I’ve been a chef for over 15 years, but it’s only been in the last five that chefs have really become rock stars. The hospitality industry may be synonymous with drugs, booze, and long nights, but something happened when the cool factor of working in a kitchen skyrocketed. All of a sudden, chefs were more desirable than musicians in bands.
I’d never really noticed this before until I began working at a popular steak restaurant in the city. It’s a bistro, open seven days for lunch and dinner—the kind of place where customers spend at least $80 a head. Being in the Central Business District, our regulars are often suits with expense accounts and lots of time for long lunches with endless bottles of wine.
I’d say it was around 2010 that food blogging got big, and it was at that time that I noticed this “chef groupie” thing started happening. All of a sudden, you had this semi-profile as a head chef of a reasonably well-known restaurant. People knew who you were, girls you’d never met would wait for you outside the restaurant when you left, and the front-of-house staff all wanted to get in your pants. I mean, it all sounds a bit cocky to say, but it’s true.
One customer would bring a list of her ex-boyfriends, a list of her sexual positions, and her favourite food to cook and eat. It was definitely stalking.
It’s not unusual for front-of-house to flirt with the kitchen staff, and vice versa. But we had a restaurant manager who was a bit of a predator, a bit of a black widow. She was in her late 40s, and she went through all my chefs. She’d take them out on wine-drinking benders after work that would end up in nasty places. At one point or another, most of my chefs found themselves waking up at her place, naked and not remembering how they got there.
But workplace romances are not all that new of a thing. It was the customers, the late-night bar flies, and the “chef groupies” that really gave themselves a name.
There was one woman in particular—a customer—and she’s pretty notorious. She would attend all sorts of food events, following certain chefs from one restaurant to the next. She would even deliver a folder on herself to the head chef. In the folder was a sort of resume showcasing her fandom as a foodie, or a groupie. She’d put together a presentation for the chef she had the hots for that included the restaurants he’d worked at, the demos and celebrity appearances he’d made and the ones that she’d been to. She’d also include a list of her ex-boyfriends, a list of her sexual positions, and her favourite food to cook and eat. She approached a few chefs I know, and she did her research. It was definitely stalking.
Of course, there are also proposals over the pass. If a woman’s sitting up at the bar near where you’re cooking and they progressively get more and more drunk, conversations start. Then they’ll say, “Meet me next door at the bar for a drink.” But instead we’ll send the whole kitchen over for a round of drinks. It’s harmless, but it could go a different way if I were a single man and inclined that way.
I’ve even heard from friends who work in bars where some customers offer the bartender a blowjob, so they head down to the storeroom for a quickie. It’s incredible. They don’t even know these girls.
I mean, I thought this stuff happened to Gene Simmons, but not to a chef or a bartender.
Once upon a time, working as a cook in a kitchen was a means to an end—to get you through art school or whatever—but now it’s a golden ticket. I mean, after all, food is sexy and so is being good at your job. It could be argued that there are many similar characteristics to eating great food and having sex; hunger, passion, appetite, desire, pace, shock, the unknown, the excitement. But does that translate into a desire for any chef that can cook you a dish? Are kitchen eyes more impressive than bedroom eyes now?
Perhaps I’ll never know. I just got married.
As told to Caroline Clements.