Celebrity chef Jude Marshall’s ditched his camera crew for the first time in a month—he’s been eating his way through local cuisines on several continents for his television show. No spider-on-a-stick this trip, thank God. Jude’s exhausted; all he wants on his London layover is a pint of beer and some comfort food. Stumbling into a gastro-pub, Jude instead finds haute cuisine; his grumbles bring him face to face with chef—and fan—Tommy Bell.
When Jude steps into the kitchen to autograph Tommy’s copy of his cookbook, he finds himself lending a hand, and discovers it’s possible to tenderize a hardened heart.
Jude’s just broken the news to Tommy that he can’t stay.
Tommy appeared a moment later, his face utterly shut off, his words brittle. “I’m off to the market, Jude. Have a nice flight.” He locked the door behind us, and without lifting his face for a kiss or any other clue that we might have been intimate in any way, he gave me that “so long, amigo” tip of the head and was gone.
The stairs were steeper coming down. Maybe it was me walking with one foot so far in my mouth it was kicking tonsils.
Once on the street, I took a good long look around — it had been dark when I’d arrived, and only the lights and motion inside had lured me into the pub. Now I looked up at the sign, to see where I’d been. “The Good Man” stood in gold script against a black signboard, but no cheerful bit of folk art or heraldry went with it. No swans, oaks, elephants, castles, harts, gryphons or tradesmen, as might have swung before any other pub, just “The Good Man.” And he was. And I’d hurt him. If anyone painted me a pub sign, it would have had an ass on it.