Contemporary Fiction

Rocco Eats It

By

This book will launch on Aug 24, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

A contemporary Hero's Journey about the adventures of Rocco Lucci, a ponytailed TV chef and restauranteur who loses it all only to find redemption in the most unlikely places as lead cook at the Waffle Pit.

The Jar of Fate

“Roll tape…Three. Two. One. You’re on.”

Rocco Lucci flashed a grin. He lifted his hand into a peace sign then pointed those two fingers at the camera. Rocco hoped it would become his unique physical catch-phrase, but at a fancy foods show last month he tried it in front of an audience, and a woman sent an email complaint saying it looked like Rocco was firing a gun at the crowd.

“Welcome back, my friends, to Rocco Eats It. The brisket is in the oven. The spices and the liquid smoke rub have locked in the juices.” Rocco made a fist to emphasize just how tightly the juices were locked in. “It’s now cooking slowly, filling your kitchen with aromas so big you can chew on them. And now it’s time to plate it. This is where you get the glory. Right?”

The kitchen set was done in the style of a New York penthouse, complete with gauzy sheers over glass-less windows, and the twinkling lights of a faux Manhattan skyline painted on a scrim beyond. All of the appliances were brushed stainless steel, and the accents were eggshell white. Rocco turned to camera two, and picked up a fork and carving knife. He stood over the black hunk of meat, steaming on the cutting board. He cupped the wisps of steam lifting from the meat and brought them to his nose as if drinking from a clear mountain brook. Rocco rolled his eyes with lust.  

“The smell of this . . . is to die for. I wish you were here with me.” Stabbing the brisket with the fork, Rocco angled the meat lengthwise for the camera. “To serve this, you want to cut against the grain. How do you know where that is? Cut the point. A little triangle, like this. See the way the delicate lines of fat run?” He pointed with his manicured pinkie finger. “This way. See? So, you’ll want to cut like so. This is cutting on the bias.”

Rocco demonstrated. The sleeves of his dazzling white chef coat pulled back to reveal the edges of elaborate green tattoos.

“The meat will be more tender if we cut this way.” He sliced through the meat, letting the cuts peel away from the knife like pillows falling from a bed. “Like my mother used to say, ‘Take-a-your time, Rocco’.”

He transferred the pieces to a white china platter gleaming under the studio lights. “And now, you can serve with a sauce. You can make one yourself. My recipe is on my website at RoccoEatsIt.com, or you can try my very own brand of barbecue sauce.” He held up a squat bottle. “Rocco’s BadAss to the Bone.” He tried to twist the lid, but it wouldn’t budge.

Rocco’s face pinched into a prune as he pulled the jar to his chest, thrust out his elbows and yanked at the lid. It was still stuck. Even under his make up, the crew could see Rocco’s cheeks burn.

“We can edit this out,” Rocco huffed.

When Rocco bent over and twisted his hips to work the lid off the jar his elbow bumped the brisket, coating the white sleeve of his jacket with blackened blood.

Rocco slammed the jar to the table and shouted, “Shit!” He ripped off his chef coat and yelled it again. And once more when he threw the coat at his feet. Rocco was so mad he pulled at the elastic band that secured his signature ponytail and let his black-dyed hair fall over his reddened cheeks.

“Cut! Stop tape.” The director’s voice tapered off. “Call the prep kitchen.”

Rocco braced his lanky, restless body on the counter. His white t-shirt, tucked into his designer jeans, was blotched with sweat in the middle of his chest. The ink on his arms was now fully on display, designs inspired by vacations to Hawaii. The $900 Lucchese snakeskin cowboy boots on his feet tapped the set floor and echoed in the soundstage like an angry metronome. “Who…the fuck…didn’t prep…the goddamn lid?!

The crew held their breath.

Denise!

A petite blonde with hips twice as wide as her shoulders ducked into the studio kitchen. Denise bowed her head. Her tight, short ponytail was sticking up on the back of his scalp as if on alert. Her eyes were locked on the offending barbecue sauce jar before Rocco thrust it at her.

“This!” was all Rocco could mutter through a jaw set in cement.

