Food Network star Michael Symon and wife Liz. (Photo: Michael Symon)
When you’re a chef, it goes without saying that good food is central to a good life. But it can also be a secret weapon when it comes to wooing one’s life partner. In honor of Valentine’s Day, five chefs from across the country shared with Yahoo Food the dishes that won the most points with their loved ones. Feel free to steal some inspiration for your own romantic meals this weekend.
After working together for years inside of their Cleveland restaurants Lola Bistro, Lolita and Mabel’s BBQ, Food Network star Michael Symon and his wife Liz did the unthinkable and stayed in one Valentine’s Day.
“We met in the restaurant business 26 years ago — she does the front and I obviously do the food — and one year before we were married we just decided to close the space and spend time at home together,” Symon told Yahoo Food. “So we built a big fire and I made steamed artichokes with crab legs and truffle butter. Then we just sat in front of the fire and ate the entire thing with our hands.”
Even after Liz became a vegetarian the dish has remained a go-to for intimate evenings.
“I still make it from time to time,” he said. “She gets to enjoy the artichokes and I keep the crab on the side for myself.”
Chef Jonah Miller and wife Marina. (Photo: Jonah Miller)
For New York chef Jonah Miller (Huertas), the path toward matrimony followed a trail of homemade croutons.
“Certainly for my wife and I, food has always been a central part of our relationship,” said Miller. “We started dating quite young, when we were still in high school.
The first time Marina came over to Miller’s house when his parents were out, the pair were just 16.
“I cooked dinner for her,” he recalled. “Knowing that she would get tomato soup at lunch sometimes, I made a nice version with roasted tomatoes, and croutons from scratch — which really blew her away.”
Chef Blair Machado and wife Meghan. (Photo: Blair Machado)
When Blair Machado — executive chef for The Park Cafe in Charleston, S.C. — moved from Virginia to Charleston with his longtime girlfriend Meghan, he knew he had to make her feel extra loved.
“It was summertime in Charleston, which means blazing temperatures, but also a bounty of fresh local food,” said Machado, who decided to lavish his lady with a Lowcountry Boil, including local shrimp, clams, stone crab, mussels, fish, kielbasa, red potatoes, corn, beets, liberal amounts of Old Bay seasoning, lemon and butter.
“It was the first time Meghan had experienced the dish and it made her fall in love with the area and its food,” he said. “She now requests it several times throughout the summer.”
The pair were married last year.
Pastry chef Molly Hanson and wife Kate. (Photo: Molly Hanson)
The first time Boston pastry chef Molly Hanson (Grill 23 & Bar, Post 390) met her future mate Kate, she was plating desserts — and commenting that she didn’t like any of them.
“She was a nighttime production cook while I was the pastry chef,” remembered Hanson. “And she didn’t like most desserts because she would find them too sweet. So, she would always say, ‘I’ll try it, but it’s terrible.’”
Hanson took on the personal challenge of creating a dessert Kate might finally enjoy — striking gold one night with a frozen vanilla bean parfait topped with concord grape sorbet, almond streusel, grapes, and a citrus-vanilla coulis.
“And she would finish it!” said Hanson. “She didn’t really admit to liking it, she just sort of finished it — so, it was fun.Now that I have known her for 14 years it, is much easier, but still as satisfying, to make a dessert she will eat.”
It was a cold winter night when Ricardo “Ricky” Camacho, culinary director at Anejo in Manhattan, decided to win over his girlfriend and make her dinner. The twist? There would be a third guest at the table.
“At the time, my wife was living with her mother and it was the first meal I cooked for them,” Camacho told Yahoo Food. “The dinner took place in between Christmas and Thanksgiving and I felt there was nothing better for the time of year [than Braised Short Ribs]. I wanted the dish to be warming, luscious and memorable.”
In the end, his hard work paid off.
“The dish took time, it took care — I had to build the flavors,” he remembered. “I shopped and planned and prepped, and they saw the care and effort that went into it. That meal was as much for her ‘mom’ as it was for my wife and it was a way of assuring her that I would take the same care with her daughter.”