” He adds without Nagi asking, leaving Nagi no choice but to nod along as if he understands.

“That’s all you wanted to know, right Rokuya?” Gaku finally finishes talking through his plan, and shoots Nagi an annoyed look. “Go back and talk to Nikaido or something.”

Nagi feigns an incredibly offended gesture as if Gaku had killed his family, but shakes it off with a wide smile. “Then I’ll leave you to it, Yaotome-shi!”

Gaku rolls his eyes.

“Chefs Yaotome-shi and Mitsuki! You have thirty seconds!” Nagi exclaims, raising his phone and flashing the timer at the two of them.

“Hold on, you didn’t even give us a five minute warning!” Mitsuki protests, but he and Gaku begin to furiously finalize their presentations. Thankfully, both of them are already close to completion as they “plate” their finished dishes.

Nagi begins to count down with his phone, nudging Yamato to join in the countdown. Albeit begrudgingly, Yamato complies and counts down with him.

“And… one!” Nagi exclaims, as his phone starts blaring an alarm to signal that time’s up. “Chefs, hands off PLEASE!”

Both Mitsuki and Gaku raise both of their hands in the air, backing away from their respective plates.

Nagi confirms this with a grin, and then gestures for them to bring over their dishes. “Oh, yes! Then, Chef Mitsuki! Present your dish to the judges!”

Mitsuki confirms with a nod, and then comes over to set two steaming hot plates of food in front of Nagi and Yamato. With a grin, he begins to describe what he’s made, “So, I did something like our usual. So, instead of regular white rice, I went with making mushroom rice. With that, I have simmered pumpkin, and then salmon marinated in miso. Enjoy, judges!” He plays along with Nagi’s food competition show scheme as he introduces his dish.

Nagi and Yamato both mutter their thanks before going right to dig into their meal.

Yamato nods, satisfied with Mitsuki’s cooking. “Your cooking’s great as always, Mitsu. It’s simple, but super tasty. Just some classic home cooking, huh?”

Mitsuki puffs his chest out in pride, “well, of course! Glad to see you realize my worth, old man!”

Yamato snorts, “Not just for your cooking, either. Well, what do you think, Nagi?”

“Oh! It is delicious! Marvelous! The fish melts in my mouth!” Nagi nods vigorously as he chews on the fish thoughtfully. He then goes to shovel some of the rice in his mouth, still as enthusiastic as ever as he does. “The pumpkin is lovely! It truly reminds me of autumn!”

“Yeah. What he said.” Yamato tries to add in between bites, but doesn’t really do anything but parrot Nagi’s praises.

Mitsuki smiles, “well, thanks!”

Realizing that they were indeed participating in a competition right now, Nagi pushes his and Yamato’s plates to the side.

“I wasn’t done yet.” Yamato grumbles, reaching his hand out to take his plate back, but Nagi lightly smacks his hand back away.

“Chef Yaotome-shi! Please present your dish to us!” Nagi exclaims into his toy microphone.

Gaku sighs, shaking his head as he places down bowls of soba noodles in broth in front of both of them. On top of each bowl, there is a pile of vegetable and shrimp tempura. Gaku goes back to his work station for a moment to grab two plates with the appropriate dipping sauce.

“Soba. Seriously, Yaotome? Minus ten points for lack of creativity.” Yamato jokes.

“Let me finish,” Gaku shoots a glare at Yamato before continuing. “Anyway, today for you, judges, I’ve handmade these soba noodles with a soy-sauce based broth. Along with that, I used the pumpkin as tempura. It tastes pretty good as tempura, y’know. Along with some other squashes, sweet potato… the usual tempura fare. Of course, tempura shrimp too.”

Nagi beams widely at it, nodding as he inhales the pleasant aroma coming from it. “Very good, Yaotome-shi! Thank you for the food!”

Yamato imitates the thanks and the two of them start to dig in.

“Hm. The tempura isn’t bad,” Yamato nods, “reminds me of that soba we’d get delivered to us. What’s up, Yaotome? Stole the recipe?”

Gaku looks flustered for a moment, and visibly a bit unsettled by Yamato’s accusation. He then coughs, and nods. “Well, something like that. I’m such a regular patron that they had no choice but to let me know some things.”

Yamato squints, but shrugs it off. “Anyway, it’s good. Wouldn’t eat this everyday though, like Mitsu’s cooking.”

“I am fond of rice!” Nagi nods in agreement, “however, the tempura is VERY crispy! It is delicious in its own right, Yaotome-shi!”

“Of course it is.” Gaku laughs smugly, crossing his arms.

“Then, with that! We will decide the winner upon discussion. Chefs, please leave the room while we discuss!” Nagi announces, and the said chefs reluctantly leave the room.

“We have an obvious winner.” Yamato remarks, “obviously not Yaotome.”

“Oh, Yamato! Give him a fair assessment! We are impartial judges!” Nagi frowns, crossing his arms in an x-shape. This only earns a snort from Yamato.

“Impartial… sure, let’s say that.” Yamato says with a grin, “but you know. Mitsu made a point of having the pumpkin shine through. Yaotome just made it another ingredient. You see what I mean?”

Nagi’s eyes start shining, “Yamato! You’re speaking like a true cooking show judge now! Yes! You’re right! So we have our winner!”

“And the winner is…” Nagi begins, pausing for dramatic effect and then looking wildly around his surroundings to gauge their reactions. So far, Mitsuki and Gaku have more tense expressions on their faces than he had expected. Even though the other three seemed a bit unenthusiastic about Nagi’s delightful scheme here, it seemed like they took it more seriously than he thought. He’s grateful they went along with his idea because they had fun! It doesn’t matter who won, right--

“Rokuya. Tell us who won already.” Gaku squashes that thought almost immediately.

“How impatient, Yaotome-shi!” Nagi huffs, but grins. “Well, our winner is… Mitsuki!”

“Oh, really? Thanks, guys!” Mitsuki blinks, but smiles nonetheless.

Gaku grimaces at this, “Oi. You two are just being biased now.” He shrugs, “well, I guess I’ll admit you’re the better cook here, Izumi-ani. Next time I won’t lose.”

Mitsuki grins, “oh, you want to do this again? Sure! Sounds like it’d be fun.”

“Maybe some less biased judges, too.” Gaku mutters, shaking his head as he directs his gaze toward the judges’ table.

Yamato takes a long sip out of his can of beer and laughs, “You’re just mad that you didn’t win, Yaotome. You just gotta be more creative next time.”

“Both dishes were very good, however!” Nagi exclaims, offering his and Yamato’s leftovers to the other two by pushing all the plates toward them. “Here!”

Mitsuki and Gaku stare at it, but accept nonetheless by sampling each other’s dishes. Mitsuki grabs one of the bowls of soba, tipping the bowl slightly to drink the broth. Nodding in approval, he also takes the time to eat some of the soba noodles as well, and then tries one of the leftover pieces of tempura.

Gaku helps himself to whatever remains of Mitsuki’s cooking, and pauses at its flavor.

“Hmm, this really does remind me of Yamamura-san’s soba!” Mitsuki exclaims first, “It's good!”

Gaku sweats just a bit, but smiles. “Well, you did well yourself, Izumi-ani. I can see why they would be so biased toward you.”

“See,” Yamato reiterates, “Mitsu’s cooking is the best. Join us again for dinner sometime, Yaotome.”

“Will do.”