What It’s Like to Be Married to / Live With a Chef

Guest post by Aurora Sharrard

“So, what does your husband do?”

“He’s a chef.”

“Ohhhhhhh, that is so great! Where does he work?”


[One of two answers] “That place is so great!” OR “I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s wonderful.”

“So does he cook at home?”

“About 85% of the time.”

“You are so lucky. You must eat really well. What’s his favorite thing to cook?”

Now, I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times in more complex forms. It’s become fairly obvious to me that as soon as someone says, “So, what does your husband do?” that the conversation is no longer about me. I have no problem with this conversation shift, I’m just amazed that so many people are enthralled when they learn that my husband is a chef, which is why I’ve decided to explain a few things:

1) When Jesse introduces himself, he says he’s a cook. While it is true that he does not hold one of the salaried positions at his restaurant whose titles include the word “chef,” this is a lifestyle choice on his part. Thus, I think it is misleading for him to introduce himself as a cook when he has not only a college and culinary degree, but also that je ne sais quoi that all all chefs seem to when it comes to pushing the envelope in food preparation and study.

2) Before he broke his ankle, Jesse really did do 85% of the cooking in our house, which was wonderful. Since then, the breakdown has obviously been quite different, but as I’m sure you all can attest, it’s really nice if someone else does 85% of anything in a home, whether it’s cooking, dishes, sweeping, or laundry. However, when Jesse cooks, that ususally means I’m doing something else, like laundry or general clean-up and organization. Even so, I generally lead the charge on dishes and Jesse makes a lot of them when he cooks. When he first started ramping up his cooking style six-or-so years ago, he thought he was a television chef and created the requisite amount of dishes—one for every ingredient. When I finally thought I had gotten him away from that habit and down to a normal dish level, he went to culinary school and the pile of dishes grew even larger than it was before. I’m not going to say he’s back down to meals that fit in one pan, but he is very considerate of the number of dishes he creates, especially since he usually does the hand wash.

3) We do eat tremendously well for a graduate student and a line cook. We try to buy local, organic, and seasonal when possible and, of course, the quality and presentation of these ingredient combinations by the time it gets to my plate is often divine. However, it does boggle some people’s minds that we choose to spend our money on quality ingredients instead of things like cell phones and cable—such is the life of a chef.

4) No one really asks me this, but I think I should say that living with a chef does not mean I have great (or even good) knife skills. In fact, I didn’t even get to take Jesse’s knife skills class because I was out of town. So, I am constantly getting lectured that my guide hand is not close enough to my knife, BUT I did finally get a couple great knives of my own for my birthday. I can honestly say that a properly sized knife does help your knife form a lot.

5) I know for a fact that normal people do not “plate” meals in their kitchens and then deliver them to the dining room. If you have no idea what “plating” a meal means, it usually goes like this: Jesse has somehow managed to get all parts of the meal done at the same time. Instead of placing everything on the table in its respective pot, pan, or serving dish, Jesse carefully places it on the plates so that the presentation is almost better than the food itself—think about what your plate looks like when it’s set in front of you at a restaurant. In the house of a chef, plating a meal is standard fare, even for meals for only two.

6) Despite people’s impressions, there are still a few things that I make better (and/or more often) than Jesse does and, on occassion, I still teach him things about cooking. That doesn’t mean that he takes these lessons easily. In fact, living with someone who is a chef makes it even harder to teach them anything about food; instead, they want to tell you everything they know about food and food preparation. Now, sometimes that can be a nice and helpful thing, but when said chef has said that s/he is too tired to cook and you are the one that is cooking, here’s what often happens:

“You know, you should really work on your knife skills / have your heat higher / do that with a whisk.”

“Yeah, that’s great, but who’s cooking here, you or me?”

“I’m just trying to tell you the right way to do it.”

“And I’m just trying to make dinner.”

“No, no, you’re doing it wrong; here, let me show you . . .”

And before you know it, you’re no longer cooking the dish that you started. Instead, said chef has taken over after your hard work and gets to do the fun part of cooking instead of slaving through the prepwork part. I know, I know, some of you say, “Just sit back and relax and let him do it.” I say living with a chef doesn’t mean that I don’t like to cook, nor does it means that I am any less of a chef at heart myself.

5 Responses to “What It’s Like to Be Married to / Live With a Chef”

  1. MEJ Says:

    Great topic!! And so well done too. Thanks for a good read.

  2. Republic of Palau Says:

    My Dad was a chef. His favourite phrase was “Now let me give you a little tip…” It was easier to just hand whatever it was over and go do something else.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I was having several flashbacks as I read the sample conversation piece. I wonder why that is……

  4. Steff Z Says:

    on point # 5,
    for two people, plating is FAR easier than lugging all the pots and pans to the table (and later, back). (I shan’t even go near the silliness of dirtying up extra “serving dishes” ((what are those?)) for a meal for two.)

    Even easier: when my talented amateur sweetie cooks, he plates his own food, and says “Dinner is ready; it looks something like this!” So then I get to pick my own serving size, how much of the sauce I want on my rice, etc etc etc. And, with just two people, it’s not even rude, because the only other diner is mere seconds later than the cook in sitting down to eat.

    Plus which, you don’t have to clear so much of the daily accumulation of, you know, stuff, off the dining room table. (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, now that I type it.)

  5. MOm Says:

    Well done…..Aurora. Love to eat what you’ve cooked just as much as what Jesse cooks. I always come home with snugger fitting clothing after having enjoyed whatever you both have whipped, sauted, roasted, or mixed up. We know we’ll never go away hungry….a little cold, but never hungry!!

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