Over the past months, we’ve heard from different chef wives about what it’s like to be married to or dating a chef in a specific position on the kitchen. Today, I’d like to introduce you to chef girlfriend Danielle Valenilla. She is dating and Executive Chef/Food and Beverage Director.
Tell me a little about yourself and your chef (how you met, how long you’ve been together, do you have kids, etc.)
My chef and I have been together for about 18 months, but we’ve known each other for about 13 years. We met on the school bus when we both lived in a small town. I was in 8th grade; he was a sophomore. We stayed in touch throughout high school and college despite the crazy hours; we had the kind of friendship that could be successful without seeing each other constantly. After years of bumping into each other and looking for love in the wrong places, we found it in our friendship. I had an extra ticket to a Broadway show and his schedule aligned just right for that to become the beginning of us as a couple and not just friends. Our dating life basically existed in a one day a week kind of thing but our foundation of friendship went far. We’ve lived together for a year, and it’s been amazing. We don’t have kids, and we’re pretty sure we won’t because of some of the goals we have for ourselves. I’m on a journey to get my doctorate, and he’s driven to make his kitchen the best it can be.
What position does your chef/cook have in the kitchen? Briefly describe the size and type of restaurant he is working at (fine dining/casual, size, privately owned or part of a restaurant group, etc.).
My chef is the Executive Chef as well as the Food and Beverage Director at a Golf and Country Club. Being a country club, it has private membership and a board of directors. The membership in total is about 230. His kitchen in total is currently 5 people.
Do you work outside the home and if so, what do you do and what are your hours like? If you stay home full-time, describe your responsibilities.
I work full-time at a private university as an Academic Technology Specialist. Basically, I’m a licensed teacher with tech skills, and I train the faculty and staff how to best use technology with our students. There’s lots of project management, allocation of resources/tools, and consulting with various people. I also serve on many university committees for campus. If teaching is acting, my job is more like producing. I attend and present at conferences, and I write research when possible. We moved closer to his job, so we could get more time together and cut down his commute. That said, my commute is a little longer now. I leave the house at 7:30am Monday-Friday and come home around 6:30pm. I am also in my last year working on my Master’s degree in education and leadership. Thereafter, I will be pursuing my doctorate degree. By night and weekend, I’m also an indie author. I’m debuting a book launch next month actually, and my chef is doing appetizers for the event on his day off. 🙂
From what your chef has told you or you have observed, what does he do in his current position and what is he responsible for?
As Executive Chef/F&B Director, he’s responsible for all food and beverage operations, including orders, vendor communications, menu writing and planning, cost control, inventory, onboarding, and of course, cooking.
What does a typical week and day look like for your chef (hours, days off, etc.)?
Tuesday through Saturday 9am-10pm.
Sundays are supposed to be days off, but not always. There are sometimes errands to run or paperwork to finish. This is the day we usually spend together.
Mondays are supposed to be days off too, but the same as I said before. Usually, this is when he gets his personal time or time to catch up on stuff.
How does your chef’s schedule fit with yours? What is easy/difficult about that?
What’s nice is that we both have independent personalities, so it’s easy to be apart from each other. We don’t constantly blow up each other’s phones or wonder what we’re doing. We have the space to be ourselves, and that’s easy. What’s difficult is trying to fit so much relationship into our limited Sundays and Monday evenings. Sometimes it feels like we’re always forgetting something, whether it’s an important conversation about bills or just having a conversation instead of catching up on the DVR and not talking at all. Sometimes we miss movies we wanted to go out and see. Stuff like that. When you only get 4 real days a month, it’s hard to hit everything on the to-do list. It’s also been difficult to predict which days will be the long days which makes it hard to predict needed naps, etc. Recently, we’ve been negotiating the “Chef-Gamer” life which has been a nightmare. That’s difficult because we’re trying to then manage 3 lifestyles that take up significant time instead of 2.
Does your chef bring work home with him (phone calls, email, texts, menu planning, etc.)?
All of it! He’s calling in orders from home, emailing managers, answering texts from everyone (specifically from his Sous Chef), and planning/typing menus for the upcoming week. With some system changes and the removal of a Food and Beverage Director, he has also done some extended data entry working remotely from home well into the hours of the night.
What type of chef laundry do you have to deal with at this level?
The hardcore laundry is done through a cleaning service that the country club commissions. However, there are piles and piles of white t-shirts all over the bedroom. We do our own laundry respectively, or sometimes I can do his loads if he has them sorted.
What do you feel is the biggest change when your chef moved into this position, vs. his last position?
The biggest change I’ve seen in his move from Sous Chef to Executive Chef is having to deal with so many non-food issues. Politically, he’s had to deal with club members missing their old chef. Onboarding and offboarding is now his responsibility. He’s always talking about paper and computer work that’s fallen to him; basically all of the responsibilities of a Food and Beverage Director. Most of the work he brings home is the “office” type of stuff. His hours have become longer, so we have to be more strategic and intentional about our time together especially when it comes to important conversations.
What is the hardest part about this position in the kitchen for you as a chef wife or girlfriend?
There are two things I find hardest. First, is basically anything that happens in the bedroom or counts as “bedroom time”. I’ve had to adjust my life to taking naps so we get time together, otherwise we’d never see each other but once a week. With erratic sleep schedules, we both have to work extra hard at being supportive and patient and communicative. We also have to work extra hard at intimacy, which I think would be really easy to lose without focus on it.
The second thing that is hardest is the utter lack of community I feel sometimes. Most of his friends are at his work or are from a former job, so they all have the crazy schedules too or they at least understand it. When I’m around his kitchen friends, it sometimes feels like they know me more than I know them…which isn’t terrible, just strange. For me, it’s difficult to explain to family and friends that our situation isn’t temporary or that no, I probably can’t guarantee a double date. It’s hard for them to understand spending time with me alone. I also feel like I can’t talk to loved ones when it gets hard, because they oversimplify the issues. They don’t understand the constraints on the relationship; they think it’s a personality thing or personal choice that can be changed. It’s not. This is my reality, and no one gets it. That lack of understanding can be very isolating sometimes, which is why I sought out the Emulsified Family community to begin with. I NEED someone else who understands.
What (if any) are the perks of this kitchen position (for him or for your family)?
I enjoy seeing him go to food and beverage conferences. He also gets a membership at his club. If and when we were to get married, we could use that venue at no cost. The perks would probably be the consistent closings on Sundays and Mondays which overlap a “normal” weekend and are somewhat routine to simulate a weekend.
Anyone else dating someone in this position? Does the work load sound familiar? If you can relate, let us know in the comments below!
From one chef’s wife to another,