Penny happily showed me pictures of the three of them. To my surprise, Rosie was an adult while Greg and Daisy couldn’t have been much older than eight and six, respectively. Diesel and Texas rumbled about business while Penny showed us what she had in her kitchen. Unlike me, Penny was a fantastic all-round cook, if Texas was to be believed, whereas I focussed more on baking. I could cook and was pretty good, but place cake batter in front of me and I created magic. Without being egotistical, I knew I was great at baking.
Penny checked the designs and shook her head at once. Diesel frowned, and Penny pointed out that it would be best if I had a space for baking. The other chef needed their own area, or we’d be tripping over each other for items and space. Diesel to his credit took on board what Penny suggested and together with my input, designed a far more efficient workspace. In the end, I had one-third of the kitchen for baking with my own island and counters.
Penny had suggested industrial ovens which when I checked the prices, I instantly baulked. Diesel and Penny vetoed the ones I suggested and picked two that made my eyes water at the cost. But they looked amazing, twenty shelves each, and they split into two. So, the smell from the top oven wouldn’t permeate the bottom oven. Without warning, Chance appeared behind me and agreed to the two industrial ovens, over-ruling Leslie and me.
Whatever arguments I’d been putting forth disappeared under Penny, Diesels and Chance’s counterarguments. Worried about the cost, I pointed out how pricey they were, and Penny once again argued quality. Leslie shared my worries but with Diesel, Chance and finally Rooster wading in, (Chance called him) we gave up the ghost. I ended up with two of the ovens, a six-hob range cooker with a further four ovens. Diesel cut a part of the kitchen off to build a walk-in fridge. Penny also insisted on two larder fridges being installed under the counters because she said I’d need them without realising I did. She asked who’d want to keep running to the walk-in fridge just to get a pot of cream, for example! Penny, of course, was correct.
On the other side were two similar industrial baker ovens, two eight range cookers and two islands for preparing food. Two industrial dishwashers were picked to be shared between the other chef and me. Rooster and Chance then waded in on the appliances we’d need, Leslie and I allowed Penny to lead the way, and we picked the colours. Penny also recommended an excellent site for counters, and before I knew it, there was a long counter selected for bread items and cakes.
A second shorter one was chosen for hot food, with hot plates for soup and deep trays for items like bacon and sausage. A third similar-sized cold counter was selected for sandwiches and other chilled goods. The drinks fridge was picked, and Penny pointed out shelves that fit nicely in with our theme and would hold crisps and things. Penny helped show how to best layout the counters and if didn’t differ much from the plans Diesel had made.
With Diesel knowing what to buy, he told us that when it was time, he’d call another meeting about the décor in the tearoom and what furniture to order. And meeting done, Diesel kicked us out without thanks or goodbye. Penny was laughing at Diesel’s highhandedness as she and Texas walked with us over to the clubhouse. Once again, I spied the four men watching, only now they were joined by two other mechanics. Rooster glanced over and caught them staring, and once again under his eye, they scurried back to work. Puzzled Rooster glanced at me, and I kept my gaze focussed ahead and refused to acknowledge Rooster’s quizzical glance.
As we entered the clubhouse, a man jogged over and asked to see Chance privately. Chance gave him a nod, and we entered the clubhouse where a squeal from Tati made Leslie and I jump. Penny smiled as Tati enveloped her in a hug and then laughed as Tati teasingly began patting Penny down frantically.
“Over there, honey,” Penny chuckled, and Tati turned to the bar where there were two enormous boxes. Before anyone could get in, Tati attacked the box pulling out pastries and a couple of cakes which she then snuck off to the back rooms. Penny was laughing at Tati’s antics, while Leslie and I looked utterly bemused.
“Penny is a seriously skilled cook,” Rooster muttered before strolling over and picking up a sausage roll from the box and biting into it. He sighed as the flakes crumbled around his mouth and took an even bigger bite. Tati came back and stuck her hand in the box pulling out a pastry I recognised as a pork pie from England. These were the savouries we’d need in the tearoom if we were going for a full English experience.
