If you’re wining and dining that special someone, do it like a Michelin-starred chef. Below, nine hopelessly romantic culinary masters dish on how they found love at first bite. Yes, edible flowers are sometimes involved. Either way, you’ll want to take notes.
Massimo Bottura (and wife Lara Gilmore)
Chef and owner of Osteria Francescana
Massimo Bottura: The meal I made that won over my spouse was a velvety artichoke soup. She remembers this soup very well.
Lara Gilmore: We met in 1993 while working at Cafe di Nonna in Soho, when Michelin stars were a distant dream…
MB: She had mentioned that she loved artichokes. She told me that her mother steamed them and served them with mayonnaise, à la Julia Child. I wanted to make her an Italian take on artichokes with a touch of Modena.
LG: He crushed the leaves and creamed the hearts to make an intense artichoke puree served with a touch of extra old balsamic vinegar. Unforgettable. I still remember it. The spiny artichoke had become soft, enveloping and welcoming. He never made it again.
MB: She has asked me to re-make it but I never have. I know that if I made it again it will never be as special as the first time. The first impression you make only once.
LG: It was love in the form of a creamy soup. Years later, on my 40th birthday, Massimo prepared another soup to commemorate the first.
Massimo: This time it was a minimalist version of Escargots Bourguignonne in a white monochrome. The inspiration for the soup was a walk we had taken the weekend before along the Apennines after a heavy snow. The sun shone bright and the snow was melting before our eyes. As we walked the earth, the small plants and creatures below seemed to come to life.
This soup was a reconstruction of the “earth” in 15 layers of ingredients, one on top of the other. Above them sat the snails in parsley and butter with a garlic foam, white as snow, covering the whole bowl. I thought about all our years together and the secrets we shared like the snow-covered earth. I wanted to recreate metaphorical layers of flavor and mark the passing of time. When she ate the soup she said, “It’s like falling in love for the second time.”
Chef and owner of Villard Michel Richard
“How I won my wife over: It was with Cristal! When we first started dating (she was a beautiful girl who worked in my pastry shop), I took her to a wine shop that was having a champagne tasting. It was the first time she had champagne, and she fell in love with it. Being the creative guy that I am, I thought, This is a perfect opportunity for her to fall in love with moi aussi.”
Chef and Owner of Melisse
“I met my wife Diane in the early ’90s while we were both working in the kitchen at Patina. Diane was on the pastry line while I was on the savory. After late nights at the restaurant, I would whip up a simple chicken soup for Diane that I knew she loved. I would dice up fresh vegetables to add to the broth and serve it with fresh cilantro and avocado. The dish was easy to make on the fly, fresh and comforting.”
“Back in early 1998, Quinn and I had been together for a couple of months and he had me over to his Hollywood apartment and cooked me a roast chicken and artichoke gratin. This meal is still one of our most memorable meals to date. Not only was it super delicious, but we got a visit from the downstairs neighbor midway though the evening. Apparently Quinn had put some of the artichoke leaves down the garbage disposal and it had backed up into his unit. Whoops!”