Cocky Chef

By: JD Hawkins



Hunger can drive a man crazy. That emptiness inside that twists and stabs until the only thing you can focus on is filling it. Power, money,

Some men have appetites that can never be appeased—hungers so big, so powerful, that they can never stop. Men like me.

"We're here, Mr. Chambers."

I look up from the invoices and work orders in my lap and see the driver glance at me in the rearview mirror. I nod to him as the Maybach pulls up in front of the restaurant.

Usually I’d drive myself—God knows I own enough cars to run a grand prix—but today’s been a busy one, and I’ve spent every moment I could poring over paperwork for the new spot in Vegas.

“Thanks, Derek,” I say as he opens the door and I step out into the canopy lights of Knife: the hottest restaurant in L.A. I hand him a hundred bucks. “I’ll get a cab back.”

He smiles in gratitude, spins back into the car, and drives away, leaving me to stand for a moment in front of the place. It still looks beautiful after all these years. A grand entrance; glass so fine you’d swear there was nothing there, framed by woodgrain hand-picked from Portland logs. A deep red canopy modelled after Prohibition-era movie theaters looms over the doors. Above that, the word ‘Knife’ in understated steel lettering. Through the glass on either side of the entrance, glowing in the gold of candlelight against the exposed brickwork, I can see the diners sitting at their tables.

The music of their chatter, laughter, and clinking cutlery is faint, as faint as the aroma of garlic and white wine sauce on mussels, the sweetness of a newly caramelized soufflé. Sensations that compel you like a woman’s flickering eyelashes, urging you to draw closer, close enough to devour what you’ve set your sights on.

The place is clean, elegant, modern. And on a night like this—even after a day like today—when the Pacific breeze moving through L.A. jostles the palm fronds like they’re conjuring a dream, it’s almost magical.

What you don’t see are the blood, sweat and tears embedded in those bricks. The struggle and hardships that glued them together. The betrayals and broken friendships, the burning drive and resilient determination that laid its foundations. Only I can see those.

I walk up and enter, greeted by the maître d’ standing behind his podium.

“Evening, Mr. Chambers,” he says.

“Evening, Charlie.”

He’s worked here for six years, and is still the best in the business. The joke goes that Charlie is so good at making people wait that it’s only a matter of time before the DMV hires him. The job is in his blood. So much so that he still won’t call me Cole no matter how many times I’ve told him to.

“What’ll it be, sir?”

“Well, I’ve just spent a whole day dealing with the morons in Vegas, I haven’t eaten since this morning, and I’d like to get home in time to see the Clippers highlights. As long as it comes with a side of the most alcoholic wine we have, I don’t care.”

Charlie smiles wryly.

“Very good, sir.”

Most restaurant staff would start sweating at the idea of picking something off the menu themselves, but like I said, Charlie’s of a different breed. His party trick is knowing what people are gonna order while they’re still standing in line.

I’ve just told him that I’m tired and pushed for time, which means I won’t bother with an appetizer. The most alcoholic wine we have is a Zinfandel red, which is recommended for the beef dishes. And besides, it’s a Tuesday in May, so we’ve just had a fresh delivery of ribeye cuts.

“Will table four suit, sir?”

I nod appreciatively and move inside. It’s a relatively quiet night, which means most tables are full but there’s no line outside. Instinct immediately draws my eye to the three attractive women at a table across the room. Specifically the demure blonde facing me in a green dress so thin you could blow it off. She catches me looking and immediately reaches for her wine glass to hide the upturn in her lips.

Seconds after I take my seat, the wine is brought and poured at my table. I lean toward the waiter and point subtly in the direction of the blonde.