“I’ve a friend who’s moving here, she’s been recently widowed, and her son is god awful. Shame about that boy, he’d been decent once, until greed got the little shit. He’s tried bullying her out of the house and her husband’s pension and insurance. Clarice dug her heels in and hasn’t given him a red cent. Considering how much the greedy child makes a year, what Clarice has would be a drop in the ocean,” Penny said musingly.
“That’s a shame,” I replied, wondering what it had to do with us.
“Clarice can cook, cook as well as me, you need a chef and one that specialises in English cooking. If I’m honest, I can’t think of anyone better than Clarice,” Penny said and shot us a look.
“Clarice is good?” Leslie asked.
“Very, very good at English comfort food, her niece Anita is coming with her. Anita’s been baking and cooking by Clarice’s side since she could toddle. I was thinking, you mentioned that you wanted to open the tea rooms until five and then swap to a dinner menu? You’d need at least three chefs, can I make a suggestion?” Penny asked. Three chefs? I hadn’t even considered that, and by the looks on Leslie’s face, she hadn’t either.
“Sure, go on,” Leslie said.
“I’m guessing you can cook breakfasts?” Penny asked Leslie, and she nodded.
“Yes, sometimes Benny at the diner would have a late-night, so I’d be on call to open the diner and make the breakfast menu. Yeah, I can manage breakfast and cook for a multitude of people.”
“Close the tea rooms at five on Monday and Tuesday, those aren’t busy days. What I suggest is that you, Leslie, come in and do the early prep, Monday and Tuesday. Do a five till two shift, and then Clio can come and bake her cakes from seven onwards. Have a chef, Sunday twelve till ten then Monday working eight till five, that means two of your chefs have already had their two days off. So, say Jo and Emma, for example, have Sunday and Monday, then Amy can have Tuesday and Wednesday off.
For Wednesday if you can manage another five till two, have one chef come in at seven till four and the second chef from one till ten. Then for Thursday, Friday and Saturday I’d have a chef from five till two, one from eight till five and the last one till ten.
Leslie, you’d have to delegate duties, three chefs might fight over the head chef spot, if you take that it stops bickering. If you’re interested, I can send you Clarice and Anita’s details, they’ll be here at the end of the week. Clarice and Anita are staying with Texas and me until they find a place. I’d love for them to be near me, but if you like them, they may want to move here instead.” Penny broke off on a deep sigh and Texas’s gaze shot to his wife. Penny smiled, and Texas relaxed.
“They’re that good?” Leslie asked.
“See how they’re enjoying my cooking? I learnt from Clarice,” Penny smirked. Okay, that meant Clarice was excellent judging by the expressions on Hellfire’s faces.
“Send them our way, we can do a trial at the cabin,” I spoke without thinking and bit my lip. “Let me check with Chance first, I’ll go find him.” I scurried away my cheeks on fire, did I have the right to offer the cabin for an interview? I stared across the forecourt and imagined Chance had headed towards the bays, as I couldn’t see him anywhere else. Head down I walked across the forecourt and peered into the first bay, there was a car inside but no people, I peered into the second and found it empty. I began frowning as I wondered where the mechanics were, let alone Chance.
I found them in bay three, well the mechanics at least. The original four were there, and I felt a chill run down my spine, there were five other guys with them. One looked disgusted, and the others were leering at a phone. My shoes scuffed the concrete, and they looked up.
“I’m looking for Chance,” I blurted, embarrassed at the awareness in the man holding the phone, eyes.
“Well now, lady, you found us, ain’t we good enough?” he sneered. The man who appeared disgusted took two steps towards me.
“Lass, Chance is in the end bay,” he said kindly. I turned away and then spun back to them, taking in their nasty sneers and leers and the way they were staring at me, I guessed.
“Enjoying watching a woman be kidnapped and sexually assaulted, are you?” I asked, furious. I stared at them, one by one and two looked away. The kind man placed a hand on my elbow.
“Sweetheart go find Chance, I’ll deal with this,” he said.