Urban Fantasy Funny

Chef Tyla straightened the last chair on the beautifully decorated patio, huge palm plants surrounding brightly colored tables, fairy lights glittering, glasses and silverware set just so, ready for the guests coming that evening.

“Everything looks perfect!” She said to Elbie standing next to her in his white apron. 

“With the money I’m going to make tonight, I just might make it." She looked around at her restaurant, what she stressed about, sweated over, fought for, during the past five years, all on her own.  If everything went as planned, tonight would be the launching pad for her bright, glorious future. 

 “Finally, I’m going to turn the corner, this is going to be the best night ever!”  With a huge, bright smile, she stretched her hands out, welcoming the good fortune that at long last was coming her way. 

And that was the moment, of course, when everything went to hell.

They turned toward each other, eyes wide at the sound of a huge metallic slam echoing from the kitchen behind them, and they ran toward the latest catastrophe.

The Cajun Cafe had the most delicious, and spiciest Cajun dishes found outside of Louisiana. But located too many blocks away from Downtown Oakland, too few people had made it onto the narrow street to the tiny restaurant.  And after five years of trying, her restaurant couldn’t seem to meld together, too few of the ingredients of customers, employees and money had left her own gumbo of success bland, and failing. 

 Chef Tyla knew how to cook, knew how to make the recipes, passed down generation to generation by her family, but she didn’t know how to get people in the door.  That’s why tonight  had become her last, best chance to break out.  

A chef’s convention, in town for just a few days, had somehow heard a rumor of a hole-in- the-wall restaurant that was worth the trip Uptown. Good reviews from these chefs would put her restaurant on the map.

Chef Tyla’s whole body buzzed along with her phone every time a new reservation came in, another request for a coveted seat in her small patio.  She had planned an elaborate menu for the hundred plus guests of fried shrimp and oyster po’boys, shrimp jambalaya, and her famous thick gumbo filled with crab and boudin sausages.

So she couldn't let anything go wrong tonight.  Chef Tyla stepped through the French doors from the patio into the small kitchen, Elbie on her heels, both holding their hearts along with their breath.

But nothing seemed out of place.  Clean and well organized, but at half the size of any normal kitchen, the bright yellow walls welcomed her.  The boxes of ingredients along the back wall were there ready for the evening, and above them hung a packed shelf full of dog-eared cookbooks, slips of even more recipes poking out, their hands raised like kids in class, asking to be picked for next time.

 Her ancient Vulcan stove, once chrome, now black with grease,  sat squat and ready against the back wall.   Her large stew pot rested on top, filled to the brim with her gumbo.

“Elbie, do you smell that?”  Chef Tyla closed her eyes in frustration..

Elbie, the dishwasher, busboy, waiter, and anything-but-cook, put his nose in the air.  “I don’t smell anything, the disinfectant from cleaning this morning…”

“Why aren't we smelling my gumbo!”  Chef Tyla lurched to the stove to understand why the rainbow of aromas that should be filling the air was missing.  

 She lifted the lid. The warm heat she expected, the chorus of smells from the spiced gumbo weren't there, just a faint hint of broth, thyme.

“Stewy, what’s going on?”

She looked at the wide lid in her hand, then touched the pot, cold as the panic creeping up her legs.

“Stewy, what happened, why aren’t you cookin’? We don’t have time for this!”  Chef Tyla’s eyes blazed at the stew pot.

 The heavy pot shifted slightly on the burners.  “I’ve been trying to get your attention, to tell you, but you were too busy out front.”  The pot’s voice rumbled thick and smoky.

“Stewy?”  Chef Tyla’s voice cracked in a high pitch squeal.

“Stove’s on strike.” Stewy said, embarrassment coloring his voice.

Fear crawled up Chef Tyla’s back and sat on her shoulders. The biggest day of her life, and she had let hope kindle inside her, that tonight her spark could light somewhere, with someone, and finally catch on to ignite a fire for her restaurant. But no, her dreams were as cold as her gumbo.

