Culinary Coup at Le Monde or A Chef’s Worst Nightmare
by Chuck Mazzarella

It was a battle like no other seen throughout recorded history. The skirmish did not result in any human casualties, as there were no bipeds present at the event. The colossal siege was captured on tape, so experts can now look upon it to study ‘strategery’, aka strategy, to help ensure that another war of this magnitude never takes place again.

The location of this event was a recently constructed one. No one thought it would be a culinary arena of death. The venture was referred to as Le Monde and it was the first of its kind in the nation – an upscale food court in one of the most lavish malls in America.

The participants broke free from their cold storage gulags one evening and attacks commenced among the indoor fountains, padded Adirondack chairs, and exotic palms that encircled and divided up the digestive rest areas within the consumer haven. The tension had been simmering for weeks, but both sides were prepared, having competent leaders. Among the most experienced veterans of the campaign were: General “Beef” Wellington and Commander Fondue Frommage. It was as if WWII were replaying itself, only on a much smaller scale. This time, the enemy was your ally. The rivalries were old and established, though battle lines were not clear to many. Foes finally faced each other: Lo Mein versus Cappellini, Ceviche v. Sushi, Country Fried Steak v. Country Fried Chicken cutlets, Cabbage and Knockwurst v. Sausage and Peppers, Steak Tartar v. Carpaccio. A spirit of cooperation did not exist. No edible civil strife occurred; thank goodness.

Seven famous restaurants were chosen as a fair and balanced blend of cooking styles and cultures. The fortunate ones included: ‘Chomp’ de Elyesse, Paved in Gold, Etruscan Surprize, Allure of Spice, Pesca Fresca, Arid Oasis, and Hal’s Conglomerate. Excluding Antarctica, all of the continents, and many familiar countries, were recognized. Some restaurants featured a variety of dishes; many you may not have experienced before. Variety is what made this place so special. This was exclusive dining! Fast food was found two floors below, with a fancy waiting room that separated the tiers. Menu items from the chains were too immature and boorish to even be considered for an invite to Le Monde. Early in July, the dream place was opened. Inaudible taunting was immediate as the elegant dishes were put on display to entice the curious and hungry merchants.

The design of the place included enough room to comfortably move around while offering a nice sense of privacy. The amenities sparkled and patrons were in awe of the ambiance, but diners were not distracted by glitz or repulsed by the sight of a garbage can. Refuse receptacles were discreetly located away from the dining area, at the end of a hall that almost led outside. Patrons could choose to eat within the restaurant proper or enjoy their meals café style among the foliage.

The storefronts formed a heptagon, not the linear design that was originally suggested. This design was more esthetically pleasing. It was also good from a strategic standpoint, but no one actually planned for that. Random songs, both vocal and instrumental, were played continuously to add a sense of class to the overall experience. Music of many of the world’s countries was featured: well known countries and those less familiar. Whether they who ate there could pick out those latter countries on a map was another question.

The various entrées knew that all the name calling and lewd gestures would probably come to a boil, to borrow a phrase. Some event of significance was going to happen and this sentiment was shared by all. Being civil, however, formal discussions to take any major action were held. As there is usually a lull during the Winter and, historically, stubborn battles have been fought during that frosty season, it was decided the encounter would take place on the twenty-fourth of January; a surprisingly amicable agreement took place among the delicious heads of state.

Among those in attendance were the aforementioned Wellington and Frommage, Saki Uni, Severance “Meat Pie” Lloyd, Scales Awave, and Johnny “Top Dog” Magurk. Generals Baba Kanush, Couscous, and Pickles Linguica sent delegates. The first and only recorded conclave of this type was to take place on December 24th, when it was assured that no biped interlopers would be present to interfere. A month of preparation was allotted and that seemed adequate and quite proper; all present vowed to honor this agreement. But, it turned out to be too long to wait: remember, the bickering had been going on since Le Monde was opened on the first of July. Six months of haranguing, and menacing glances, not to mention the intermingling wafts that sickened everyone who had an enemy—this all had an accumulative effect.

A conspiracy between Pickled Herring, Captain Limburger, and Staff Sergeant “Eggs” Benedict shortened the month-long wait for a proposed date of battle. The use of propaganda was rampant. What was once an internal matter spread to all parts of the promenade. It started with an officer named Baklava. He was holding a grudge against someone named Spiros Salad. Someone’s daughter was insulted or some such thing; the details are now forgotten or were always unclear. Pickled Herring overheard some morsel of information from the Greek argument and brought the ingredient to the other pernicious leftovers bent on conspiracy. Some type of spin was utilized in the matter and this increased tensions leading to conflict.

