Speak Up

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: So You Wanna Date a Chef? Good Luck!

When I first met Brian and he said he was a Chef, I nodded. Smiled even. When he said he was a chef at one of the best restaurants in Chicago,--my eyes lit up! I assumed, like most girls, that this meant a whirlwind romance of fancy dinners prepared for me daily, lots of time to spend together, and of course,--being able to get into places I normally can’t snag myself. Well. One out of 3 ain't bad.

It was hard at first. To see the burns and the cuts from that darn mandolin. And the calluses on his right hand that will never go away. It’s great to be with someone who is so passionate about their work. But it’s also not great to be with someone who is so passionate about their work.

Time. Meet your new enemy!! Time is now my new fear. It used to be sharks but I am now more afraid of time than anything in this world. Because time feels to never be on your side. And you will know what I mean if you decide to date a chef. My best advice is that you just relax when you do see him. Don’t make big plans or god forbid reservations at a restaurant. I made that mistake in the beginning of our relationship. Thinking that this was like all the other 9-5 er dudes I have dated. They simply don’t have TIME.

In the morning when he has to go to work, I feel as if there’s a referee standing there with a stop watch time ticking away. “It’s 11:40 am,!!! “Babe, I gotta go to work” is the line you get used to hearing.
We went to eat at NoMi at the Hyatt downtown, and the server asked if I too work in the industry. “No I replied” and Brian told him that I travel for work a lot and am gone on my tour. (Very much like George Clooney’s character in the movie Up in The Air.) The waiter joked “Well it’s not like you get to see him anyhow.”

The sad thing? It’s actually 100% true.

I joke that I sometimes hate his work. I don’t but I sometimes hate that they get him 90% and I get him 10%. He argues that it’s more like 80 /20 but I disagree.

If you are going to date a chef, realize that you can never really be “normal”. You aren’t going to have those dates on a Saturday night of dinner and a movie. You aren’t ever going to spend New Year’s Eve together or maybe Christmas either. You are going to have to spend time alone some nights waiting for him to get out of work. Which is never soon enough. I fall asleep sometimes and he will call me and wake me up. And that’s fine. Get used to his crazy hours.

Sunday is going to be your new favorite day. Or Monday.

I suggest that you don’t just tolerate his work. Really understand his business. Learn to love it. Cause then it is something you both are passionate about. Right now I am reading Foie Gras Wars all about the ban here in Chicago and the origins of Foie Gras.

Sure, you’ll never know as much as he knows,--he went to culinary school to learn all those things!! To me MAC is always going to be makeup and computers not knives.

For all the women who DO NOT work in the service industry, it’s a lot harder for us than a women who works WITH their boyfriend. You go 12 hours without seeing him. Daily. So I do recommend that you get used to text messages, photos from your phone and of course maybe an email thrown here and there just telling him he’s awesome and you’re thinking about him.

Book I am also reading now that is a MUST READ: The Soul of A Chef by Michael Ruhlman. It’s a page turner for sure and you learn of my new idol, Brian Polcyn of Forest Grill, http://www.theforestgrill.com who has something many Chefs lack, balance between home and work, with a successful restaurant, wife and 5 kids.

Book NOT to read, Anthony Bourdaines’s Kitchen Confidential. I love Anthony Bourdaine but I won’t read it because I am scared to read what really goes on in those kitchens. Sure. The “industry” has a notorious reputation for all Chef’s being cheaters and sleazebag drunks who cheat on their wives and girlfriends. Yeah. Don’t want to read that.

But there are the few chefs who just want to be normal. Who want to be happy not just in their work but outside their work as well. They want it ALL!

They want an actual relationship. They want some kind of normalcy. Some do want to be married and some do want kids. (And that whole urban legend of Chef’s not being able to have kids due to the heat in the kitchen is totally untrue.)
I learned that me complaining about not being able to see him isn’t ever going to help anything. So I just accept it. It’s going to take time to really accept his schedule. I am still working on it. He feels guilty that he’s at work all the time, but I always tell him it’s OK!!!