 She had just a few hours before she would be overrun by guests, lips smacking for the promised ‘Best gumbo in California’,  and now, nothing but wilting vegetables and uncooked crab.

Chef Tyla slammed the lid on the pot.

“This is it, my chance to impress some rich folks, to get my restaurant on the map, to prove that I can make something of myself, and you go on strike?”

“Stove?”  She kneeled down, to stare at the old Vulcan 6 burner, “my friend, my partner- Vulky, please?”

The stove lifted up, the large oven doors opened slightly, and then with a loud, metallic clang,  they slammed shut again, dust puffing out the cracks.

 “I ain't doing no more, no more, you hear, until I get some respect!”   Vulky’s grandmother voice roared, and all the knobs on the front twisted up tight.

 “Vulky, Vulky…” Chef Tyla pulled out her rag from her back pocket, and gently brushed the top layer of grime off a front strip of grease-blacked metal.

 “You’re the best, I do appreciate you, but can we discuss this tomorrow?” She glanced up at the clock, the hands spinning like a fan.  “I need to get this gumbo going, and… Oh my goodness the rolls!”

 Chef Tyla yanked on Vulky’s oven door once, but the stove held tight.

“Damn, it open up!”  She put one Nike Air Jordan shoe against the stove and yanked again,  and the door flew open. But no blast of heat, no smell of rising bread.  The po’boy rolls, supposed to be golden and fat, lay limp, sad little squiggles of pale yellow dough.

 She slammed the oven door shut.

“ You’re not baking either?!”

 “I’m on strike!” Vulky, squeezed all her doors shut.

 “Stewy, please, can you talk some sense into Vulky!”

 “Well, I believe Vulcan has a point.”  Stewy grumbled.  “You’ve been treating us like rented equipment, running us all hours of day and night, barely cleaning me at all, let alone Vulcan, and did you see the dent on my side, do you even care?  I’m going on strike too.”

 Chef Tyla shook like a boiling pot, rage boiled up in her, until she exploded, foaming over into mean, and nasty words.   “I’ll throw you all out!”  She shouted.  “I’ll get another stove, another pot! You both are old anyway.” She turned a finger to the stew pot, her voice as sharp as a chef’s knife.

“Stewy, you‘re too damn sensitive, too thin- skinned!  You burn if the flame is even a smidge too high, and can’t take the tiniest critique. And you Vulky!” She aimed her butane torch rage at the stove.

“You’re temperamental!  Hot in some spots, cold in others, and needy, so needy, always asking to be cleaned, to have your hinges oiled!”  Chef Tyla’s arms flew in wild swings.

 “Why can’t you just work!  Stop complaining, stop being prima-donnas so I can run this restaurant, feed people, grow my business. And tonight, of all nights to pull this ridiculous stunt…”

“You wouldn't take us seriously unless you needed us, so…” Stewy added, under his cold soup breath.

 “Oh, I want to get out of this hole in the wall!” Chef Tyla screamed.

 The walls started to shake, the Moroccan tile floor buckled.  “Hole in the wall?  Watch your words, little one!”  A deep booming voice surrounded her, the doors to the kitchen flew open, and then shut, rattling in their frames.

“Sorry Kitchen!” Chef Tyla put both hands over her face.  “I didn’t mean-  it's just, well something’s got to change.” Chef Tyla circled, her head back, arms out, to the bright yellow walls. “The landlord is raising the rent, and- maybe it's time for something different.  I was waiting to say anything, but with the money from tonight, and good publicity, The Cajun Cafe can go big time!  A fancy building with all new appliances, and a huge kitchen where I can serve ten times the gumbo, hundreds more po’ boys, and thousands of beignets.”

 “Move?” The Kitchen boomed, while the pots hung against the walls rattled in anger.  “But we’ve grown together!  We helped you when you were nothing, just a sparkle in your eye and a handful of recipes- I opened up my side wall for you, to expand into the patio. I gave you outdoor seating!” 

