Married to a chef: Well-fed and watered, but the hours and the grind

married to a chef

Many people I know make marriage sound like a walk in the park, which of course most know isn’t the reality. However, with social media, you can be who you want to be or create the life online that you’d like, but that isn’t a reality. Recently, an Australian model Essena O’neill decided to flip that all around.

I think social media is evil in the way that it perpetuates envy and it feeds insecurities. I often wish for the old days before internet and social media invaded our lives. There are no boundaries these days on privacy and what’s real vs staged.

We eat out and often very well when we’re travelling. Even when we’re not, date nights or home cooked meals, we always eat and drink well. Bad news for waistline, but always good news for life’s pleasures. Life is too short for bad food and bad wine. (although I admit to the occasional apple pie from Macdonald’s!)

Also, it always gives me great blog content. I syndicate content not with an intent to brag, but hopefully serve a purpose for making recommendations and suggestions. And 9/10 times we’re paying for our own meals, so I’m not regurgitating a press release from an invitation.

I am a content marketeer so I am always watching with interest the psychology behind Facebook posts. My feed is often full of brag posts of how much people are loved by their spouses – instead of being envious, I feel really awkward that people would bring their personal life into the forefront – as if having to prove something or gain some sort of approval and at best incite some envy from others.

Um, like how do you equate how much your husband loves you to a Cartier bracelet you just got? The birth of ridiculous hashtags that people haemorrhage all over social is at best – uncomfortable and random. Click unfollow solves the issue.

However, this translates to real life. I just don’t know what to say when you’re bragging in real life. Um, nice. Congrats, he loves you as much as that expensive new thing? No, I don’t have any new jewellery to brag about, but I know my husband doesn’t love me any less.

And then there are the really insecure raging lunatics that type hateful status updates in CAPS directed at anonymous people. Passive aggressive? I don’t know, maybe make an appointment with a therapist? Sit quietly and mediate?

Instead of yelling all over social media, which no doubt is a plea to be heard. But what are their expectations? That their friends or strangers like the post? [and now cue Facebook reactions!] Receiving empathy through comments and there was someone on the other end of optic fibre cables listening?

marriage quotes copy

Of course I have plenty of my insecurities too. I am afterall Asian and grew up in a system where if you’re not overachieving, you’re a failure. And I often grapple with the fact if I am a good enough wife, if my cooking is good enough, if I am really doing a great job at what I do?

If I am doing enough putting in 14 hrs and then cooking a full meal, baking, and then fitting in exercise, blogging, photography, going to the wet market to make sure all products are absolutely fresh, running the household. Am I doing enough? Is my exercise in self improvement enough? There’s only 24h in a day, some days I let it all go and chill out. other days I still grapple with the fact that it isn’t enough and feel burnt out.

So married to a chef? I still struggle with the hours because I am up early to start my day and run the business and staying up late to wait for chef to get back to have a conversation – it’s not quite humanly possible to keep surviving on 4-5h of sleep a day. He doesn’t expect it, but I feel like it is my duty to do so – almost everyone else does so, and I suppose I try to measure up to the pack. No more.

But people are different, marriages are different and most of all circumstances are always different. There is no way to compare and apple to a watermelon, but people do that all the time, and they make me feel worse while they’re at their comparison. It’s hard for me to let it all slide when the Singaporean in me was made to eat, live and breath the competition in the system. But I try.

So, I’ve started going to bed earlier because I’d choose quality interaction over a tired conversation with chef after his 14 hr work day, and my own 10-12h work day. It’s not ideal because it just means we speak much less, but it’s definitely better than living apart.

I don’t know how our friends do it, a wife in the service side with equally long hours as her chef husband. Quality over quantity. And learning how to better manage my alpha-female self, but am so lucky to have the chef husband who is always supportive, jokes like hell, and very inclusive towards my friends.

I have spent some time looking for happy and equally successful chef wives who share the limelight of their very successful chefs. I only found one – Massimo Bottura happily married just once to the same wife Lara Gilmore, and it is quite clear that she has been the backbone support of all his successes.

“The first few years at Osteria were tough. “I couldn’t find enough money to pay past the end of the month,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t go to my father, I couldn’t talk to anyone except Lara. That is the point you give up everything: motorcycle, cars, who cares?”

Bottura sold his Harley Davidson, his Saab convertible, bought a little Mazda, and he got married. “Lara would always tell me, let’s give the restaurant one more year,” he says. Her parents helped pay the bills.”

I wish more chef wives were celebrated like Lara. I love stories like that of partnership through thick and thin, not just the glory and self grandoise. I am not asking for the same, but this cloak of invisibility that chef wives tend to wear is quite common place. In Asia, probably much more so and the quiet feminist in me for equal partnership still have difficulties accepting this subordination.

It’s all about the chef. I suppose I will in due time come to terms with surrendering my own identity that defines me to work on the bigger picture of family instead of self serving motivations like work and doing what I’m good at, which would be a career in a different place and time.

Would love any recommendations on chef wives to follow! I recently quit a chef’s wives private Facebook group because I found too much negativity on it. It was a griping forum, which I perfectly understand that there is a need to let it all out, because, let’s face it, it gets lonely out here.

Just not my cup of tea and I much prefer celebrating all the good stuff and then maybe seeing the not so great stuff with a sense of humour and look at solutions on tackling it. More gratefulness, less digging a hole to crawl in and then get yes! yes! commiserating and demonising the chef.

It actually doesn’t quite solve the problems! It perpetuates a cycle of griping and resentment, even though you’re letting it out to a select group of folks who understands the grime, I am not sure if the wives really do end up feeling any better.

Wow, this was a long post! Bought and digesting this great book Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop on control – a brilliant, deep read.

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