Editor's note: Amelia Zatik Sawyer blogs at ChefsWidow.com and runs #teamsawyer with her husband, chef Jonathon Sawyer, their two children, plenty of animals and a slew of restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio. She'd like to clear up a few myths about dating - and marrying - a chef.
When most people learn that I am married to a chef, they automatically assume that I eat well and spend my nights alone. This is almost accurate.
When The Chef is home, he has a special talent of taking half-eaten food and turning it into a masterpiece. Due to his enormous work schedule, I only get to experience the beauty of his talent once a month.
Some also assume chefs are notorious cheaters, binge drinkers, or worse. While I have met a few chefs who have "festival girlfriends" and know more than my fair share of partying cooks, the reality of working in a real kitchen weeds out this behavior pretty quickly. Working 90-hour weeks with a hangover doesn’t cut it in a kitchen.
Four years after we opened our first restaurant, The Greenhouse Tavern, we are still figuring out our realities. Being married to someone who works 80 hours a week and travels 100 days a year can prove to be difficult. Throw two kids, two dogs, and six chickens into the mix and we’ve got a Sharknado!
Because we work together and share the same goals for our businesses, the relationship we started 10 years ago has the tendency to get put aside. We choose work over our love and we know it.
Seven years ago this September, The Chef and I married on a farm. We drank, we ate, we danced (kinda), we took pictures with horses and most importantly, we shared our love with everyone we love. Since that day we have opened four restaurants and a vinegar company in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Chef has achieved great recognition, such as being selected as one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs, nominated for a 2013 James Beard Award and nationally recognized as being a badass dude in the kitchen. Out of this success, I have been able to create my own passion developing his and our restaurants brands. It has been an amazing journey with triumphs and tribulations and I am proud of our life because it.
However the reality of being married to a chef is this: it’s hard work. Putting the time into our marriage is just as important as putting time into our business.
After a hard year of change, struggle, and professional disappointments we have both realized that our relationship got put on the back burner. Our marriage became less about us, and more about our restaurants. It’s easy to do in any marriage I am sure, and I have no doubt that if we didn’t pay close attention to our needs in this relationship, we stand the chance of crumbling.
But that’s where we have something that others don’t: The Chef’s work ethic. Chefs have been categorized for years as the hardest workers you will ever meet and my own marriage has reflected this. Instead of ignoring the reality of being in a restaurant marriage, we are facing our issues head on. We are bringing our relationship back to the front burner and starting on August 1, we embarked on a new journey: dating each other.
Inspired by the blog, 40 Days of Dating, the Chef and I decided to do our own “chef-ified” version. For the first 30 days of August, we are dating. We leave our phones in the cars and our work at the restaurants. We kick our dogs and kids out of our bed and get back to the only thing that makes our life work: us.
For this experiment, we came up with dating rules such as, "No talking about the restaurants or work. At all. Ever. FOR SERIOUS." and goals including, "Learn more about each other that doesn't have to do with food, restaurants, a******e business partners, lying friends, or finances."
We wrote after-date questionnaires and made lists of weekly dates. To keep us honest and transparent about our experience, I am writing about 30 days of dating a chef on my blog, Chef’s Widow. While our minds may be overtaken by the hustle and bustle of the realities of restaurant ownership, our hearts will not.
Tales from the Dating Trenches