Married to a chef: How do they do it?

By Kelly Dinardo
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 12:21 PM

No relationship is a piece of cake, but try being involved with a chef. They put in 12-to-16-hour days, six days a week. When midnight rolls around, they're just wrapping up in the kitchen. And when the rest of the world is at play, they're cooking, even on the day so many couples hold sacred: Valentine's.

That might explain why many chefs and other restaurant workers pair up with others in the same industry. Birch & Barley chef Kyle Bailey is married to the restaurant group's pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac. At Radius Pizza, Todd Wiss mans the stove while his wife, Nicole, manages the front of the restaurant, which they own. And Vermilion's Laura Secker shakes up cocktails while fiance Dave Hammond keeps things running as the general manager.

Of course, plenty of nine-to-fivers meet, fall in love with and marry those 11-to-midnight chefs. How do they make it work? We talked to four such twosomes for insight. At the top of their lists: supporting each other's work, and making sure to keep their precious time together free of distraction.

Bertrand Chemel and Gabriela Nistor: 'We need to have time just for us'

Bertrand, 35, is the executive chef at 2941 in Falls Church. Gabriela, 34, is the spa concierge at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.

How they met: Bertrand worked at Cello in New York, and Gabriela went there a few times for drinks at the bar. One night in 2001, her sister hit it off with the pastry chef and Gabriela connected with Bertrand.

The proposal: The couple dated for three years until Bertrand proposed at a restaurant. "He did not go down on his knee," says Gabriela, "but the moment was just right."

The wedding: "We started to plan a big wedding in New York, but then we panicked about all you have to do," says Gabriela.

"My family is in France," interjects Bertrand. "And her family is in Romania. It was difficult to bring everyone to New York." They wed at a courthouse in 2004 and moved to this area in 2008.

"We decided for our 10-year anniversary, we would plan a big beach wedding," says Gabriela.

Biggest challenge: The hours. The couple has two children, and "it's kind of like being a single parent at night," says Gabriela. "But we dated for three years, so I knew his hours. I love his passion. It's really hard to find people who love what they do very much."

Biggest perk: "All of the cool restaurants I get to experience."

Making it work: "In order for us to have a healthy and happy relationship, we need to have time for just us," says Gabriela. "The key is to make time for you as a couple." They schedule a movie night at least every two weeks and take weekend trips a few times a year.

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