BETHESDA – The best restaurants are booked weeks in advance of Valentine’s Day as sweethearts look forward to being wined and dined on the most romantic night of the year.
But there is one group of lovers who won’t be at the table — the chefs.
“If you work in a restaurant you end up hating it because you have to pull a double day,” said Yannick Cam, chef and owner of Bistro Provence in Bethesda.
Cam will spend 17 hours preparing and cooking classical French cuisine on Valentine’s Day. His wife of nearly 14 years, Susana, will be beside him managing the mob of customers that come in.
“The situation that we’re in, it’s very difficult for us to really enjoy it,” Susana Cam said.
They, like most chefs, will celebrate on a different day, although they admit sometimes they try to enjoy a bottle of wine after the swell of lovers dissipates.
Even Top Chefs have to work.
Bryan Voltaggio, runner-up in Bravo’s Top Chef in 2009, will spend the 14th cooking for a full house in his Frederick restaurant VOLT.
He and his wife of 17 years, Jennifer, see Valentine’s Day as a “floating holiday” and try to celebrate another night of the week.
“He always brings home flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries,” said Jennifer Voltaggio in an email. She spends the evening “cuddling” with their two children.
“I’m in the hospitality business so part of the holiday is to help others celebrate and that is the fun part. Of course you see others enjoying time with their loved ones and so it makes you think more about the time you could and should have,” Bryan Voltaggio said in an email.
“However that is usually quickly tabled by the fact that you have a full reservation book and a busy service.”
Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days for restaurants next to Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve; 70 million people spent the holiday wining and dining last year according to the National Restaurant Association.
“It’s great for business … We’re packed here Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” said Linwood Dame, chef and owner of Linwoods in Owings Mills.
Like most chefs, he’ll spend time with his wife, Ellen, on another weekend. After 25 years of marriage, he said they’ve gotten used to it.
“She’s very supportive. I think you need to have a spouse who understands the business, and that when other people are celebrating, we’re working,” Dame said.
Beginning chefs are often surprised and frustrated they have to miss holidays said Barbara Cullen, the director of marketing for L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg.
“We tell our students … if you think you’re going to have Valentine’s Day off, think again,” Cullen said. “When other people are celebrating, our people are working. Really hard.”