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GUEST POST: On taking the Next Step – When do you know you’ve done all you can?

February 25, 2015 in Expectations, Family, Relationships

say it before it's too late


My Story

Probably the hardest issue I dealt with concerning my husbands job as a chef; was spending quality time together. We were so young when we got married and his dream was to work as a chef and cook amazing food. When he began as an apprentice I was heavily pregnant with our first and only child, it was difficult because I was alone almost every night.

I remember being terrified that I would go into labor and my significant other would miss the birth of our child. That fear was unreasonable as my labor began while we were both off work. I had stopped work a few weeks leading up to my due date and he was taking holiday. It was January, which is not a busy time in the restaurant, so we were together the afternoon our daughter came into the world. Apart from this, I was always pretty secure about being alone. In fact I love time to myself. It just began to feel like it was too much.

After our child was born I stayed at home with our child. This was important to me as I was raised by a mother who chose not to work and I always believed that one parent should be at home. As I said above, many of our disagreements and fights were about how we never saw each other and I was always alone at family reunions or regular dinners with his parents or my father. The resentment I felt began to build and while it almost destroyed our marriage, but somehow, we got through it. My significant other and I are not together anymore, but it had nothing to do with his job.

Do All You Can To Make It Work!

So I am going to share with you some things we tried to get things back on track and what actually worked for us. Once my daughter got to school, I worked part-time so I was able to be more flexible and be available for my child. My chef husband worked at a popular restaurant, where he eventually became head chef. This promotion occurred after we had parted ways, but I now see why he worked so hard because as the head chef, he does not seem to be working as many long hours these days and has more time for our daughter.

Make the Most of the Time You Have Together

When he first began his apprenticeship he was required to work split shifts, which meant going into work at around 10 am to do the lunch time service and then he would come home for a few hours and return to the restaurant at 5 pm for dinner service. It was a brutal schedule, requiring him to work seven days per week at times, he did get Monday’s off and sometimes Tuesdays during the quiet times. He did split shifts on Thursday to Sunday, so that left Monday totally free, Tuesday and Wednesday he was free until 5 pm. We had to make the most of the time we had together.

The warmer months in an inland town send people running for the coast, so there were times where we could take advantage of this. The slowest times were often some long weekends, but sometimes there were long weekends where people would stay in town and this was when the restaurant would get busy. The winter months are often busy and Easter and Christmas are too, especially December with Christmas parties, as I KNOW you are also familiar with yourself.

Date Night

We often had a date night on Tuesday if he was off and sometimes we would arrange to do something special with our daughter. If he wasn’t needed until 5 pm on Sundays we would have a picnic, a trip to the zoo, or arrange a get together with our families. This strategy did work for a while, however we sometimes did not stick with it and the fighting started again. A friend of mine told me to create a playbook. What is a playbook you ask? My friends saved us a lot of arguments in any case.

Create a Playbook

A playbook is a simple exercise book or note book that you buy from the newsagent or supermarket and you write down your favorite places to go and things you love to do. When you are stuck for an idea of what to do one day or night, refer to your playbook, pick a restaurant you both love, call them and make a reservation. Don’t get into the habit of having your dates at the restaurant where your significant other works, you could regret this when he or she is in the kitchen talking shop with the other chefs and you are left alone at the table. You also need to be communicating about the distance in your relationship!

So, back to the playbook; when you go somewhere new and you both loved it, write it down in your playbook. Keep it handy, like on the coffee table in the living room, so if you think of something the two of you can do – write it down immediately before you forget. Spending quality time with the one you love is difficult for any relationship, so the playbook might just make reconnecting just that little bit easier.

For me, the playbook was a God-sent when it came to communicating and avoiding unnecessary arguments or disagreements, simply because it was created by both myself and my significant other and it was created from all the “Likes” we have in common.  How can there be a disagreement when we choose something we both loved? It’s just impossible!  Aside from this factor, the playbook was a great activity that helped us learn more about each other, interact regularly with one another and most importantly it allowed us to spend “Quality Time” together.  This was the best, most important part of the effectiveness of the playbook. 

Marriage Counseling

Marriage or relationship counseling is something many couples might do, but honestly, I believe that if you bring in a counselor and they cannot help you then where do you go from there. Counseling should be left as a last resort, I would focus your efforts elsewhere in your marriage first. There are plenty of ways to reconnect your relationship.

For us, marriage counseling was a whole other story!  It gave me and my significant other permission to argue during our counseling sessions, which most often times was continued as home.  In my experience I think this created more issues for us, rather than helping to resolve them.  If we had only been able to communicate better at home, or at least had time to, I personally wouldn’t have involved a third party.  I would have found other solutions for home.