Denise’s eyes flitted up at Rocco’s then back to the jar. With a flip of her wrist the sous chef tapped the lid on the lip of the counter. Denise easily unscrewed the top. Without betraying her smug self-righteousness, Denise quietly slid the jar on the counter next to the brisket. The crew, motionless, watched for Rocco’s reaction.

Rocco, with a fist pressed into his side as if to stop major arterial bleeding, and the other arm steadying himself at the counter, let out a mile- long breath. To look like a fool trying to open a jar that wasn’t prepped, was one thing. But it was quite something else for his sous to make him feel like a limp-wristed wuss by opening the lid so easily. Rocco’s delicate sense of self was violated. His rage went full bore. There was no hint of grace left in Rocco when he experienced humiliation, especially at the hands of someone he judged as less consequential than him. When the firehose of his anger was released, there was never an impulse of restraint to rein it in.

Rocco’s voice was fueled with venom. “What the fuck, Denise? Do you know what you did? Now we have to reset everything. We have to prep another brisket.”

“Working on it,” Denise said gamely.

Rocco ignored her comment and made a point of tapping on the crystal of his Oyster Rolex. “And that will take forty-five minutes. I don’t have forty-five minutes, do you understand? I don’t think you do understand. This is the last show of the season.”

Rocco looked at his $5,000 watch again. “I need to meet with my management team. And now I’ll be late. Then I have to prepare for six weeks of shooting around the world for my travel show. It’s in its third season, Denise. People expect a certain level of excellence from me,” he pointed at the crew over her shoulder, “which I expect from everyone on my team. But apparently you live by another set of standards. You can forget ‘minor’ details.” He waved his hands in the air. “Oh, it’s OK for Denise to fuck up. It’s not your name on the show, your name on the bottle of sauce. And your name on three highly profitable restaurants!”

“Yes, Chef,” Denise said with more than a polite smile.

Rocco pointed at her. “Your unbelievable mistake has cost me time, has cost the crew time, and has left me questioning just where you’ll be on my team when I get back from my shoot.”

Silence, until Denise muttered, “Yes, Chef. I’m sorry.”

Having spent years toiling in kitchens working for barely literate tyrants, Denise was used to every form of degradation. Public scorn was nothing new. Her face throughout, however, was stoic.

If Denise’s chef coat didn’t rise all the way to her chin, a casual observer might have noticed a darker pink emerging around the base of her neck. But she wouldn’t let her expression show that she was being sliced to ribbons. Denise planted her feet, didn’t blink, and recited a mantra given her by a guru at a meditation workshop. “Hari om,” she said silently to herself, over and over. Denise didn’t know what the words actually meant, or if it was just some primal sound that felt good to say because the last part was like humming: “Hari ommm.”

But this time was different. What Denise knew all too well, but Rocco failed to notice, was that over the years as his stock rose in the food industry, so did hers. Indeed, while to Rocco Denise would always be an assistant to the star celebrity, deal makers in the business recognized her as the driving force behind the production of such a star. Even fans of the show would write directly to Denise asking for advice and cooking tips. Rocco was deaf to the comments about how lucky he was to have such a top-notch sous. Unbeknownst to Rocco, Denise had turned down multiple offers: working for an A-list chef, producing her own cooking show, and multiple publishing houses proposing book deals. As Rocco poured out his rant, Denise decided it was finally time to move on. But she would do it her way, with the kind of professionalism her parents taught her growing up in Winona, Minnesota.

“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Denise.” Rocco said her name as if it were etched in frost on a window.

Denise repeated her pat answer for the very last time, “I’ll get right on it.” She spun on her heel and retreated into the darkness of the soundstage. Her right hand was in the pocket of her chef coat, clutching her cell phone.

Rocco was drained. As if pulling himself up off the floor of the Coliseum after a hard won fight to the death, Rocco marched off set, head down, securing his ponytail, while stepping over black cables snaked across the floor. Behind him the director ordered the crew to redress the set and take a break.


About the author

Troy Bond’s career began as a reader of screenplays at Columbia Pictures. His first novel, The Lost Identity, was published in India. He has written three more novels: The Vampire of Shangri-la, The Americano, and Slicer. Troy lives in Great Barrington, Mass. view profile

Published on June 04, 2020

Published by

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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