These guys, these Chefs,---they have tons of stress mentally and physically. So just do your best to be there for him. When he’s had a rough day at work be the one who gives him a back rub or takes him out for a beer and a chat. Or maybe just put some lotion on those darn rough hands of his!

Marianna Harrison


Anonymous said...

I'm excited reading this blog! My boyfriend Robert Keen helped open Forest Grill! What a small World:) We have since moved from Michigan to New York because he went to school out here and he has more contacts here. It just so happened that it worked out for me to tag along:) I'm somewhat like you. I'm the 9 - 5 er that knows whats up. It doesn't change...you love them regardless:) Their are many pros to dating a Chef and many more cons...I think it really depends on what makes you happy:) I'm one of the lucky ones, like you, who makes it work and enjoys it. Their are good things about Rob that I really cherish; I've never met anyone that tells me how beautiful I am each day - that notices when I change my hair or even when I clean the living room:) No other 9 - 5 er dude was anything like this. Rob is not only passionate about his job, but I'd like to say hes passionate about me too:) I'm ecstatic that you have a blog for us who dive into fine dining not knowing where it will take us:) Its helpful to hear someone else's story:)

Marianna said...

That is so incredible!! New York will be an amazing fun adventure. I'd love to know where Rob works now in NY? Way to go to make this crazy ride called "dating a chef" work out!

I couldn't agree with you more. I'd love to hear more,
feel free to contact me mariannaharrison@gmail.com

Thanks so much and your comment made my day!

emilydiane said...

This blog is so helpful. I've been dating a Chef for about a year and a half now. Last night we had a blow out fight and it really came down to the simple fact that I am upset with the amount of time I get to see my boyfriend (or lack thereof), and my boyfriend doesn't want to spend all of his time off work with me (which is understandable). We constantly argue about it because instead of appreciating our time we spend together, I always seem to focus on the things that we DON'T do together.

We can never seem to come to an appropriate arrangement...probably because of a huge lack of communication that I am constantly trying to initiate between us. The whole situation leaves me feeling a bit neglected and wondering if I love him more than he loves me?

Regardless of the outcome, or if we can work things out, it's nice to know that there are other women out there who share some of my feelings about dating a chef. Thanks ladies.

-Emily, Charlotte, NC

Anonymous said...

Hello Marianna,

I meant to get back sooner:) New York is such a change! Life is a bit crazy here! Rob is at Chestnut...he's currently the Sous Chef. He works for Chef Daniel Eardley and they go way back to a restaurant called Washington Park where they also worked with Jonanthon Waxman from Master's Top Chefs. Its an interesting background and I'm so proud that Rob chose to come back to New York and be amongst friends. I walk into the restaurant and people I don't know our talking about Rob or Daniel. Its a great feeling to know my boyfriend is in good hands:) Daniel is very talented and his restaurant is exceptional:) He brought Rob in for his Charcuterie skills. Enough from me; I would love to hear more about you and your husband:)


Anonymous said...

Hello EmilyDiane,

You sound like Rob and I when we first started getting serious. It was so hard for me to not have the comfort/attention that so many of my friends had with their boyfriends. Rob used to say I was smothering him. It was really horrible especially considering we hardly saw each other and I also felt like I was giving up my sanity trying to be with him. It came down to our communication. We both communicated well with each other, but never seemed to discuss our relationship and about how we felt about our time spent together. Finally, Rob came to me and said that he thought the problem was the quality of our time spent together and not actually the amount of time we spent together. He needed his own time too. So we ended up making a lot of changes, including moving back in with each of our parents and only seeing each other every two weeks or so. I decided if we can survive this than life is grand. Well then he moved to New York for two months before I was able to come and I would say our relationship is even stronger than before. We are very happy together. We don't really argue because its not worth it. We have fun together. Our biggest secret is we settled on "date night" once a week. Also, occassionally he sends me a message as I'm leaving work saying to come grab a glass of wine at the restaurant. I get to see him for 2 minutes, even if it is only two minutes. So maybe you could try a few things. Maybe you could take a week or two off. Maybe you could set up a date night or schedule some time every week where you go do something together. I'm certainly not the expert, but I made it work with Rob and the benefits are great. My boyfriend is amazing:) Good luck:)

Anonymous said...

