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There were rats in the soufflé again. Expert chef Jean-Pierre grimaced at the wretched sight. Dozens of the miserable vermin were crawling around the innards of what was supposed to be a delicious meat and cheese soufflé, baked exquisitely for a very specific palate. Shaking his head at the disgusting dish, Jean-Pierre emptied the rats nest into the nearest trash bin and set to work on a new puffed cake.

He grabbed his already-warm saucepan, threw some butter in, and turned his recently-used burner back on medium. As he absentmindedly melted the butter, he began to think of how he got in this position in the first place. He remembered being a lowly sous chef at a respectable French restaurant in Boston, working for a disgraceful bastard of a head chef at his last position, a man who despite supposedly being a world-renowned culinary genius couldn't tell the difference between a roux and a stock. Even the memory of such a man made Jean-Pierre so furious he almost didn't realize his butter had become liquid.

Turning his attention back to his cooking, he scooped up a handful of flour and tossed it into the pan, stirring the mixture constantly. After a couple of minutes, he began to whisk some of the leftover milk into the pan, taking care not to add it too quickly. He set his saucepan down to simmer and began dreaming of the last time he cooked in a proper restaurant kitchen. It had been his final day with the ignorant American who called himself head chef, and he had been tasked with preparing duck confit for a very respected politician. He toiled over every tiny detail, ensuring every tiny morsel was oozing with flavor. As he finished plating the dish, the head chef approached and callously declared the meat overdone, and without warning tossed the dish into the trash. With a punch of the face and a slamming of the door, Jean-Pierre had found himself without a job.

He lifted his spoon from the milk and butter mixture. Pleased with the thickness of the sauce, he took the saucepan off the burner and began adding the rest of the ingredients. Spinach, egg yolks, cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, all finely measured to ensure maximum flavor, all thrown into the sauce with care. One ingredient left, Jean-Pierre grabbed the bowl of excess meat from last time and added it into the pan, taking a small morsel for himself to sample. He shivered in delight as he chewed the deliciously perfectly cooked meat, remembering fondly how fresh the meat was when he cooked it.

He set the saucepan down and began to work on the egg whites. He turned his hand mixer on high and began beating the whites, the loud whir of the motor drowning out any thoughts he may have had about what he was doing. Eventually, the whites began to hold peaks as they should, and Jean-Pierre stirred about a fourth of the egg whites into the batter. He gradually folded the rest of the whites into the mixture, added it all into the soufflé dish, and popped it into the still hot oven.

Jean-Pierre sighed and sat down, kicking aside a loose bone on the floor. He leaned back and began to picture his acquisition of this kitchen. It was a dark, old, disgusting place when he first arrived at it, and true not much has changed since then, but he still believed then that he had what it took to run his own kitchen, moreso than the idiot who he used to work for. He hadn't believed the stories of the "haunted kitchen", though he was more than happy to take the property for dirt cheap due to said rumors.

It wasn't long for him to become a believer, though. He remembered some of the odder occurrences, such as the walls expanding as if they were breathing and the refrigerator randomly throwing itself across the room. And true, he remembered being somewhat frightened at the time. However, after discovering what was causing the phenomena, he was more than willing to ignore the occasional bleeding ceiling. During his short stay, he began to experiment heavily, to the point he knew he had almost reinvented the craft of cooking. And through it all, he knew he was going to change everything. After all, wasn't he promised the best restaurant in all the world?

The loud beep of the kitchen timer snapped Jean-Pierre out from his fantasy, and he hurriedly ran over to the oven to remove his fresh soufflé. For a moment, it seemed that this time the soufflé came out flawlessly. However, within seconds the puffed top of the pastry gave way to reveal yet another colony of flea infested rodents. The king was not going to like this. Sighing, Jean-Pierre grabbed the soufflé and walked over to the cellar door, taking care to step over the mostly meatless body of his former head chef. If nothing else, Jean-Pierre could take pride in knowing that such a waste of flesh could still be cooked into something worthwhile. Jean-Pierre opened the door and stepped inside.

The air was deadly still as Jean-Pierre stepped onto the white salt pan of the other world. He cautiously approached the circle of pillars directly ahead, his hands only slightly trembling as he approached the center. He set the soufflé on the ground, backed away, and began to speak. "Ahem, sir, there seems to be some issue with the oven. It's not holding up its end of the bargain, and unfortunately it keeps ruining my soufflés."

Jean-Pierre shifted to hold himself steady as the ground beneath him rumbled angrily. Jean-Pierre cleared his throat and said, "Yes, I know, I understood what you told me the first time. A beautiful meal made from the flesh of a man I despise, baked in an oven haunted by a sinner, and I did all of that. That's not the problem, the problem is in the ov-" Jean-Pierre fell over as the ground shook violently. Suddenly, a small black knife appeared in front of Jean-Pierre, and the rumbling of the ground eased.

Jean-Pierre looked at the knife, then said, "I…surely you'll give me another chance. There are plenty of other men out there deserving of my hate, and I can replace the oven to a more reasonable model. Please, give me one more chance!" The ground shook angrily again, and for the first time since he arrived Jean-Pierre swore he heard a roar behind the rumble. He sighed in frustration. Clearly there wasn't anything he could do to persuade His Majesty not to force him to pay tribute, and it would be foolish of him to press his luck any more than he already had. He knew what the king could do to his soul should he disobey further.

Jean-Pierre grabbed the knife, turned his gaze to the sky, and slowly dragged the blade across his throat, slicing through his thin, delicate skin. Jean-Pierre instinctively clutched his now bleeding throat and fell to the ground, the blood seeping into the ground beneath him. As his vision blurred from lack of oxygen and his body convulsed from the life seeping out, Jean-Pierre reflected upon the events that lead him to where he was now. Culinary school, moving to America, working for the bastard, becoming a chef for the Scarlet King…all moments that wove an intricate web that he could call his life. With his final convulsion, Jean-Pierre felt at peace with his decisions, and his final thought was that of the last, almost perfect soufflé.

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