Twelve + One = Delicious

"Oh, no, oh no. What will I do?" Giovanni paced around the kitchen with his hands on his head, eyes as wide as saucers. "The meal starts in ten minutes!"

His breathing became more shallow as he walked in circles through the kitchen. In all of his thirty four years of cooking he had never made a mistake so absolutely dire. Sure he had occasionally used salt instead of sugar, or forgot a cup of flour; but those were all forgivable. Not this time.

"I don't really see the problem, papa. Can't you still serve them?" Giovanni's young son Antony sat on the counter watching his father.

Giovanni stopped pacing, sighed, and hung his head, "No Antony, you'll understand when you are older." The overworked chef plumped himself down onto the floor, defeated.

The minutes slowly began ticking away in his head, one second at a time. A million plans went in one ear and out the other, he could not think of what to do. Just on the other side of the door sat a room of twelve people, no, judges, awaiting his arrival. Awaiting the glorious cooking of one Giovanni Vermicelli, world renown chef. Here he had spent the majority of his life building a reputation only to ruin it in one night. One miserable meal. It took a lot from Giovanni not to break out in tears.

Antony, noticing his father's agony, hopped off the counter and slumped down next to him, patting him on the shoulder.

"It will be alright, papa. I don't think they will notice. They are only here to experience your cooking. Perhaps they will overlook this one mistake."

Giovanni looked his son in the eyes and sighed again. He was about to tell his son about the golden rules of cooking, and how you never cook more than someone asks, when an idea struck like a rolling pin to the side of the head. He stood up and raced to the oven with an energy that filled the whole room. In seconds he began to move in a whirl, Antony's eyes could barely keep up. He stood up and rushed to his father's side.

"What is it father?" Antony's voice was filled with concern.

Giovanni spoke without looking at his boy. "Perhaps I have not failed son; with some luck I can work this in my favor." Giovanni's hands were like lightning as he prepared the meal for the twelve judges. Antony helped where he could but mostly he just watched in awe as his father baked faster than he had ever baked before. For Giovanni though, every thing seemed to be moving in slow motion. He had things to cut and slice, glaze and frost, garnish and swirl; which he all had to do with only four minutes remaining. This may work, thought Giovanni, I'll be banished from cooking forever if it doesn't. Three minutes left.

"Father, what can I do?" Asked little Antony.

"Grab me the vanilla basil, and the tomato caramel. Do it quick!" Giovanni felt a dash of guilt at yelling at his son but he knew that he would be forgiven. His son looked up to him and this attempt to fix a mistake was as much for his son as it was for himself. Antony returned and handed his father the ingredients. Giovanni spared a second to look at the clock again. He was down to under a minute.

The sweat began to bead on his forehead as he could hear the attendants through the swinging doors. They were becoming impatient. Hurry it up Giovanni, He thought to himself, The stakes are too high to screw this one up.

He got a second wind and began moving so fast that Antony took a few steps back. The little boy even had to look away to keep from becoming dizzy. With fifteen seconds to spare Giovanni whipped out two large serving platters, placed the baked goods on them, said a little prayer, and burst through the double doors into the main room of his restaurant.

As he made his way to the long table at the front of the restaurant he made sure to put on his best smile. Each one of the twelve judges eyed him as he came forward. Each one a food connoisseur as nasty as the next. Everyone in Italy feared these twelve coming into their restaurant. "Makes us twelve of your best dish," They would say, "no more, no less." Occasionally the day after would mark a new fame for the eatery. More than likely however, the restaurant would be closed in a week. The twelve were vicious and unforgiving. Their was one however, that Giovanni never looked away from.

Franco Di Gito, known throughout Italy as the toughest food critic in the world. Though there were twelve judges, Franco's word was the only one that really mattered. It was him you must please. Giovanni stopped in front of the table and cleared his throat. Behind him from the kitchen Antony watched with a held breath. His father's voice was shaky.

"I give to you the greatest dish I have ever created; Vanilla Basil Tomato Caramel Buttered Goat Muffins."

As Giovanni began handing out each plate he noticed that Franco's eyes were squinting more and more in confusion. As Giovanni gave a plate to the last judge, Franco stood so suddenly that he knocked his chair over. Giovanni had been prepared for an outburst.

"What is this? I asked you to give us twelve of your best dish Giovanni! No more, no less! What are you trying to pull?"

Franco was of course referring to the dire mistake that the portly chef had made; the thirteenth dish still in Giovanni's hand. The rest of the judges all pushed their plates away from them to show their distaste. In the cooking world it was unforgivable to use more ingredients than necessary. To these twelve Giovanni had broken the first of the golden rules.

"I had heard that your restaurant was the best in all of Italy!" cried Franco, "Clearly, I was mistaken."

The rest of the judges all stood and began to make their way to the exit. Giovanni raised his hands in the air and spoke loudly to catch their attention.

"Please, wait! Let me explain."

Luckily for Giovanni, Franco was in a less disgruntled mood than normal and gave the chef this one chance to explain his horrible actions. Giovanni's voice was no longer shaky.

"I said before that this was the finest dish I had ever created, and this is the truth." Giovanni paused for a moment as the judges sat back down. "And as this is my best dish, I have done something unusual."

Giovanni took a deep breath; he then grabbed another chair and placed it directly across from Franco. As he sat down, the judges all gave him a look of disgust, for he had the gall to sit at their table. Picking up a fork from the table Giovanni cut a small piece of the muffin off and placed it into his mouth. As he savored every chew, he was surprised to find that this was indeed the best dish he ever made. As soon as he swallowed the bite, he spoke again.

"I present to you all, the Baker's Dozen. Wherein I have made twelve for you," He said this with a flourish to the judges, "and one, for me."

The rest of the judges all gave each other confused looks until Franco himself, picked up the fork and took a bite of Giovanni's dessert. Giovanni sat patiently and watched as Franco chewed slowly and thoughtfully. When he was done only one word was muttered but it was enough to soon launch Giovanni's restaurant, which he renamed Dumb Luck, into a fame no one would ever be able to top:

"Yum..."