In Zarbok’s Kitchen

By Matthew F. Amati

“He wants his giant maggot well done.”

I thought Chef Zarbok’s single eye would pop out of his head.

“Well done?! Tell him – ik ik ik – tell him no! Absolutely not!”

I groaned inwardly. In my six years as sous-chef at Zarbok’s Of Aldebaran, I had told Chef Z again and again that the customer is always right. But Zarbok was an auteur. You don’t get to run the galaxy’s only fifty-star restaurant by compromising your compound vision.

Zarbok spluttered. “Orionian ghastgrub must be served rare! To cook it well is to destroy the delicate silicon lattices of the cranial gland meat. That is – ik – an abomination!”

We eyed our presumptuous customer from the edge of the crowded gravifloor.

We knew the type all too well. Nouveau-riche Yobb from Yobbworld Prime. Clad in flashing oople. A preposterous ten-gallon helm pumping peroxide up his snout.

“You better make him happy, Chef. His species is trouble.”

Zarbok cooked the ghastgrub as much as he could bear.

The customer sent it back.

The waitron burbled “He said he wants, er, “the damn thing cooked properly”.

“Fine!” said Zarbok grimly.  He held the insect over the bitumen flames until the pus dribbled from the pits. The waitron scuttled out with the plate. Next thing we knew, our Yobb was at the bar demanding to speak to the chef himself.

Afterwards, Chef Zarbok’s eye-vein looked like it might to burst.

“He lectured me! ME! Told me the ghastgrub was infested!  That a competent chef would  cook the parasites out!  Told me I needed – ik ik ik – a food safety course!” Ichor dripped from the chef’s tendrils. “Does he not know Magellanic haute-cuisine? The parasites are where the delicate ammonia flavor resides!”

With relief, we cashed our Yobb’s check and pocketed the chintzy tip. But our troubles had just begun.

Two sunspins later, the same Yobbworlder strolled imperiously into the restaurant. The waitron came back with the order. It bleeped nervously.

“Oh, no,” Zarbok hissed. “No. I will not do it.”

I shrugged. “It’s his meal, Chef. If he wants his Ganymedan Depthworm served hot, what can we do?”

“Depthworm – ik ik ik – depthworm degrades beyond recognition at any temperature above two degrees Kelvin. It is a cold dish. It is always served with the oxygen freezing to jewels around it. Is this man insane?”

“Maybe he likes it that way?”

So the Yobb got his bowl of steaming depthworm mush as ordered.  Then, in high dudgeon he complained about the flavor and texture, and demanded the meal be comped. Worse, he proceeded to tell the most celebrated chef in the Taurian Reaches that he was just a fry-jockey and had no more right to put on airs than did a nutraloaf slinger in a stardock grubstation. “I could buy you a hundred times over, Bug Boy,” the Yobb said.


Chef Zarbok smoldered and stewed over the insult for the rest of the week.

His cooking suffered. People noticed. A star disappeared from Zarbok of Aldebaran’s rating, leaving us a still rarified forty-nine – but the industry gossiped. Poor Chef Z!


So cold dread gripped me when I saw the Yobb stride in to Zarbok’s one night after hours, like he owned the place.

“We’re closed,” I told him.

The Yobb demanded to speak to Zarbok right away, as if demanding the presence of a recalcitrant underling.

He informed Zarbok that he’d been doing a little stock buying here, a little influence-trading there. That while some people might think Zarbof a middlin’ good cook he was a very poor businessman. The Yobb had bought Darkholds, the parent company of Galactix, which held Starfoods LLC as a subsidiary and so on down the line.

Long and short, he did own the place. We were looking at our new boss.

And there would be some changes afoot. Taco Twofer Tuesdays. Maybe a burger bar. The Yobb turned on his third heel and strode off to the dining room.

Our Chef fainted dead away, murmuring ik ik ik ik, tentacles trembling. We had to spray him with spore mist fog to bring him round.

The waitron tipclawed in with an order from the Yobb. “He’s gone off-menu. Asked for Rakkaplakkan Chthuloid.”

Zarbok sat up.

“Very well,” the Chef sighed. “Fire up the plutonium crucible below the planetary mantle. Get it fusion-hot. We’ll need to nuke the Chthuloid for at least three hours.”

“He wants it rare.”

