I have never, ever had a brownie that tasted as amazing as the one I had today. My new friend, Brigitte Jardin, brought me one for lunch. I shouldn't have been surprised by how good it was.
Brigitte's mom made the brownies, and Brigitte's mom is Monique Jardin. She's a world-famous French chef. She sent Brigitte a whole box of goodies.
You know how much I like to cook, Right, Diary? Maybe I can exchange recipes with Monique Jardin someday! Why not? Brigitte and I have been hanging out since she came to White Oak Academy for Girls two weeks ago all the way from France.
"That brownie was so good, Brigitte!" I said and grinned. "My stomach is growling!"
Brigitte gasped. "Why? Did it make you sick?"
"Not at all, it just made me hungry for more," I explained.
"Oh," Brigitte said. She smoothed back her short dark hair. Her blue eyes looked troubled. "Sometimes American expressions confuse me."
I keep forgetting that Brigitte is a long way from home. New Hampshire must be very different from France. Her mother wanted her to learn about America. That's why she sent Brigitte to attend White Oak Academy for the rest of the year.
"Can I sit here, too?" Phoebe Cahill, my roommate, stopped at the end of the table.
"Sure," I said as Phoebe sat down.
I smiled. This was a great chance for Brigitte to get friendly with someone else. She's having a little trouble fitting in -- mostly because she's very shy. She thinks her English isn't good enough. The truth is, Brigitte speaks English almost as well as I do.
Brigitte and I sit next to each other in history class. She broke her pencil the first day, and I loaned her one of mine. That was two weeks ago. We've been friends ever since.
"Hi, Brigitte," Phoebe said. "How's everything going?"
"Fine," Brigitte mumbled. She glanced up with a tight smile. Then she looked back at her tray.
Brigitte will never make friends that way, I thought. "Why are you so late for lunch, Phoebe?" I asked.
"I've got an experiment going on in biology lab," Phoebe explained. "I have to be back in fifteen minutes. What did I miss?"
"Only the best brownies in the whole world," I said. "Brigitte's mom sent them all the way from France."
"Wow! Really? My mom buys brownies at the bakery. She's the worst cook." Phoebe grinned. "She can't even make brownies from a mix."
"I bet you'd love Monique Jardin's brownies," I said. "You can try one. I have more in my room."
Mrs. Pritchard, the headmistress, walked to the front of the dining hall and clapped her hands for attention.
"What's going on?" Phoebe asked.
I shrugged. I didn't have a clue.
"Quiet, please!" Mrs. Pritchard waited until everyone stopped talking. "This year the whole school will participate in different projects for the White Oak Winter Festival. Each First Form dorm will run a restaurant."
"A real restaurant?" Phoebe said.
"I guess so," I said. "It sounds like fun."
"Running a restaurant is a lot of work," Brigitte said.
Mrs. Pritchard glanced at our table. We stopped talking to listen as the headmistress explained the rules.
"Every dorm will have a budget," Mrs. Pritchard said. "You can use it to buy food, decorations -- whatever you choose. But you can't go over that amount.
"Each restaurant must get a minimum of twenty reservations," she added. "Your customers can be students from White Oak or Harrington Academy, teachers, staff, or visitors. The price of each meal will be eight dollars."
"I know exactly what Phipps House can do!" Dana Woletsky said. She was sitting at the next table with her friends, Kristen Lindquist and Brooke Miller. Dana lived in Phipps, but Kristen and Brooke lived in Porter House with me. I avoid Dana as much as possible. Dana likes to make life difficult for me and my sister, Mary-Kate.
Mrs. Pritchard smiled. "To make the project a little more exciting, Jerome Dupont will judge each restaurant."
"Who's Jerome Dupont?" Brigitte whispered.
I shrugged. Phoebe raised her hand and asked, "Who's Jerome Dupont?"
"He's the food critic for the town newspaper, the Gazette," the headmistress said. "Mr. Dupont will consider the decorations, the menu, and the food. Then he'll award a five-star rating to one dorm."
"Is that good?" Summer Sorenson asked. She was sitting at the next table with Mary-Kate and Campbell Smith, my sister's roommate.
"Five stars is the best," Mary-Kate told her.
"The winning dorm will have an article and a photograph in the Gazette," Mrs. Pritchard added.
"Cool!" Phoebe was impressed. "I've never had my picture in a real newspaper before."
"And as an extra-special treat," Mrs. Pritchard finished, "the winning dorm will get a pizza party at Champs."
Everyone clapped and cheered. Champs has great pizza and arcade games. It's everyone's favorite hangout.
"Every dorm will have a meeting after classes this afternoon," Mrs. Pritchard explained. "You have to decide what kind of restaurant your dorm will create and which jobs everyone will do."
Phoebe stood up. "Yikes! I've got to get back to my experiment. I'm trying to see if I can get a plant to grow with only fifteen minutes of light a day. If I don't get back, my whole project will be ruined!"
"We'll see you at Porter House later," I said.
"Is Champs good?" Brigitte asked after Phoebe walked away.
"It's great!" I said. "I hope we win. It's my dream to be a chef -- and now I get to practice in our very own restaurant."
"You can't win against Phipps House, Ashley," Dana said. She stood up with her tray. "Jerome Dupont is going to give us his five-star rating."