Stuart was, indeed, fully capable. In addition to working on America's Fiercest Chef, he was the director on my weekly show. He also happened to be my oldest friend and probably the only reason I was on television, so I knew him to be extremely capable.
I handed the meat to Stuart after he had carefully scooped up Max's MAC knife set and gingerly passed it to a production assistant to take and clean. "Here you go," I whispered with an apologetic smile.
"Thanks," Stuart replied, once again rolling his eyes.
As I stood back to my feet and realized Chef Cavanagh was towering over me from his perch just a couple feet away, I questioned what I was doing there. I don't just mean picking up the steak. Why had I stuck around for two days of demeaning treatment from a chef I had once admired but whose cooking skills were actually very much on the same level as mine, apart from the underseasoning? Yes, To the Max was the number-one show on the network, but At Home with Hadley was number two—and gaining ground all the time.
Why hadn't I corrected him more vehemently when he called me Hayley for the eighth time? Why hadn't I told him that his béchamel needed more nutmeg? And why had I picked up the blasted meat that had landed on the floor as a result of his temper tantrum?
"Thanks, doll." He hopped down from the counter and leered at me as he returned to his mark, as if nothing had happened.
"Did you seriously just call me doll?" I asked.
Glenn, who was typically heard and not seen, was suddenly standing beside us. He leaned in closer to Max and softly asked, "What would you prefer, Chef? Would you rather we just go with 'legendary'?"
I scoffed, and they both turned to face me. "Is there a problem, Hadley?" Glenn asked.
I lifted my hands in the air and, as my jaw dropped, looked around the room. Seriously? Is anyone else hearing this? My level of confusion and frustration grew as I realized both Glenn and Max were looking at me with accusation in their eyes—as if I was slowing down production—and yet no one else seemed to be clued in.
'Why am I just now hearing it?'
"Chef," I corrected him hesitantly.
"Yes?" Max answered.
I shook my head and cleared my throat, focusing entirely on Glenn and doing all I could to pretend Max wasn't there. "No, I mean...you should call me Chef. You refer to Chef Cavanagh that way, and I'd appreciate it if —"
They turned away from me. Turned away!
I took a deep breath and attempted to tune out their discussion regarding the proper usage of the term legendary.
Anise. Broiler. Colander. Dough. Egg timer.
My tried-and-true trick of calming down by alphabetically listing items found in the kitchen had failed me spectacularly before I got to fondue set, and I felt heat rising in my cheeks. Just about the time the rushing blood reached my temples, resulting in a whoosh pulsing through my ears—similar to the sound of the ocean but ever-so-slightly tinged with the ambiance of chainsaws and screeching owls—Stuart entered my periphery with a kind smile.
"Had?" He put his hand gently on my elbow and escorted me back to my cooking space. "I'm sorry that this has been such a nightmare," he whispered, his eyes flashing over toward Glenn and Max pretty much continually.
I wondered if he was worried Max would hear him call it all a nightmare, or if he was worried Glenn would hear him apologize. Maybe, if he was a true friend, he was just trying to size up the best moment to go over and thump Max on the head.
"Why is Glenn coddling him? He should have been kicked off the set a long time ago." I matched the quiet tone out of respect for Stuart—no one else.
He shrugged. "You know how it goes. We're so far into production now that all anyone wants is just to finish it up and move on."
"I get that, but—"
"Okay, people!" Glenn shouted. "We're ready. Back to your marks, please.
We'll pick it up there again."