Inspiration

What It's Like To Date Chef Bruce Ricketts

Preview magazine's Jae De Veyra Pickrell shares what it's like to date one of Manila's most in demand chefs, Bruce Ricketts.
IMAGE Roy Macam
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An editor of a food journal once remarked a lot of English Lit people who want to become cooks because they love to eat, but most of them fail. Indeed, a sedentary sensibility prone to losing itself in the vast imaginary lands of books has no place in the cramped, volatile confines of a kitchen. So I did one better: I decided to date a chef. The extent of my culinary talent is a deep appreciation of the fine labors of others, and Bruce certainly has made a fine job out of his passion.

“You’re so lucky!” is a comment I hear often. “He must always cook for you at  home.” Yes, I am lucky, I gush in return, but no, Bruce doesn’t always cook for me at home—he rarely is home. It does sound fun, so glamorous, to seemingly have a chef at your beck and call, but the sad truth is that chefs work harder than anybody else in the service industry, and consequently have less time for themselves and their loved ones. I didn’t know it then, but by agreeing to be Bruce’s girlfriend, I was relinquishing date nights, romantic holidays, and Valentine’s Day. Birthdays and anniversaries have to be planned around busy restaurant nights, and since he’s often too preoccupied strategizing how to best attack a peculiar ingredient, boxing  in the gym to battle the obvious calorie-laden hazards of his job, or waging war, not with the kitchen’s tumult but the hypernerdy world of Starcraft, guess who’s left to take care of herself on special occasions?

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Why is it worth it? It’s not just for easy access to my favorite kama toro, or outlandish dishes-in-progress we fondly call “girlfriend specials” that make it to Mecha Uma’s tasting menus. In the same way that I fell for Bruce, I have also become enchanted with being the closest witness to his creative evolution. One of the fondest memories I have of our courtship—an anecdote Bruce tells often—was automatically swatting his hand as he dunked uni in soy sauce, a horrified “And you call yourself a chef?!” written all over my face. Once I got over my incredulity, I ordered ankimo, engawa, and fugu karaage for him to try, and ever since, he has been besting me with increasingly esoteric ingredients and complex, ingeniously composed dishes that he drops even faster than I can greedily inhale them from the table.

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In the rare, precious times we are both lazing at home, I indulge in my thrilling page-turners while he watches YouTube tutorials about Japanese culinary methods—say, the traditional technique of ikejime, which is of course narrated in Japanese, which he doesn’t speak but tries to understand anyway. YouTube is a goldmine for him, a millennial’s vocational instructor. Instead of watching Modern Family with me, he watches the anime series Cooking Master Boy—he fancies himself the real-life equivalent of the young chef Mao. What for our peers pass off as pastimes always becomes a means for learning more about his craft. Bruce, though, is never pedantic about it; he seeks to learn in the same casual manner anyone would tuck into a favorite hobby.


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From the day we were set up, when he name-dropped Thomas Keller and I volleyed by eating isaw and drinking Red Horse in my stilettos, Bruce has come so far. And it has only been four years. Such exciting culinary evolution only deserves to be deeply appreciated, and as Bruce’s fiance, I can do that unreservedly. It’s really an unfair bonus.

This story was first published in the June 2015 issue of Town&Country.

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Jae De Veyra Pickrell for Preview.ph
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