Loving a Chef
Several years ago I fell in love with the chef. I was a regular at his restaurant, he cooked my food, and one day he asked me out. I resisted for some time, sensing what life would be like dating a chef. Challenging with incompatible schedules and lifestyles, I thought—not for me. Eventually though, because he was persistent, I said yes and on a Monday night we went Dutch on dan dan noodles. And then I said yes again and we continued sharing meals until eventually we were a couple.
Since then I have learned a few important things about chef life and what it’s like to be partnered with one. The rumors are true; the hours are long, the job is stressful, you see each other little–and a chef’s commitment to this life is unyielding. All that can be rough on a relationship, but only if you look at it that way. The truth is that rewards are many.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from loving a chef. My chef happens to be a male and for better or worse, his kitchen is 100 feet from our apartment.
I’ve learned that he will drop everything for two things—me, and his kitchen, but not necessarily in that order. And I’ve learned I need to be ok with that.
I’ve learned to love his restaurant family as my own. Domestic conversations about the status of the laundry and the cat food supply happen in front of his entire staff. Often it’s the only chance we get to talk all day. They get used to it. We are family.
I’ve learned that mundane tasks are opportunities. When he requests an emergency delivery of chili paste or some celery before service, it’s no bother at all just because I get to see him.
I’ve learned that our community supports us. Living in a small city we run into our friends all the time. When we’re out together on a Monday they know it’s the only free night we share and keep their distance. And if we’re lucky, send us a round of drinks.
I’ve learned that the brotherhood is real. Male chef friends are brought together by a combination of raw creativity, restless energy, and hearts that are hungry to connect. They would give an enormous amount of themselves for each other and there is a tenderness in that. And because I am part of his package, the brotherhood extends to me.
I learned what true mentorship looks like. He shows me by the way he takes his cooks and dishwashers under his wing and feels a responsibility for their success. This level of dedication to the younger generation is rare and entirely admirable.
I’ve learned to cook for two even though I eat alone most of the time. But in the process I’ve become a better cook. I’ve also learned that a bottle of Siracha will be left out on the counter at least three nights of the week and that leftovers will forever be stored in quart containers.
I’ve learned that he trusts me to be part of his creative process. When he’s testing out a new dish he will send it out to me to try before it officially goes on the menu. We will talk about its particulars, usually via text, before service the next night.
I’ve learned just how independent I am and that my alone time is even more precious than I thought. Navigating plans seven nights a week with your significant other is for people with 9-5 jobs. That’s never been me so why would I think I’d want the lifestyle that comes with it?
And most of all I’ve learned to love the little things. Like the rare night he’s home before I go to bed and I fall asleep on the couch next to him just because I can.