Love on the Back Burner
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
It's Saturday night at a busy Washington area restaurant.
Patrons in the dining room exchange quiet murmurs and knowing glances over an elegant meal. Behind the scenes, chefs are getting orders -- and curses -- shouted at them above the roar of the kitchen. And after the last cup of decaf has been poured and the last creme brulee has been cleared, the chefs make their way home. Often, alone.
It's hard to have a love life when you're working restaurant hours. While some Food Network shows would have you believe the chef's life is glamorous, the reality is somewhat different.
Grueling 12- and 14-hour days spent behind a sizzling stovetop are common. Night shifts -- when others are out socializing -- come with the territory. Weekends, too.
The chefs understand the sacrifices -- their passion for food trumps all -- but the demands of the career can put a crimp in their social lives. We asked four local chefs to tell us how love can simmer beyond their restaurant kitchens. And each graciously shared a recipe suitable for a date.
MICHAEL LANDRUM, 40, owner and executive chef of Ray's the Steaks in Arlington:
At Work: 100-plus hours per week for the past four years; in the process of opening a new restaurant in Silver Spring. "The truth of the matter is, after I fulfill my commitment to my guests, my staff and everything that it takes to maintain the personal responsibility and obligation, I really can't say I have much left over to give to anyone else."
In Love: Had someone special in his life for "too short a period of time. . . . Truthfully, I'm still deluding myself that I will be together with this woman."
At Home: His refrigerator's been unplugged for 3 1/2 years. "I don't cook at home because I have no one to cook for. I don't have a can opener, pots and pans . . . . I drink water at home, but I don't even have glasses."
The Bottom Line: "In my life, there's no line between work and private time."
MICHAEL HANRATTY, 29, sous-chef at Mie N Yu in Georgetown:
At Work: Five days a week, from 1 p.m. to midnight; started in the restaurant business as a 16-year-old dishwasher. "You get out of work at midnight and most people are either in bed or drunk. Those are your two choices. If you're going to meet someone after work, you're going to meet them at a bar and woo! There's dancing on tables! You're not going to be like, 'Wow, I'm going to marry this girl.' "