After everybody clinked glasses, Jordan asked, “Okay, now can you tell us why you’re calling this a business meeting, George?”
“Yes, my impatient friend,” George said, sitting back down “I’ll start by telling you why I’m here.” He took a second to glance around the table. “As I told Jordan earlier, my partner and I have been having problems for the past year. Suffice it to say that we don’t always see eye to eye on disciplining my son Henri, who is getting ready to be a teenager. That’s a whole new challenge all in itself and probably a big part of the problem.” He stopped to shake his head. “At any rate, Jeremy’s brother Terry approached us six months ago about investing in an upscale restaurant in the center of a new casino under construction close to the Texas border.”
“The Golden Arrow Casino and Resort?” Rosie asked. “I thought that was Indian-owned. They don’t normally farm out their profitable ventures to outsiders.”
“It’s one of the few casinos in Oklahoma that isn’t owned by one tribe or another,” George explained. “Anyway, Terry signed on as chief financial officer and when he heard about the plans for the restaurant, he thought of Chez Lui and called Jeremy. I gave it some thought and decided that not only would it be a moneymaker, but it would also be a way to put some space between Jeremy and me to see if we can work things out.”
“Terrific, George. Not about you and Jeremy, of course. I’m not so sure, though, that the good people of Oklahoma are ready for your kind of food.” Rosie pursed her lips and shook her head. “A twelve-ounce ribeye, yes. No card-carrying Texan or Oklahoman would pass that up, but as for the rest of it—lamb chops and all that French stuff—no way. Give a redneck a plate of enchiladas and a margarita swirl in a huge frosted glass, and he’ll think he died and went to cowboy heaven. But no lamb chops. He’d rather eat his goats.”
George leaned back in his chair. “Exactly why I thought of you, Rosie. Jordan has always said that your recipes are the only thing keeping her employed, and since I had a chance to experience your amazing King Ranch chicken first-hand on the cruise ship, I knew immediately what had to be done.”
“Are you saying what I think you are?” Victor’s eyes were as round as saucers now. “You want to use Rosie’s recipes in your new restaurant?”
“Yes, but there’s more.” George turned to Rosie. “I’m here to invite all of you to the Cinco de Mayo grand opening of the casino. I’ll need you, my dear, to teach my chefs how to make your scrumptious Mexican dishes since the entire weekend will be a celebration of the south of the border cuisine you are so famous for. So, what do you say?”
Rosie looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “I… I’m honored that you would ask, George, but I can just give you the recipes. I’m sure your professionals would be way better than I am at putting them together.”
“At all those fancy foods you named earlier, maybe, but this is your wheel house—your specialty. My chefs have no clue about quesadillas or chilesrellinos,” George said. “They wouldn’t know a good comfort casserole if it bit them on the you-know-what.”
“Let me get this straight, George. Did you just say we were all invited for the weekend?” Victor asked, his face showing more excitement than when he’d devoured the plateful of sweets.
“You did, Victor. Rosie would have to work, mind you, but only for four or five hours a day preparing the dinner menu and teaching my staff her secrets. The rest of you would be along only to support her and, of course, to keep me company.” He grinned. “As you can see, I won’t fit in very well with the locals in my three-piece suits.”
Ray laughed out loud. “No offense, George, but somehow I don’t see you in chaps and a Stetson.”
“None taken. You actually just made my point.” George raised his eyebrows. “Think about it. A long weekend of gambling, shows, Rosie’s food. All gratis except for the gambling. So, are you in or not?”
“Oh, hell yes!” Victor shouted, slapping Rosie on the shoulder. “You’ve turned out to be a real asset, honey bee.”
“Bite me, Victor, and don’t call me honey bee or I’ll have to kick your patootie all the way to the casino myself. The day I showed up at the Empire was the day your apartment building finally got some class.” She took a big drink of her margarita then focused on George. “And I can use whatever recipes I want?”
“Absolutely. For four days, the entire menu belongs to you—entrées, desserts, appetizers, and even salads. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I might even take some of them back to New York with me and rename them to fit in with my menu there.”
“I can guarantee you that the New Yorkers, who spend way more money then I’ll ever make, are going to love Rosie’s casseroles,” Jordan said, nodding.
“Okay then, it’s settled,” George said. “The first dinner will be tomorrow night. Can you make that happen, Rosie?”
“I might have to cancel my meeting with the mayor…” Rosie laughed. “I don’t even know who the mayor is. Of course I can. I’ll drive up right after breakfast, settle in, then prep everything before the dinner hour rolls around.” She paused, before asking, “Can the rest of the gang come with me tomorrow?”
George nodded and leaned back in his chair before pointing to the ceiling. “Thank you Jesus. Finally, I’m going to have some fun in my life.”
Jordan frowned. “Now all I have to do is convince my boss into letting me have a few days off.”
“Tell that old curmudgeon you want to review the new restaurant on site, Jordan. And mention that it’s all gratis because of Rosie. Although it’s a huge conflict of interest, your cheapskate editor will jump at the chance to get a first-hand scoop on the new casino,” Lola suggested.
“Hmm” Jordan narrowed her eyes. “Maybe I can convince him to let me be a special features reporter for one weekend instead of a culinary one. I could interview some of the key people in the casino and still talk up the restaurant.”
“Good idea.” Lola said. “He’ll be excited that he doesn’t have to pay your expenses.”
George called the waiter over and ordered another round for everyone. When they all had a fresh drink in front of them, he lifted his glass once again. “Here’s to good friends, good food, and a lot of laughs.”
“It’s been so long since I gambled, I have no doubt my budget is going to take a direct hit,” Jordan said.
“I’ll be right there beside you to keep you out of trouble, sweet cheeks,” Victor said. “And if I can’t, then I’ll help you rob the place.”