I really liked this post. I have been with my chef for the past 11 years, 6 of them married. We have two daughters and he is the Exec Chef of one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas. I blew up at him this morning because I am SO tired of being neglected. 1 day a week is all we see him sometimes. It is not enough. If I'd known what was in store for me when we met I would not have gone down this road. I do not think chefs are meant to be married and have families. They are married to their jobs. I feel like a broken record. It did feel good to read that I am not alone.

Heather said...

Good post. I had never heard that urban legend before and got a good laugh out of it. I have been married to a chef for 14 years and we have 4 children. I homeschool so that he has a chance to see us when he is home. I take care of the house, yard, and car repairs. I take care of everything so that he can take care of what he does best. I am living like a kept woman. I have my family. I don't work. My bills are paid by a man that I see late at night and maybe one day a week. It is not a perfect life and it is not for everyone, but we have made it work. I don't get into the industry much. I'm too busy raising a family. He loves us and we love him. That is how we make it work.

K said...

I'm at the point in my relationship where I'm wondering if it's all worth it. I love my boyfriend more than anything, and he's the sweetest man I've ever been involved with. We've been together for two years. I'm a teacher and work days, pretty independent throughout...but starting to think about the next step. I want a family. I want a healthy marriage. I want my kids to grow up knowing their dad. Not looking forward to seeing him on Saturday mornings until 2. I keep telling myself that it'll get easier later, but am I fooling myself? How do you deal with going to events (weddings, birthdays, holidays) stag and NOT feeling alone? Trying hard to remind yourself that he IS working hard, But even so...the loneliness sticks around constantly. Does it get easier? Should I cling to that possibility that things might get better later on? I need advice ladies, please.


Hilary Battes said...

Hi K,
Yes, I think it is all worth it, but am I the exception or the rule? Who knows really. I say stick with it and continue to communicate with your chef. Relationships are work and if you are both willing to make some changes to your lifestyle-you can have a loving, happy life.

I hated going to events alone, but after a while I just got used to it. I talked a lot about it with my friends and husband and that alone made it a little easier.

It stinks going to a wedding alone and watching others dance with their significant others. You don't have to go to those types of events either-but I don't think that is the best answer either. After all, your life shoul never feel like it's being put on hold.

Thanks for reading, K!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for this blog!

I have been dating a chef for the past 8 months. He is an executive chef at an upscale restaurant in NYC. I had absolutely NO idea about the restaurant industry or the heavy duty responsibilities of a chef until about 3 months into the relationship, when I started to notice that our relationship wasn't really "normal."

I have to admit, until I found this blog, I had a hard time believing that it was necessary for him to spend so much time at the restaurant. I was constantly frustrated with the lonely nights and lack of communication (I didn't know that Chefs aren't supposed to use the phone while on duty). Although I now have a better understanding, I still have a problem wrapping my head around the fact that chefs are required to spend so much time at work! I know that it is important to keep customers happy, but c'mon, it’s not like he is leading the country or saving lives! To be honest, I think the demands are ridiculous, unrealistic, and unsustainable. While I admire the passion and drive of chefs, I can't help but feel that they, in general, have an air of over-importance.

To top it off, my Chef is a single father of a young child. So, as you can imagine, I am a distant priority in his life. I do love him and so I sometimes feel guilty or selfish when I complain about his time constraints. But I am in my early 30s and want a family of my own soon. I honestly cannot imagine how lonely and frustrating it would be to have to raise a child by myself.

I am a fiercely independent woman with my own career demands and challenges, but I also recognize my need to have a more equitable relationship. I am not willing to sacrifice my career, my needs, or my happiness for someone else’s. When we do spend time together, he is often tired, grouchy, and does not seem to have a lot of energy to put into making the small sacrifices that I believe are required to make this relationship work. I am pretty sure that he is somewhat depressed because of his heavy work load, and I often worry about his mental health.

