Take a romantic restaurant, add chocolate, flowers
and champagne for good measure, and you have what it takes to make the perfect
Valentine’s Day for hundreds of couples who get engaged over an elegant
prix fixe dinner each February 14th.
But what’s going on behind the scenes? Forget Jackson Browne’s
song “Lawyers in Love”; plenty of chefs, sommeliers, captains,
and hosts have found love right in their own kitchens and dining rooms. There’s
an old adage that says too many cooks spoil the soup and another advising you
to never work with friends or family, but these must be rubbish. How else to
explain successful restaurant romance?
How they Met: At a dinner party thrown by a friend who had taken Daniel’s
cooking class at Fresh.
Obstacle: She says, One of my other friends liked him, so I mostly stayed away.
Though I did think he was cute, genuine and quirky in a nice way. But that
Until: A few months later a work colleague planned a lunch at Fresh. Daniel
saw me and then it took months before our first date because of our schedules.
Our first date started at midnight and lasted until 7:00 a.m. We got hungry
so Daniel took me back to Fresh for a romantic breakfast. He proposed to me
in the kitchen of our apartment -- the night we closed on the purchase of Klee.
He Says: We just hit it off. She’s high energy as am I and it’s
a great combo. She’s interested in art, and I have an art background.
She’s smart, and she brings a tremendous value to the table.
How it works: I’m in the front, he’s in the back. Surprisingly
sometimes we clash. If we weren’t doing this together it would be hard
to be on the same page because we’d never see each other. He adds, It’s
high pressure. Then to go home and turn off the whole stress, it’s a
challenge. So far it works.
How They Met: At a friend’s birthday party at Lola.
Obstacle: After having a negative experience with Lola’s management when
she hosted her own party there, Gayle swore never to return to the restaurant.
Until: Despite my year long boycott I attended a friend’s birthday party
held at Lola. Tom stopped by to bring champagne. He followed one of the guests
outside for a smoke to ask her about me and then she inquired if I’d
go out with him. I wasn’t sure. He led me to another table and everyone
was staring while we made date for that Wednesday. After picking me up we stopped
at a florist and he returned with a gorgeous bouquet. We had dinner at a friend’s
restaurant and immediately connected. The next day he called and asked if I’d
like to come by Lola and we’ve been together ever since.
How it works: Lola is a child for us. A beautiful entity that needs to be protected.
It’s important to have clear and separate roles. We have different skill
sets that compliment each other, and deep respect for one other.
(Photo by Santi Acosta of Santi Design)
It started: 30 years ago Karen and David Waltuck created an elegant restaurant
with exquisite food in an out of the way location in SoHo which quickly became
Their advice: Since the restaurant business has crazy hours, it’s good
to both be in it, we can see each other. But, we’ve each got our domain;
David is in the kitchen and I am in the dining room. It gives you your own
place and way to be creative and things to communicate about. Your most powerful
tools are patience and a sense of humor. If you have one of them nothing can
stand in your way, if you have both you’re unstoppable.
It started: They met when Nancy was an extern at The Ryland Inn. James, 13
years younger, was her boss. This fact amused Nancy. However, his cooking skills
impressed her, he was wowed by her technique and they remained friends before
marrying and opening this highly acclaimed Contemporary American restaurant
10 years ago.
Their advice: There’s just one chef in a restaurant and one chef in a
marriage. Understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and different
management styles. You have to present a united front. We don’t take
the business home a lot, but it’s hard to talk in the restaurant. If
you can turn it off when you go home you’ll be much healthier in the
How they met: In the kitchen at Daniel in 2002 when Andy arrived from England.
As the fish cook (him) and tournant (her) they stood next to each other for
12 hours every day, barely talking, and eventually connected a month later
at a farewell party for a coworker.
Hush hush: It’s a good idea to keep it under the radar. Never happens
for long, in the kitchen everything spreads like wildfire, but it’s good
to try. When we’d leave work we’d go in different directions and
had a meeting point which we had to change because others from work saw us
there. Daniel was the last to know about the relationship, but approved.
The future: We help each other with ideas outside work. If we worked together
it wouldn’t be the way we worked before in the kitchen, it would be a
project when we had to have two managers; there’s no reason to be in
kitchen together. We could see ourselves consulting on events.
How they met: We both worked in the dining room at Daniel; I was already there
when she started as sommelier. We worked together for two years; I started
dating after she had been there about a year. I think it took that long because
I was too shy to approach her, would have loved to do it sooner. We had our
first date on February 13, 2002.
Hush hush: We kept it quiet – that was our game. But eventually it became
obvious in the dining room something was going on.
The future: It’s good to have someone to understand your experience,
and strange hours. I moved to Café Boulud, she stayed at Daniel. We
got married in 2004. We have a son, and two girls (from her previous marriage)
and another child on the way. I’m very happy.
Francine Cohen is a freelance writer who lives in New York City.
This website designed by Business Edge. Click here for Restaurant Website design information