Married to a chef: Myths and Reality
Well, there is the chef wives sorority everywhere in the world. I look to Jennifer at Emulsified Family regularly for informative and supportive posts. Chefs’ wives in Asia keep mostly to themselves and their group of friends, I know a handful, but now to think about it, I am actually close to just one in Macau!
I guess the most common one I always get is “OMG you are so lucky you get Michelin starred gourmet French meals everyday!”.
1. Michelin starred meals daily: This is the biggest myth ever because it’s me and my mediocre Asian cooking 9/10 times and he doesn’t even always eat what I cook and 8/10 times I am dining alone.
2. You must eat in his restaurant all the time, how lucky! No. We like to keep church and state separate, work is work and you don’t bring your personal life to work. i.e have your wife lurking around the work place even if she is always a paying guest. We both agreed on a quota that I visit no more than once a month, and also try to avoid the weekends where it gets incredibly busy and/or public holidays. Having worked in a hotel, I understand the opportunity cost; I already know the restaurant and chef well, it’s an opportunity for someone coming in Macau over the holidays or weekend to try the restaurant, and it would be silly to occupy a table to deny a newbie the chance to try the restaurant which indirectly will then generate word of mouth PR for my husband and his restaurant.
I know other chef families and wives have different rules and some dine very regularly at their husband’s work place, but we have our simple rules. To me the analogy is simple, you don’t break your work home, so why bring home to work? There are privileges that come with the job and it’s a very economical alternative for people to expense their meals at their work, but we never ever do that, it’s like stealing from your own cash register… and well, with regular appearances at your husband’s work place, inevitably along comes the gossip.
3. You must get special treatment at restaurants! More often than not, Yes. The F&B world is small and the chef fraternity is tight, there is alot of giving and mutual support. Truffles & Caviar, the day’s specials – friends never seem to have the exact same menus that I do. And having a personal tour of the cellar and kitchen at Grande Table La Tour D’argent in Paris.
4. Romance? I eat alone most of the time on a daily basis, and spend my birthday and any special occasion on my own too, some years I get lucky and have good friends visit to celebrate with me. Chef comes home slightly before midnight or as early as he can get off work to join. All other festive occasions like Christmas, New Year’s, Chinese New Year or Valentine’s day (we don’t celebrate anyway) that people spend as a family or couple is one of the busiest time of year for a chef here in Asia as the culture of dining out fills the restaurant on these public holidays. Does it get lonely? Sometimes, but mostly no, because there is so much to read/learn and I have always spent alot of time on my own, whether it’s going to the cinema or backpacking solo. And of course I am ever thankful for the internet that connects me with my good friends all around the world. The only time I get to eat with my chef is on his day off or when we are on vacation, and usually both times are rare, so we end up spending it with friends and family too. We try to have weekly date nights, which isn’t the easiest to coordinate in between North American conference calls timed perfectly in the middle of dinner.
5. You must eat for free all the time knowing chefs in every place. Again, No. We are paying customers like everyone else, sure we’ll get an extra dish or two and two flutes of champagne on the house and maybe a dessert, but we foot the bill like everyone else. I would say maybe 3/10 times on average we get a surprise invitation where we were told it was “on the chef”, sometimes we get the bill with drinks waived. We never take it for granted and always very grateful. I also rarely ever pull the “I am a freelance journalist-blogger with good social media klout” card and avoid it as much as possible because it takes the fun out of it and puts it all out of context.
6. Scheduling. Not sure how it works when two married F&B folks on different shifts and schedules with the long hours. Quality time over quantity I guess is key. And never compare. Comparison is the thief of joy. We try to live up to our motto of “Live, Laugh, Love” and to Eat Well, Travel Often, but there never is enough time to eat/see/do, but we try our best.
Photo above was a great summer in Ibiza, Formentera and a wonderful meal at Juan y Andrea, prohibitively expensive as just looking around us were billionaires and celebrities hanging out with their yachts moored close by. Yes, we were there with our vineyard owner friend, on his yacht and he invited us to lunch at his favourite little spot. Beautiful blue waters, didn’t edit any of the photos.