Those Who Nap Together – Stay Together

If he or she comes home from the lunch service and needs a nap, then join them for a nap, at least until the kids return from school. Try to have a nap during the day and be up at night when he or she gets home, so you can be with them during their period of winding down. This is not easy when you have a job or kids and need to be up early. Friday and Saturday nights should be taken advantage of here, when your significant other comes home at around midnight or later, there’s no reason why you cannot be there to greet him or her.

There is no problem that couldn’t use a little cuddling right? For me, it always made me feel closer and more connected to my partner.  Nothing else in the world matters when you experience that feeling!

If the ideas above and your own ideas have already failed and you have tried marriage counseling, gave it your best shot, and not just made a half-hearted effort, and things are still a mess and left unresolved. Going to marriage counseling takes commitment to a schedule and it might be difficult to fit this into your significant other’s schedule, but if the two of you are serious about the health of your marriage, then you must attend counseling regularly and for at least three months. Again, I must point out that if marriage counseling does not work for you and your significant other, you might need to make a hard decision.

When We’ve Done All We Can

My partner and I tried everything we could to keep our marriage in tact, but nothing seemed to fix it. When we were left with no communication because the arguments were never-ending, many tears fell and everyday was a fight with not an ounce of joy – I realized it was over. This was most devastating!

You may have gotten to the point in your marriage where there is nothing left to do that will resolve this situation.  Sometimes we move heaven and earth to fix our marriages and they are still unhappy and we have no other option but to contact a family attorney and discuss a separation or divorce.  Not sure if it’s time, then you may want to checkTell-Tale Signs That It’s Time to Divorce”. Although this is sometime the last resort, you still want to get through it with as little pain as possible, so you wouldn’t want to try handling it on your own.

As I reflect upon the past, we really could have done more, we gave up too soon.  One thing I take away from this experience, is that being married to a chef or being a chef who is married takes commitment, time, love, communication and especially understanding.  The hardest thing for me was walking away and always feeling like I could have done more.  A life of regret is never an easy one.  It was just easier to avoid the problems than face them head on.  Which I think was probably my biggest downfall – always acting like there weren’t any issue.  As I look back now, I wish I had a chance to do it over again, there is so much I would have done differently.

About the Author:

Jennifer Caughey is a content writer who has written this guest contribution on behalf of Colgan & Associates, a York family attorney.  Jennifer herself used to be a chef, and was also once married to a chef for 15 years.  She feels that it is an utter tragedy when a marriage may face challenges or end in divorce as hers did, mostly because there was no effort put into fixing it.  She likes to offer significant others her tips how to make restaurant marriages and relationships work and overcome the hard times together.

Connect with Jennifer on Twitter.

GUEST POST: Gettin’ Married and Gettin’ Divorced

September 25, 2014 in Coping, Life, Restaurant Industry


photo credit: Lightstock

Guest Post by Annie Wang from frites & fries  . You can also find her on her own site – j. annie wang


Some of you have entertained the thought of leaving your relationship. Some of you may have even fantasized how much easier life would be if you weren’t worried about his (or her) health all the time, hoping that they have enough covers for the week to make rent, or praying that the big meeting with restaurant investors will pull through. I’ve been there. But there’s one thing that makes me a little bit different: my Chef and I are divorcing.

It all happened very quickly. One day I was engaged, then married, and then the D-word happened.  There’s so many reasons why this decision happened — people divorce for multiple reasons after all but I would be lying if I said the restaurant industry wasn’t a part of it; it wasn’t because I couldn’t deal with his lifestyle or hours — I just couldn’t deal with someone who couldn’t put me or us first. The us part was so severe that we never celebrated an anniversary, not even our first wedding anniversary. On our first wedding anniversary, I had a bottle of champagne signed by 20 of our closest relatives in my lap while I sat alone at home in tears. A “make-up” celebration didn’t even happen because of the restaurant. The restaurant was more important than our relationship. But he doesn’t deserve all the blame. I played my role too.