“And you wouldn’t even have any customers with that brown dishwater you called gumbo.”  Stewy chimed in.  “I showed you how to cook the roux, slow and low, stirring and stirring until the magic happens, when flour and oil turn into the nutty, thick base. I taught you how to take it just to the edge, to make the perfect dark chocolate roux without burning it.”

 Chef Tyla stared at her hands, slowly wringing them out.  

 “And don’t forget me.” Vulky said in her softest voice. “The stove you know better than your own hands, that’s been trimmed and adjusted, with the burner size increased so it can create more heat than any regular oven.  You think just cause you're the chef you are all that. But we are your team and if you don’t treat us right, well, you can just go.”

“Elbie, can you believe this!” Chef Tyla turned to him. 

“I’m with Vulky.” Elbie said, head down, examining his faded Reeboks closely.


“With this dinner tonight,” Elbie said, “and all the cleaning I’ve been doing, well, I haven't had a day off in two weeks and-”

“-I haven't had a day off in five years!” Chef Tyla screamed, thick, salty tears streamed down her face.  “I want this all to be worth something.” 

She tilted her chin up in defiance of the yellow walls.  “A lease on a restaurant came up in San Francisco, a chance to get my dream. After tonight, if it all goes well, I can finally take this step.”

 “Then you better get to stepping!”  Stewy growled, rattling on the stove. “We know your plans to abandon us, we overheard your phone call.  If that’s what you want, then leave now.”

 “Agreed.” The Kitchen Sink squeaked, then rumbled through the pipes.

 “All of you?” Chef Tyla spun, turning through the tiny kitchen where she felt more at home than the room she let in her great aunt’s basement. She saw mounds of the holy trinity; onions, bell peppers and celery, piled on the prep island. Boxes of sausages, bags of potatoes.

And then Elbie, his floppy hair fell over sad eyes in his white apron.

 “What if Elbie cooks tonight, instead-”

 “Oh no!” A chorus surrounded her in unison.  “Elbie can’t cook!  He burns toast!”

 “Hey!” Elbie protested. “That was only a couple of times…”

 “This is my happy place.” Chef Tyla wiped her cheeks with the back

of her hand.  “There is nothing better than walking in here each morning, and filing through those,” she waved at the rows of cookbooks, “to get inspired for the next magical recipe, the next fantastic creation.”

Chef Tyla heard a beep and pulled out her phone, scrolling through message after message confirming their reservations. Chef Tyla saw her dreams crashing down around her like a shelf of pots and pans, the din of failure loud and clashing.

“Over a hundred people are coming tonight!” She waved the phone in the air.  “My reputation is shattered if I don’t open.  And I spent everything I had on food, and decorations.  If tonight fails, then, I’m done for.”  

 She kneeled down next to the stove.

 “What do you want, Vulky? What can I do to get you to start working, do you want money?”

 “How dare you try to buy us off with something as cheap as money.” Stewy bounced on the metal stove top. 

 “You think you’re all that, Chef Tyla, the best Cajun chef in the Bay.” The Kitchen roared.  I remember when you couldn't boil water.”

 “Couldn't bake bread!”  Vulky grunted. “Didn’t know a cayenne pepper from a sweet bell, parsley from cilantro!”

“Stay!” The Kitchen spoke, opening and slamming the doors.

  A clunking noise began under the floor, worked its way up,  and a blast of water exploded in the sink. “Stay!”

The oven doors flew open, slammed shut. “Stay! We’re your family. How can you leave your family?” Vulky said.

“Take the money from tonight, expand the patio, clean up Vulky.” Stewy began. “Buy some more pots, pans and dishes. All those dishes from thrift stores are just not doing it, they're made for homes, they aren't tough enough for our constant use, chipped and cracked.”

Stewy pulled itself up straight and tall. “We can build you the best restaurant here, maybe even expand some more, right Kitchen? But you gotta give us a chance!”

“You really think I’m the best chef in the Bay?” Chef Tyla asked the yellow walls with a smile.

Stewy rattled again. “Hmm, well, you can get there. But we need to talk about Elbie.”