Thanks for helping me understand that this is the nature of the job and that I am not struggling alone. I love him (and his food), but I am questioning whether or not to cut my losses and move on.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your stories! I am just in the very, very beginning stages of dating a chef (as in, we are still getting to know each other and have yet to define the relationship).

I've been struggling with the normal types of anxieties of dating plus the fear that he will not be able to meet my needs in a partner.

He is a wonderful, caring, sweet, smart man with a lot of integrity. Someone that I want in my life. I'm really scared to take the leap and make myself vulnerable, knowing that our relationship can never be "normal." I don't want to be perceived as fussy, demanding, or suffocating...but I also need to protect myself and make sure that we are communicating our needs to each other. How do you suggest going about that communication in a way that is not overbearing?


Hilary Battes said...

Communicating in a way that that is not overbearing? That's the big question. I do have a few suggestions. Talk as directly as possible. I read a book called Non Violent Communication that suggests this phrase: I feel _____________ when you _____________. It has really helped me to be able to set up the conversation without sounding demanding. After all, don't you hear a difference in "Spend more time with me, I'm worth it, and I need to see you to make this work" and " I feel unnoticed and unappreciated when you work so much. How can we work together to make this relationship a success?" ?? Keep us all posted!

Unknown said...

Dear Desperatechefswives, this post was definitely struck a cord in me. I love your advice about wanting to learn about your mans work, and being passionate about it with him, instead of complaining about him not being around. You are taking a negative and making it positive. That is very hard to do, and you are doing it. Your advice about sacrifice is also very true. Have you considered writing a book? You write beautifully and any woman who is with a busy man can relate. I just love how yours is very specific to chefs. Also, please let me know if you ever decide to read Anthony Bourdaines book. Thank you for sharing.
Cheers, Gaby
You can visit me at http://ptsaldari.posterous.com

Hilary Battes said...

Thanks for reading, Gaby. You're website seems great I can't wait to read some more of it. I have read Kitchen Confidential and loved it. Bourdain is a great writer. As for me, no book here. The food culture genre of books seems too saturated for a non-writer to try and get noticed.

Elizabeth Babcock said...

I have been married to a chef for 8 years. I am now at the age where I'd really like to have children, but I just don't see it happening because I would essentially be a single parent. That's not fair to me or the child. Some of the comments here surprise me...women who are so willing to make so many sacrifices for their chef husbands, who in turn don't or can't make any sacrifices for them. No, your life with a chef will never be normal as I can attest. I wish I had realized this sooner, but I think I was pretty naive about the business, thinking it would be less demanding on him over time as he moved up. Wrong. Chef/owner is the worst, as you're never willing to leave early or take time off because it's your money. I would never recommend anyone marry a chef unless you really love the restaurant lifestyle and want to be a part of it yourself.

LB Wash DC

La Petit Boucher said...

This post has really hit me...I feel as if I'm reading my own mind. I have been with my Chef for three years (we got married in October), and I have JUST learned how to deal with everything. The biggest thing I had to get used to and accept - his work comes first. Yes, it was SO hard to come to terms with that, but at the same time, I know he loves me, I know he thinks about me when he's at work (he calls from the bathroom, that's the only time he can use his phone!), and I know that it will be like this for the rest of the time he is in the industry. I'm okay with that now, because that's his PASSION. I have changed parts of my life (I went from a 9-5 to working at home), and we did have to work on the communication thing...and life is good. I have finally gotten used to going to weddings and parties and other things alone...but I know that he will ALWAYS be there for me. Anyway, what I wanted to say is this - thank you Marianna for writing this post. It does certainly make me feel like someone out there DOES get it (I'm the only girl in my circle with a Chef husband), and thank you Hilary for this blog. I've been an avid follower for over a year, and you have certainly helped. A lot.
I love my husband's job, and I love that he's happy. And I truly love that I can be a part of that.

Lita Kennair
New Orleans

Jane L. said...

I love my boyfriend, but I'm not so sure it's worth it anymore. He keeps saying it'll get better and he'll get weekends or nights but I know it's not true. I've been dating him since I was 15 and we live together now so it's difficult for me to just get up and leave- I am really attached.