Our relationship started out strong: a rom-com like story of how it all began, an unexplainable chemistry. We were both passionate about our careers and we supported each other as much as we could. At one point, I felt like we could conquer anything and take over the world because we complimented each other so well. Knowing what his goals were as a chef, I was always behind him 100%. Eventually, I was so focused on him because I wanted him to succeed in New York so much. Gradually, I forgot about my needs and wants shortly before he started forgetting what mine were. Overtime, our lives were so deeply entwined but my voice was almost non-existent and I had lost myself. Perhaps I was so too immersed in the New York City restaurant culture (the gossip!). Perhaps my competitive spirit clouded my own ambitions. Perhaps I wanted the fairy tale to work out — in the dream world, he would have his restaurant and I would visit him with our two chubby toddlers before dinner service so we could work on our cookbook. But now, I can’t tell if that was his dream or mine now because our priorities were skewed and had been so for so long.

While both of us had accomplished our original goals in New York (I finished graduate school and he had opened a restaurant in Manhattan as Executive Chef), our ambitions were stronger than our love for each other. One of the core elements of a loving relationship is having a supportive presence. In the early stages of our relationship, I always “understood” why he had to work late and why he couldn’t come to an event with me (work or personal). In retrospect, I should’ve pushed for that “me”-time in the beginning. If I did, I wondered, would we have celebrated a wedding anniversary? Would we have even celebrated an anniversary while we were dating? Who knows.

Do I regret being married to a chef? Nope. I learned a lot from it. Not just about being married to the industry but just marriage in general. Once the legal steps started, I learned a lot about myself too – about what I needed and what I wanted. There’s one thing that I have to thank him for though: if it weren’t for him, I may not have re-discovered my love for food or pursued my current career path. In fact, I would have never continued my career in food if it weren’t for him, divorce or no divorce.

Connect w/ Annie on  Twitter and Instagram

On being Married to a Chef with Children

January 20, 2012 in Family, Life


Ask and you shall receive, right? I don’t know about you but I feel SO much better after reading Hilarys take on what it’s like being Married to a Chef with Children. I knew it was going to be challenging, that I would inevitably be the primary caretaker, but it’s SO good to know that the answer is finding what works for each couple, when times get tough.  I LOVE what she said about:

” Being married to a chef is hard enough without children. Having children is hard enough without being married to a chef. Combine the two and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of work.”

SO insightful. It’s amazing to me to see how similar we other halves are… PURPOSEFUL, STRONG and RESILENT… almost like we could carry the world if we knew had to.

Well, you are in for a treat. We have another wife and mama’s take on what it’s like… well, you know. I am receiving so much guidance in her wise words. I have a feeling you’ll end up feeling as empowered as I did.

Married to a Chef … With Children

by Gretchen Alfonso of GastroMami

I met my husband Reny during my last year of college.  I was bartending my way through school & he had just arrived in Memphis to take the helm of a nationally acclaimed restaurant.  He was cute, talented, covered in tattoos, completely full of himself & I was smitten.  After dating my way through the classic “bad boys,” mostly musicians and bartenders, I had found my ultimate man:  a badass in the kitchen who worked hard, played hard & loved hard.   I went to school in the mornings while he slept, we both worked 5-6 nights a week followed by drinking, eating & dancing our way through every juke joint and blues club in town.  Life was grand.

Fast-forward to 2008 and I caught the “Yes We Can” bug, heading to Pennsylvania to work a congressional campaign.  You see, with a chef as my partner, my “wild & crazy” idea to move 800 miles away for 6 months in order to work 80 hours a week didn’t seem all that “wild & crazy.”  The thing about insane work hours & exhaustion, however, is that one can let some important stuff slide and ‘well hello there double blue lines!’  Our son Reinaldo came in May 2009 and to say that he rocked our world (in a good way) is an understatement!  About 22 months later Fiona arrived on the scene.

Our life with children isn’t all that different from our life before:  we are up at all hours of the night, someone is always hungry, work never seems to stop and occasionally we have an out of control ‘customer’ that needs to take a seat & have a glass of water or he will need to leave (or go in timeout as it were).  The main difference is that, instead of us both working & playing together I am home, alone, much of the time – and that has not been the easiest of transitions.

It is difficult for me to put into words what is so hard about this lifestyle, with kids.  Is it the long hours or the weekend events alone?  Is it the fact that even when he is home he is usually sleeping?  Do I regret that I often turn down playgroups because they are almost always at 10am and that is his time with the kids or that all his time at home is taken up by two children who love him but what about me, his wife?  Do I look at other dads on New Year’s Eve and mourn the fact that my husband isn’t there to watch his 8 month old daughter as she is mesmerized watching fireworks for the first time or regret that he isn’t there for our nightly “get the wiggles out,” post-bath, naked-babies dance party?

