The Best Seat in the House
There are many downsides to having a professional cook for a boyfriend. He comes home at 3 in the morning every night, leaving you ample time to cuddle alone and imagine him being mugged at the Utica station when he falls asleep in the C train. He is paid like a suburban babysitter. Sometimes his knives fall out of his bag in the rare taxi rides on which you collectively can manage to afford, slicing you across the hip. He touches you with fingers that have recently been slipping the seeds out of hot chilis, and you get hives. But there are a few perks, and one of them is that you get to know, through him, other cooks, and these other cooks go to other restaurants, and through a series of small-scale professional diasporas, there are now a handfull of restaurants where you can go and feel like family.
The perk aspect here has nothing to do with swag, with free drinks or dishes, but has everything to do with the singular experience of being friends with a cook in his own restaurant. Of course, there is the pride you feel at seeing your boyfriend's peers, now your friends, take on a new place, or even take the helm of a place. But more than that, it's admission into his side of the fray: on the stormy seas of clattering pans, sundry staff, loss and profit, bar and bathroom, you and he are in one industry-forged little boat, together. For him, years of long nights, of falling asleep on the train and getting mugged, of having his knives slip out of his bag or of burning his girlfriend's skin, have earned him the ability to make these gestures of generosity to whomever he chooses, and you sit on the receiving end, a concentrated extraction of pure gratitude.