In quiet moments she would admit to herself that if his childhood hadn’t been what it had, she’d never have allowed him as much freedom as she did. They had a reputation to uphold and he was the heir. She couldn’t lie though – not to him and not to herself. He wasn’t recovered and most likely never would be. If she wanted her child to grow and prosper, she needed to let go of the points of contestation that didn’t matter.
That’s why she didn’t protest against his intention to open a cake shop.
She could guess the reasons behind it – or at least divine the general why. She doubted he’d thought it fully through – his education would get him through the business aspect of it, but the cakes? He’d need a skilled staff and he didn’t have the ability to find one. She, however, did.
Everyone in the business knew of Min Sun-woo. And, while her son might suspect otherwise, it wasn’t due to his proclivities or the disturbances his presence caused. There was a reason he never lacked work, even with his illustrious past. There was a reason he could pick and choose his place of employment. The truth was simple: he was as good as he perceived himself to be and he was exactly the person Jin-hyuk needed for his shop.
She went to meet Min Sun-woo on a Tuesday. He hadn’t left his current place of employment yet – he’d been there for nearly five months and the restaurant had gone from two to three stars and had an upswing in sales that was truly remarkable. Rumors said that the chef and sous-chef had started to look at him differently lately though, gossip about a showdown in the freezer abounded if you knew where to listen. The manager she’d talked to estimated a blow-up within a week with a resigned look on his face.
“I would’ve pitied his next employer,” Manager Park said as he held up the door for her on the way out, “if it wasn’t for the fact he single-handedly made this place the restaurant to go to for a few months.”
She silently agreed in the privacy of her own mind. This particular restaurant had never quite lived up to the reputation it’d gained.
Min Sun-woo arrived to the café she’d chosen for their meeting dressed in a pair of impeccably tailored pants and a jacket she’d seen in last year’s Prada fall collection. Not that she’d expected less of him, but she was glad her initial impression had been right.
“Madame Kim,” he said politely with a bow as they met, his glasses not quite managing to hide the uncomfortable look in his eyes. The rumor of him being uncomfortable around women seemed not to be a rumor.
“Min Sun-woo.” She smiled and accepted his greeting. “I’ve heard much of you. And I must say: your Madeleines are absolutely divine.”
He bowed his head. “I’m grateful you think so.”
He was remarkably likeable, this young man, she decided, even if his hair really was scandalously long.
They chit-chatted politely throughout their lunch on various subjects – he truly was an educated young man – before she finally put down her tea cup and caught his eye.
“I’ve heard that you might be looking for a new place of employment in the near future.”
Something flashed over his face – disappointment? – and he put down his cup as well. The smile on his face was bland. She’d heard the rumors – he didn’t deal with women if it could be avoided. He was hiding it well.
“It’s not final.” He stirred the tea once, twice.
“My son is opening a cake shop.” She wouldn’t get anywhere with this man without being direct. He looked up; something in his face that made her think he was ever so slightly impressed. “He will need someone of your caliber to make it.” Min Sun-woo looked mildly incredulous. As he should be – someone of his caliber didn’t work at a new-opened cake shop.
“The kitchen is state of the art, you will have full creative freedom and I believe you’ll find the salary respectable.” She placed the contract she’d had drawn up, pushed it delicately towards him.
He glanced at it, nothing showing on his face beyond a slightly raised eyebrow. “Your son wouldn’t be the one to hire me?”
She coughed delicately behind a hand. “There are some extenuating reasons. He would, of course, present you with his own terms.”
He tapped the paper once, twice, with a finger scarred by constant kitchen work. “If,” he said carefully, “my current employment comes to an end, I will consider the offer. I won’t agree to anything further until I’ve met your…son.”
“Quite understandable.” She retrieved the contract. “I wouldn’t ask anything more of you.”
He’d end up taking the job; she trusted her son to achieve at least that. Feeling much more secure, she took a bite of the cake she’d ordered. Her eyes widened at the taste and she fumbled for the provided towel.
“It was a bit tart,” Min Sun-woo agreed with an amused tilt of his mouth. “The chef didn’t quite consider his use of the lemon.”
“I’d say,” she managed to get out, trying to get back her composure.
“You should try my version of the cake some time,” he said, taking a bite of his own cake. “I think you’d find it much more to your preferences.”
She didn’t doubt it. It was the very reason she’d come to him to begin with. Trying to wipe the taste of the cake from her mouth, she took a few sips of tea. Her son would have his hands full, she didn’t doubt. He had no experience in handling someone like Min Sun-woo. She did however, think it would probably be good for him.