But I don't feel like it's fair for me to give up everything- to sit at home every night alone with him not even being about to text me. It feels like I'm living with a ghost.

It's almost discomforting seeing that I am not alone because I know it will never change now. I just don't know if I can handle this for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

I have been with a chef for almost 4 years now and am engaged. And although we had other problems throughout our relationship, it all seems to come back to the fact that I have to do so much alone. I live in LA and the majority of my friends and family live in Michigan or in other parts of the U.S. so not only is he not around but I am without other support as well. I grew up with a fatehr who worked a lot and I do not want that for my children. His career has caused a lot of pressure on our relationship to the point where I don't want to marry him and feel as if I need to get out because I won't be able 100% happy. It is nice to have a place to read how others do it or are frusterated but I still think it doesn't change for me. I don't think I will be happy yet it's really hard for my to consider getting out and ending things. I don't know if I have the strength to move on and thats so embarrassing to say. I'm very discouraged and depressed because of all of this. :(

Hilary Battes said...

Dear Anon,
I'm concerned about your comment. You said you're worried you'll never be happy, so you must feel so trapped. I completely understand your loneliness which is always amplified when your partner is a chef. Friends help, but for people like myself, they are not always easy. I hope you use this website to see how other women are doing it, but also to validate your emotions. That's what helped me- knowing I wasn't alone. I'm here for you!

Anonymous said...

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Proud to be a Single Dad

Anonymous said...

Thank you for creating this blog. I just started dating a chef. He is moving quickly with having a relationship BF/GF. He texts me daily and since I've been happily living single for nearly 8 years by choice, fate or design "GF" was a scary term to me. I have a large social circle and activities that keep me out of trouble.
I take comfort from this blog that when he gets hit with working a double shift and cancels on me that it has nothing to do with me. He is wonderful to me and thinks the world of me. I live for Sundays since he spends the entire day with me. I make the 45 min drive to see him while he wants a laid back afternoon. I'm glad I can still have some independence while getting use to his schedule and communication style. Thank you for creating this blog. It is really helping me understand the challenges of dating a chef. Cheers. Atomgirl in Northern IL

michelle said...

I am married to one and we have separated twice. I have the hardest time dealing with the time apart or the time he doesn't seem to want to spend with me. I really hate it. It makes me feel so badly about myself. I could date politicians (who have the same busy schedule) but I worked in that world. I am an eating disordered vegetarian and this all out commitment to food over me hurts. I have stress, why does his stressful job supercede mine? I think it is a cop out on the part of chefs. If they want normalcy, they should also bring normalcy. I love him, but I am afraid this obsession is going to result in a divorce - not what I want but perhaps what I need. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Here’s an insight to our minds, we do in fact love our Wife, or Gf which ever the case maybe. If been in this industry for the past 15yrs, and it has taken me cross country and back.

“I’m from Miami, Fl, I am a chef and proud of what I do. Because not every one can do my job. Not everyone can create something for nothing. I work hard because I am the best at what I do. I work long hrs not because I wont too, but because is demanded of me. I do wish that I could spend more time with you, I do want to sit down and chat with you over beer, or wine which ever you like best. Plz understand that this is what I chose to do, this is the path that I have taken.”

This is for every lady that want’s to know a little bit of our madness. I recently started dating again because I was missing that one person in my life. She great to me, and understands that I work hard because it’s demanded of me. We talk late sometimes, because I want her to know that I love her, and I am there for her. I even have to lie to use the bathroom, just to be able to listen to her voice.

To be honest I came to this page looking for something else. It great that this blog help other women.

Thank you for reading my post.
Sincerely A loving man that is A chef.

Desperate Chefs'Wives

Hilary Battes said...

Anonymous Chef, I'm so sorry it took me so long to get back to you. It was enlightening to read your comment and I'd like to have to write back as a guest blogger if you'd like. Just out of curiosity, what were you looking for when you stumbled upon this site?

Angel said...

I am dating the second chef of my life. The first was the most significant relationship...