As the end of the year approached, a few more names were called, insults were hurled, then silence. It was when it became colder outside and too warm inside that the food stuffs started to spoil. As usual, heat was the catalyst. The heat ran nonstop for two days and nights in Le Monde before a repairman arrived to remedy the situation. The bad vibes continued to surmount through the post-Christmas air. The pressure became high enough for someone to lose his cool; action seemed imminent.

On the morning of December 31st, plans for an engagement were being drawn up in all camps. After the lights went out, the first casualty was had. General Wellington gave orders for information to be gathered. Other soldiers were busy building a bridge out of those reusable resin trays that were absconded with from the fast food cul-de-sac two floors below; there were no plastic utensils used in Le Monde. Various other elements were used for fortification.

Commander Frommage noticed movement within several camps and dispatched a few units. He was a consummate lush, as many of the high ranking leaders were, and this had an effect on the entire campaign. Champagne and red wine flowed on all fronts. Interesting aromas filled the battle zone; above, stars shone through the transparent and lofty windows of the domed ceiling.

It was decided that an alliance between Generals Couscous, Baba Kanush, and Saki Uni be made. The troops of Scales Awave attempted to remain neutral, but were attacked by General Saki’s men. On the other front were leaders Magurk, Linguica, and “Meat Pie” Lloyd. Intelligence reports were intercepted from Linguica’s unit, and they revealed some vital plans to take control of Le Monde; Frommage felt threatened. The recipe for one major plan included the following ingredients: a drastic reduction of prices, an attack on refrigerator units, and an almost tactless and highly irregular advertising campaign.

It was Commander Frommage to whom Saki and the other indigestible courses answered. On the nutritious side, “Beef” Wellington was in command of all troops. Fondue Frommage had always hated Wellington and the virtues he stood for; he was just in it for the money and considered any plan that may have driven out one of the other eating establishments, giving his faction the upper hand.

The video footage of the battle did not explain any allegiances or ulterior motives. It was a spectacular sight to see, nevertheless. Scales Awave ultimately joined with Frommage; it was possible that he was coerced. Each side devised olfactory projectiles that were used to demoralize soldiers on both sides. The indigestible foods led by Frommage hurled stink bombs made from fish innards, pulverized mussel shells, grape jelly and some item that Limburger offered. Wellington’s crew responded with dumplings consisting of mustard, stale beer, and items retrieved from the far off refuse receptacles. To General Magurk’s dismay, several men were lost on a mission to the end of the hall to find the necessary putrid components.

Many brave soldiers died from their wounds in the seemingly vain altercation. There were heroes on both sides. Onlookers and non-combatants who indirectly helped to support the war effort were proud of those who fought so valiantly. The damage was slight but extreme; more evident on the battlefield than on the home fronts. The serene night sky and subsequent undisturbed Sunrise were the only redeemable elements of the entire war.

An historic and unpredictable event took place that led to the descent of Peace in Le Monde. “Eggs” Benedict fired three non-lethal shots to the night sky from the highest vantage point of the classy food court; atop the largest fountain in the center of the room. After Generals Lloyd, Awave, and Couscous were severely injured in an attack that went horribly awry, the proposed traitor and conspirator acted in a way contrary to that of his namesake. As loudly as he could, Benedict shouted from his perch for a Cease Fire. Unfortunately, his speech was not recorded because the mall surveillance camera was not equipped with a microphone. From witnesses, it was later discovered that the words from this single menu item were influential enough to cause both sides to have a sit down.

Under the star-blessed sky of that first day of the new year, a universal accord was quickly reached. For the first time since its unveiling, Le Monde became a peaceful place for all–both the gastronomical delights and the bipeds that would most likely return the following day. All the while, during the biggest battle of its kind, the piped-in music kept playing through undetectable speakers. What effect the music had during the battle was not measured. Someone had made an audio loop of the national anthems and slowly, apparent differences were ignored in all of the fighters as they intently listened to each nation’s song of pride.

Many of the soldiers were profoundly affected by this smart piece of strategy in the historically insignificant coup. Now, the same patriotic notes lull the weary participants to sleep as plans for a lasting peace and clean up of the aftermath are being assembled. The seven restaurants that make up Le Monde begin their new friendship as the shoppers relax and enjoyed the amenities unawares. From this day on, tolerance and fraternity will flow as freely as the overpriced wine.

Born in the seventies, Life has taken me to ancient sands, an Olympic stadium, and allowed me to shake the hand of a President. I was a soldier, have worked in retail, made hoagies, and talked to homeless men. My dreams are high; if I am allowed them. I thank my family, the Army, and my faith. I love Nature, especially a view of the mountains, a river, or the ocean. I hope to write more stories. The Lion Shares, my book, has 39 stories and 8 poems. Give THE LION a chance, and read a few stories. Write some yourself, sometime; write about what you know. I hope great things for the future and believe in the potential of others. I also am a bit of a realist. Wishing you the best. Never be afraid to be yourself.