There is a lot that is hard, really super-duper hard, about having a chef as my parenting partner but there are also a lot of really great things:

  • We get to go to the zoo, to the aquarium & museums in the morning, during the week, when no one else is there!
  • My husband is able to enjoy our children at their best time of day – early in the morning!  Granted, he is usually half asleep but the joy & love they have between the hours of 7-9am is unbeatable!
  • Reny & Fiona’s father makes a mean breakfast!  They want challah French toast with slivered almonds & macerated berries on a Thursday?  No problem!
  • When our babies are little I can pump a bottle before bed and “Dada” willingly takes the 1am feeding (because he is just getting home), thus granting a very tired Mama 4 solid hours of much-needed sleep
  • Jars of baby food?  Ha! – not in this house!  My kids were eating curried lentils & roasted squash while their playground companions were stuck with nasty-smelly “chicken dinner” & “pureed peas”
  • My  son’s favorite food is “pulpo” (octopus) & my 8-month old daughter just chowed down on some duck & rabbit goulash … picky eaters?  I don’t think so!
  • When we do get a date night Reny & I dine like we are part of the 1% and pay like we are below the poverty line

There are a lot of really difficult moments of parenting with a chef & there are a lot of really good moments.  We have also made some huge changes in our relationship over the past 2 ½ years:

My husband wakes up with the kids at least 5 days a week. Ouch, right?  This schedule started when I used to wait up for my husband to come home from work, usually around 11pm (at his old job); the deal was that if I waited up to see him, he would wake up with Ren since it was usually at least 1am before we rolled to bed together.  Now he has a new restaurant that keeps him at work later but he still wakes up and does breakfast & gets the kids dressed while I spend some much-needed alone time in bed!

We moved closer to my family. My parents are still a 7 hour drive from Philadelphia but the fact is that I CAN drive it, ALONE, with 2 kids instead of (from Memphis) taking 2 flights ($$) alone, with kids.  This means I can travel home for weddings, long weekends, ski trips & holidays and my husband can still fly, drive, or Megabus it, to meet us for part of the trip, if his schedule allows.  We also have relatives in NYC, DC & Baltimore if I need a quick hand!

Family comes before the restaurant. This seems like a no-brainer but sometimes chefs get so wrapped up in the restaurant, their staff & the customers.  I understand that it is a huge stress to run a restaurant and know that your staff of 50+ depends on you for their, and their family’s, livelihood & that each and every customer can make, or break, the restaurant that your chef so loves.   It has taken years of communication but Reny understands that our family comes firstIf I absolutely, desperately need help – he comes home. Granted, Reny is Executive Chef so he can always leave knowing he has the most capable sous chefs, and believe me, I know I am lucky in that ability.  I suffered from horrible post-partum depression after the birth of Fiona & was grateful that his schedule was flexible enough to give me, and our family, the time & extra set of hands we so desperately needed.

I hire a sitter so I can have adult time. I don’t have a husband to stay home with the kids so I can go to dinner with friends or attend book club so I hire a sitter – without feeling guilty! We budget that extra expense every month so I don’t feel isolated or “stuck” at home.

I don’t work outside of the home. As both a woman that loves to be busy & a feminist this is very hard for me but not having a job outside of our home is what works best for us, for now.  Since I am home with the kids we can be available for my husband whenever he is free.  The schedule is different this week and he is off on Wednesday instead of Monday?  Fine.  He’s out picking meat up from the market and wants to meet us at the nearby coffee shop for hot chocolate?  We can be there.  He’s working a double?  We pack up a lunch and have a picnic in the bar lounge.  I know that this flexibility is not forever, especially once our kids are in school, so we enjoy the moments together now and I will re-enter the workforce in the future.  He is a chef, however, with a paycheck to match, so we sacrifice & save to make it work but it does work, for us, for now.

I am going to be honest that there are times when my heart aches and I miss my husband and our children’s father; there are times that I am so overwhelmed and resentful of his job that I simultaneously burst into tears and call him to bitch and complain and vent.  There are also times when I am so eternally grateful that the passionate, fun-loving, badass of a 26 year old has turned into the most passionate, fun-loving, badass of a father that any kids could wish for.


Gretchen Alfonso is a stay at home mom to Reny, 2 & Fiona, 9 months.  Her husband, Reny, is the Executive Chef at Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, PA.  She spends her free time writing about her culinary & parenting adventures at GastroMami & volunteering as a “spokesmom” for The Clean Air Council and Sierra Club of Southeastern PA.  Gretchen loves exploring her new city, its museums & restaurants with her family.  An avid runner, eater & nature-lover, she and her husband work on instilling a healthy love & respect for food, and its origins, in their children.