Emulsified Family Q&A With Jennifer Smalls: Married to a chef


I found the late Jennifer Smalls of Emulsified Family through the hashtag #marriedtoachef over a year ago and have followed her journey of raising 3 kids and conquering it all like a pro. You can check out her blog and the chef wife sorority she leads in a private facebook group.

1. How did you meet your chef husband?

I met my husband when I was 4 and he was 5 at church.  We started dating in High School and got married in college.  About 6 months after we were married, he got his first line cook position.

2. The sacrifices for chef’s wives are much larger stakes as we are at the mercy of our husband’s schedules and careers. You’ve got the fabulous Emulsified family blog going and web design consultancy, how do you manage it all? Was it difficult to put your own plans aside?

My career has and always will be second to his.  We have always felt that it’s best for me to stay home full time with our kids.  So even when I was working full time as a teacher for 10 years before we had our first child, his career was always first in both of our minds, as it would be the one to provide everything for us in the years to come. 

I always wanted to be a wife and stay at home more so I never really had to put my plans aside.  I’ll admit, there have been times I struggled with being home full time as it’s not exactly what I thought it would be.  Living on one income is very difficult at times and being at home with so much time to think, sometimes made that even harder, as I would worry about money. 

I started up my website development business to help out my husband’s restaurant group and have just kept it going, working when the kids were napping or at school.  I’ve been able to blog and connect with other chef wives and girlfriends during that time as well. 

3. Chef wife with children. Hat’s off and super respect to all chef wife mums. I know you write about the difficulty of managing chef’s schedule to be at a concert for your children or that first performance. Any tips to run and keep everyone happy in the household?

Don’t plan things on Friday and Saturday night if you want him to be there.  By the time we had kids, my husband was at the Executive chef level or higher so unless there was a big event or a restaurant opening, he was usually able to take off a week night for school events.  Our kids are not in sports, so that’s not an issue for us.

4. Your favourite moments as chef wife? 

Eating at my husband’s restaurant right after a menu change!  It’s so fun to hear people’s responses to the menu and to hear all the compliments from the staff.  I’m always so proud of him!

5. Tips to master the footwork of a chef marriage? e.g. – I personally find it easier not to talk to chef when he comes home tired from work, he is completely switched off which make some feel very neglected and ignored and triggers my own insecurities.

Yes!!  Never talk about important things when they are tired.  Sometimes this is hard as they are always tired, but I’ve found that if I give him a heads up that I want to talk about something on his next day off, it goes better than if I just spring it on him. 

I also have to be careful not to read into his mood when he’s tired.  I have often thought something was wrong, and all it really was is that he was completely exhausted!  I’ve also had to love over bitterness. 

It’s easy to get bitter about their long hours and to start to think they want to be there more than they want to be with you.  I have to remember that he’s working all those long hours to provide for us, not to get away from us. 

And for that, I love him!!  (And for many more reasons as well.)  We have also found it works well for me to take care of the majority of things around the house since I stay home full time.

6. Favourite meal prepared by chef either in the resto or at home?

No favourite.  I will eat anything he cooks as it all tastes so much better than anything I cook!

7. What you cook that is your chef’s favourite meal?

Top Ramen?  Seriously, I’ve never asked him.  I know he’s thankful for the food when I prepare it, but I can’t say there’s a certain thing that he loves.

8. One piece of advice for someone dating a chef or married to a chef?

Don’t give up!  You’ll have some tough times with the long hours, especially if you are working opposite hours as your chef.  Communicate any way that you can so you can get through it (text, call, talk at 3 am, video chat during a break, etc.).  Find ways to encourage each other and go out of your way to make them feel loved and cared for, even if you are feeling neglected at the moment. 

Also, under no circumstances, compare yourself to another couple who is not in the restaurant industry.  Your relationship will be nothing like that of your friends who are not dating or married to a chef.  And chances are they won’t understand a lot of the things you are feeling (although a good friend will always try. Seek out those friends!)  That was more than one piece of advice…. :-)

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