Years ago as an impressionable young apprentice it was my duty to open the restaurant of a morning. I was so thrilled by this responsibility I practically skipped to work each day! One particular morning I decided to get to work extra early & get ahead on prep. I opened the door & made my way to the back, down the stairs & into the bowels beneath the dining room where I became aware of a noise emanating from the staff change rooms. It sounded vaguely like two pieces of aged rump being schlepped together repeatedly, resonating down the hallway. As I got nearer to the door, the man & woman who were responsible for the noises, froze like Mall statues. Blushing, I did a 180, rushed upstairs & made myself a coffee. When they emerged, not a word was said about what had just occurred, nor did I speak of it for years later but this tryst was to be the catalyst for the subsequent breakdown in both of their marriages.
Since then, I have witnessed many seemingly solid relationships falter when the other half learns of an affair with a work colleague & it’s usually a chef & a waitress in my experience. Perhaps the long work hours & absences from a loved one all combine to set the wheels in motion for one to stray? Maybe issues of power & position come into play, who knows but the unspoken golden rule in kitchens was to always keep your amorous interests separate from work. Now I know that hospitality is no different from other industries with this issue but for some reason, little affairs spring up in restaurants & cafes with the regularity of pine mushrooms after rain.
Perhaps sharing a dynamic, dinner rush & adrenalin soaked workplace endears one more toward their colleagues much the same way an actor might fall for their leading opposite?
One time I recall another head chef briefing all of us in the kitchen that his wife would call during the night & ask to speak to someone in the kitchen but not him. This was odd but she would then ask for details of when he left & what time it was.
Sometimes she would enquire if ‘anyone’ else was going out as well. As you might have guessed, he was having an affair with one of the waitresses. This was all very tawdry & made me uncomfortable as a seventeen year old. One night she caught him leaving the restaurant with the waitress on his arm & a massive fracas ensued.
Another continent, another restaurant & another chef in hot water, getting us to cover for him telling his wife he was at work whilst really out with his new girlfriend.
It seems kitchen romances mostly end badly. Take for instance the time that I had to work with two people who had just broken up & were completely hostile toward one another. It got so bad one day the two of them combusted into a raging row right in front of gob smacked customers, effing & blinding ending in one tossing their apron down & storming off never to return.
‘Great’ I thought, you two break-up & I end up having to look for a replacement!
This is I guess, why that golden rule was needed!
Having said all this, I do know of a few romances that started in kitchens & cafes that have stood the test of time, so I’m not completely cynical. A niggling question remains unanswered for me though: Why is it so many hospitality workers & particularly chefs end up separated or divorced? I know the anti social hours are the most obvious reasons but I am shocked that for many, this is the reality. Any ideas?