“I know he can't cook,” Chef Tyla said to Elbie, putting a hand on his arm. “But he’s so nice-”

“No, not that.” Stewy grunted.   “How do you think all these people heard about our restaurant? It was Elbie!   You need to let Elbie do what he does best. He is a genius, a marketing and event planning whiz.  Don’t let him near me of course, he puts too much sugar in everything.  But he is wasted just doing dishes, with him running sales, managing the books, this place will be booked every night and we’ll make money.”

 Chef Tyla looked Elbie straight in his light brown eyes.  

“You good with this?”

Elbie nodded, his bright white smile glowing ear to ear. “I’m going to law school too, so I can help with the landlord.”

 Chef Tyla breathed out.  She never had been on her own, she realized, she always had a team behind her, a family.

 “OK, I’m in.” She glanced at the clock, time slipping by fast.

“Will you get back to work, all of us together? “

 “Let’s do this!” shouted from every corner of the Kitchen.  

 Chef Tyla had everything she needed right here. 

A huge roar came from Vulky as she turned on the gas, the pilot flame clicked on, and the fire of Chef Tyla’s new life ignited.  

March 01, 2024 04:51

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23:33 Mar 10, 2024

Phew. Touch and go if a resolution would happen. Loved this appliance turned sentient story. Well done. Really cool. "a packed shelf full of dog-eared cookbooks, slips of even more recipes poking out, their hands raised like kids in class, " Wonderfully stated.


Marty B
20:30 Mar 11, 2024

I have that bookshelf here at home. I just wish I got to more of those recipes ;) Thanks!


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20:37 Mar 07, 2024

Hi Marty! I really like your story. I particularly enjoy the resolution and how the chef realizes her dream won't happen without gratefulness to those who are helping her. I would like to know at little more about the chef at the onset. What is she like personally? Is she driven? What is her background? I think if I knew more about her I might more sympathetic to her plight. I love how everything seems organized and in order and then chaos erupts. Vulky has a great personality. Am I correct in assuming Stewy is a stew pot? Again, a gr...


Marty B
22:22 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you for your great feedback! I appreciate reading and dropping a comment. Thanks!


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Jack Kimball
15:43 Mar 05, 2024

Hey Marty B I've owned a restaurant, so I can tell you. 1.) Three things are important: location, location, and location so, 'But located too many blocks away from Downtown Oakland, too few people had made it onto the narrow street to the tiny restaurant.' strikes home. 2.) The kitchen appliances are sentient beings and you have to beg them to work or they will unionize. Kindness and appreciation helps also. Great job on the prompt. Is this non-fiction? Jack


Marty B
19:24 Mar 05, 2024

Non-fiction- very close! I recently had a stove up and quit on me in an extremely important and time sensitive situation. Most stressful hour I have had in years! Thanks!


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Wally Schmidt
07:06 Mar 04, 2024

Like what you did with the prompt here. I'm pretty sure that my kitchen equipment feels like going on strike from time to time. So relatable for me and I bet I think about this the next time I'm preparing for a big feast in my kitchen. Nice job Marty


Marty B
17:00 Mar 04, 2024

Always a good idea to treat your staff well, even if it is only pots and pans ;) Thank you for your great comments!


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Dana W
13:40 Mar 03, 2024

I like that she realized she couldn't make her dream a reality without those who had supported her from the beginning. Great idea to have an entire kitchen on strike.


Marty B
02:39 Mar 04, 2024

Running a small restaurant is hard, its good when your Kitchen staff, real and fantastical, is on your side!


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Alexis Araneta
11:03 Mar 01, 2024

All the kitchen appliances on strike ! Great concept, Marty ! Great job on the descriptions and imagery too. A very fun read !


Marty B
19:38 Mar 01, 2024

One must remember to treat those pots and pans, and the stove well! My own has been known to go on strike :( Thanks !


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Mary Bendickson
06:11 Mar 01, 2024

Let's get cookin'!


Marty B
07:19 Mar 01, 2024

🍲! Cooking with gas, so to speak!


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