Falling For Someone Over Tacos Is Legit The Best-Case Love Scenario
It's love month at ChefsFeed, ya saps!
February 7, 2018
By Aaron Hoskins | Heart via Good_Studio on iStock; Photo illustration by ChefsFeed
I met my wife at the corner of Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh.
It was a Thursday in August of 2015, and she was wearing an orange dress. She was visiting friends, and I’d recently moved from Virginia to take a job I was barely qualified for. She had reached out to me to arrange eating an early dinner by herself at the restaurant where I was chef de cuisine. It just so happened she was there on my day off, so she asked if I could also show her a few other restaurants I liked instead.
I knew who she was long before we met. She was significantly more successful than me, and had appeared in the magazines I used to pore over before stalking chefs on Instagram was a thing. At the time, she was chef-owner of a popular Southern food restaurant in Manhattan and had been named one of the 50 best chefs in New York City by Food & Wine the year before. I found her intimidating and striking, as I knew I would.
I took her to a restaurant where we sat at the bar and ate tacos, and she me asked a lot of questions. I thought it was funny when she asked what my favorite sandwich was, but it turned out she was getting ready to open a sandwich shop in South Carolina. When I ordered a daiquiri I noticed it caught her off-guard. When it arrived in a cute little coupe, she made fun of me and stayed for another drink.
When she asked if I wanted to tag along to meet up with some industry people, I agreed. She photobombed the couple sitting next to us on the way out. I thought she was sweet and interesting with a good sense of humor.
For the rest of the weekend, I rushed through my shifts to go hang out with her wherever she was. I spent any time away from her caught up in my imagination and self-doubt trying to figure her out.
When she left town on Sunday, I swore I’d come see her in New York. I put her in an Uber, and thought I was going to be sick.
Two weeks later, I delivered on my promise. She was wearing a green dress and almost tackled me on the street. Her spirit is always contagious. She held my hand like she’d slide away if she let go. I was there three days; we hung out every day before she went into the restaurant for service and every night after she was done. Back in Pittsburgh, I realized how unhappy I was. The job wasn’t working out. I felt lost.
When I told her this over the phone, she told me to get back on a plane. Three hours later, I found myself hurtling through the sky in a metal tube toward someone I barely knew. Not more than a month after meeting her in that orange dress, I was back in New York, a strange new city, and a month after that, I joined her in South Carolina for two months to get her sandwich shop up and running.
I fell in love with her in the most effortless way. I didn’t have to think about it, or worry. It was so easy.
I proposed to her in February between the entrée and dessert courses at a dinner we cooked at the James Beard House. We were shorthanded that night, and right after the first course went out, our manager called to tell us the Health Department was there to conduct a surprise inspection. (At 8 p.m., on a Friday, on Valentine’s Day weekend. Poetic.)
I had the ring with me, so despite the chaos surrounding us, I just went for it. I dug it out of the bag I’d shoved behind a speed rack in that tiny kitchen and told her to come outside for a breather. I mumbled and stuttered my way through some version of the proposal I’d rehearsed about a hundred times in my head. She told me to spit it out, so I did. “Yes of course!” she exclaimed. “But we have to go plate dessert.”
A few minutes later, we found out we got an A on the inspection. She jumped into my arms and sighed with relief. The James Beard House staff photographer captured the moment. She has a giant smile plastered on her face. Without context, you’d assume that’s right when I asked her to marry me—but the truth is that restaurants are her joy in life. I accepted that as soon as I met her.
We spent the next year doing the festival circuit and running the Manhattan restaurant and the sandwich shop together. I’d gone all in with helping her run them, so we decided to divide and conquer. She spent most of her time in South Carolina and I was based in New York, so we traveled back and forth a lot.
Whenever we overlapped and were in the same kitchen I’d work as her prep cook or sous chef, enjoying every moment of watching her in the spotlight. She just kind of glows when she’s doing her thing. She kicked my ass in the kitchen, but those were some of the best and most fun times of my life. Exactly one year after we met, we were in Hong Kong doing a pop-up of the Manhattan restaurant. I stood with her at the top of Victoria Peak, in awe of all the places this woman had taken me.
I married her on my birthday in March of 2017, in the back of our rental house in South Carolina during Charleston Wine & Food. Getting married, I’d told her, was my only birthday wish. With an efficiency best understood by industry folks, we applied for the license on Thursday, picked it up on Friday, and held the ceremony on Saturday.
Some of our best friends came, most not knowing what we were doing until they showed up. One friend overnighted two cakes with little wooden man and woman chef toppers from her bakery in Houston. Others brought food. One supplied the wine. Another married us dressed as a strawberry. It was the most perfectly weird and happy day I could have ever asked for.
It’s not always a shiny perfect love story. Running businesses – as we’ve now done the last two years or so – with your spouse is beyond challenging. But I’m lucky to have a partner who holds me accountable, and pushes me, and also respects my contributions. Most of the time she works circles around me, and she does it with a better attitude than I have even on my best days. She manages to pull me up with her. She continually makes me better.
I almost bailed on that Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh. I’d always been afraid of taking a chance, unless I thought it was the “right” one. Ironically, the one chance I almost didn’t take proved there's no way to know which chances are the right ones —until after you’ve taken them.
Life is funny, isn't it?