They are artists..and the challenge
is immense.

jess said...

"I am a fiercely independent woman with my own career demands and challenges, but I also recognize my need to have a more equitable relationship. I am not willing to sacrifice my career, my needs, or my happiness for someone else’s. When we do spend time together, he is often tired, grouchy, and does not seem to have a lot of energy to put into making the small sacrifices that I believe are required to make this relationship work. I am pretty sure that he is somewhat depressed because of his heavy work load, and I often worry about his mental health." IS PRETTY MUCH 100% HOW I FEEL.
there are some things that stand out, like I am not yet on my own steady path of career gratification, but even if i was, I couldn't have JUST THAT going on in my life. For chefs, it seems as if that's the thrill of it all. With cooking they get it all. Adrenaline, sensuality, pleasing other people, leadership & team playing roles, debauchery, EVERYTHAAANG. How could I expect that to be something I could keep up with, no matter how amazing I am (and I'm not yet nearly as grounded and successful as I could be). I broke up with one of the most fantastic people I've ever known, he was my first real, healthy relationship, but as we approached our 2nd year together, his work load became too much for me to bear. Indeed, to reiterate what the other ladies have said: I felt like I was with a ghost, got not only TIRED OF, but exceedingly bored and fed up with going to events on my own. His free time isn't really free since he's always EXHAUSTED. It's hard for them/chefs to find a balance physically and emotionally since their bodies and minds are in such a stressed state for so many hours on end (it's called ADRENAL BURNOUT). I can't say that I've ever loved anyone the way I love this man. I believed we had a future unfolding before us but as I found myself more and more resentful of not doing things as a UNIT, and his lack of creativity for US (all given to the kitchen) I realized we had different visions of happiness for our lives and let me tell you, IT SUCKS b/c my heart is broken into teeenytiinnyy little pieces. Overall it seems like most of these men have beautiful souls (probably why they are artists of cuisine), but no deep desire to balance or in the maelstrom of the career projecting forward, they forget how lonely it'll be for every one else, and ultimately, themselves if they don't work on creating some balance and quality time with their loved ones. I packed up all my stuff just a few days ago. Never imagined we'd have this ending but then again, the possibility was always looming. At some points when I was really disenchanted, I'd tell him: your job will be the death of us. Now I miss him and can't stop weeping at the idea of not being with him. But missing him was always part of the equation, and I barely saw him anyway, and that's why I'm doing this. I am investing in self before I wind up invested in bitterness towards him. But i'll tell you, it is one of the hardest things I've ever done to leave this man. The idea of another person being able to deal with it also makes me feel defeated as if I wasn't fierce enough to deal with the challenge. Or giving enough. But maybe, just maybe I know how much attention I need and would also like to give/share, and maybe I know that the whole reason we get together and commit to someone (especially when we already have commitment issues and DARE TO RISK IT so very much THIS ONE PERSON) is to be able to share a life with them, to have adventures together, to have energy to give to one another. This shouldn't be a dang fairy tale. Chefs may be artists, but most other types of artists have celebratory and social lives shared and enjoyed with their partners.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had an entire day with my boyfriend in almost two years. We haven't had a night out, a birthday party party, valentines or new years. We haven't gone on a date, we've done nothing as a couple. he's either working, tired or wants to destress by watching TV. We've been together 7 years but I'm ready to leave. We moved away from friends and family for his job and I'm basically living on my own except for the fact I need to.do cleaning and washing for two. MM

Anonymous said...

My fiance is an Executive Chef in a luxury hotel brand. We have been together for almost 2 years now but I am looking at his photos on my phone and his text more frequent than seeing the real man himself. In 2 years, if i would put the number of hours we spent together, it only equal to a month (inclusive of sleeping time).
I am mentally and emotionally very very tired and fed up with his commitment to his work.
I am not even sure now if I really want to marry him.
When I need someone to talk to, when i need someone to comfort, he is never available.
How can a chef be so heartless to their loved ones? But when he is not at work, he can be the sweetest and most caring man i ever met.
And no, there is no such thing as having him cook me special meals at home.