I’d never heard of such a thing. No one had. The only Chthuloid I’d ever served had been a blasted cinder garnished with beet tops.

And you could have knocked me over with a sylph-frond when Zarbok didn’t argue.

“The new owner has spoken,” he said blandly.


“Oh, yes..”

I followed Chef Z as he skittered about gathering ingredients. I thought the Yobb had pushed him over the edge and his mind had fried itself. “Boss,” I pleaded, “you can’t do this. Chthuloid is a class IV interstellar hazard. It’s banned west of Andromeda. You can’t bring it out of deep-freeze on planets where children are present.”

Zarbok blinked his single limpid eye at me, oozing that oleaginous ocular brine which served as a primary ingredient in many expensive desserts.

“Have you not said many times – ik ik – the customer is always right?”

“Not when he’s risking the end of civilization.”

“Who am I,  a mere fry-jockey, to judge? Now let me tend to dinner.”

After a scant five minutes, Zarbok shut down the reactor. Klaxons squawked, lights flickered. Zarbok ignored them.

The Chthuloid emerged on a monstrous china platter. Its skin was raw and red, with a few sears where iridium glaziers had scorched it. Its bulbous eyes were shut. Zarbok himself plated the thing with béarnaise swirls and a cantaloupe garnish. He did this from behind a protective barrier of adamantine crystal, handling it with servogloves.

The waitron rolled the dish gingerly over to the Yobb’s table.

“Finally,” we heard the Yobb exclaim, “something’s cooked in this joint the way I want it.”

He brandished a fork. Behind the counter, Zarbok took a step back. The rest of the staff noted this, and did the same.

The Yobb poked at the steaming cephalopod. A tangle of tentacles quivered.

“Rare and ready!” the Yobb proclaimed.

Zarbok pulled a chain. The titanium gate that we always locked at closing crashed down between us and the dining area.

Over at his table, the Yobb didn’t notice. He took a sip of wine. He raised his knife. He began sawing.

The Chthuloid’s eyelids popped open. Its glowing pupils roiled with rage and pain. Then they focused on their tormentor. Two sucker-pocked limbs shot forth and grabbed the Yobb by the ears.

There wasn’t much left of the Yobb by the time his main course got done with him. I guess you could say that, at the very least, a meal had been enjoyed. The Chthuloid let loose a small eructation of gas. The Yobb’s thumb-ring landed on the platter with a thunk.


Zarbok turned the crank that opened the portals of the dining area to the surrounding methane desert.  The Chthuloid leaped up, bounced off walls and blasted out through an open portal .

Hopefully off for an interesting time at the nearby hunting safari park, where some septillionaire tourist’s matterblaster could take the thing down quickly. It would certainly liven up a trophy room, especially when it came back to life after a sleep of centuries.

The chef resealed the restaurant. The temperature climbed back up from absolute zero.

Zarbok began to whistle, somewhere in the ultrasonic spectrum. He grabbed a broom.

“Chef!” I said. “We are in deep trouble here! Our boss is dead!”

“We – ik ik ik – are covered, my friend.”

He held a menu under my nose. He pointed a tendril tip to some miniscule text at the bottom:


CONSUMER ADVISORY: Eating raw or undercooked horrors from the deep  may increase your risk of an inverse predator-prey interaction. Management takes no responsibility for such outcomes.


“I took that food safety course our late owner recommended. It was – ik ik ik – most educational.”



∼   Ik   ∼



“In Zarbok’s Kitchen” © Matthew F. Amati

Matthew F. Amati lives in a green house near a canal. Sometimes banjo music comes from the basement. He is unremarkable, but he lives with a remarkable spouse and dynamic daughter. His work has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, Sci Phi Journal, Perihelion SF, Space Squid, and elsewhere. His halfheartedly-maintained writer blog can be found at



“The Chef at Work” and spot illustrations by Fran Eisemann.  Stock credits: “Crab Mutant Creature” by sParzZ, Ariel Soler Iznaola, Argentina;  //  ‘tentacles 2” by mysilentsky-stock    //  “Stewing Cranberries (Macro 1)” by SpiderMilkshake  //  “Smoky kettle” by Mithgariel stock — “We are a bunch of Estonian nutcases. We offer stock from all around Estonia and quite some foreign lands as well.”    //  “Octopus”  by ascenciok   //  “stove” by o_luna_o-dailxt9

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