Conversations

What It’s Like to Date A Chef: Gab Bustos and Thea de Rivera

June 4, 2015

The life of a chef is as difficult as you think—it takes tireless hours, never-ending stress, and maybe even a bit of your soul. We are by no means relationship experts, but we can only imagine that dating a chef could have more challenges than you’d expect. For this short series on Pepper, we’ve interviewed 3 couples in the industry, and asked them the tough and fun questions about their relationship and just exactly how they get things done.

Today, we have Gab Bustos and Thea Rivera of Girl and the Bull and 12/10, two creative young minds behind restaurants whose buzz seems to have no signs of quieting down. Gab is the force behind the kitchen, churning out reinterpreted classics at their BF space, and modern Japanese small plates in their hip joint along Guijo. Thea, an unmistakable, eclectic character mans front of house, in charge of a young service team that is one of its kind in Manila. Here, we ask them how they separate their relationship from work, and how their roles as chef and manager affect their lives together.

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How long have you guys been together? Can you tell us the story of how the both of you got together?

Thea: We’ve been together three years and five months.

Gab: We had a common friend in college, when Thea was studying in Ateneo, who wanted to do a short film. And then yun, she cast the both of us. Dapat kaming dalawa yung sa film. And then the film never pushed through pero—

But you guys pushed through?

T: I seriously think that was Gab’s plan, parang “pretend may film para I get to meet her.”

Is it easier or harder to maintain your relationship because you work together? Some people would say that working with family in restaurants never turns out well; is it so in your case?

T: Well, I guess in the beginning it made our relationship stronger because we were able to work with our strengths and weaknesses. Like, I knew how to handle Gab’s stress, and he knew how to handle mine, so parang we got to know each other more.

G: We balance out each other.

T: But right now, what we recently realized was that it’s actually harder—or more of a challenge—to maintain the relationship because we’re together everyday. We talk about work everyday, so when we try to take a step back and look at our personal relationship, we realize that there’s actually more effort needed to nourish that part, because most of the time, we’re talking about work.

G: Work has become our life, in a way. So yeah, I guess it’s easier and harder at the same time. To be honest, our dates are super messed up already. We have dates in the afternoon, or super late at night after service, so parang yung relationship stuff na ganon, the stuff couples do, we don’t really have time for that. But, I guess work-wise, it’s a lot easier kasi we work best with each other. We know na our strengths and our weaknesses. Personally, ako I’m not very good at talking to people, but she is. Parang for some reason, it’s always like one of us is stressed? For some reason, parang ang galing lang na when she’s stressed, I’m in control. When I’m stressed, she’s in control.

So, is it hard to stop working when you guys have time alone?

G: Yes, never siyang nag-ooff, I guess.

T: I guess any entrepreneur would say na as long as you own and run a business, wala. It never ends.

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How do you maintain a balance between working together and your life together? As you were saying, it kind of bleeds into each other a bit, so you don’t know if it’s work or if it’s about you guys. How do you maintain a balance between that?

T: I think it’s not anymore about balancing. It’s like, a single thing already [the work and personal relationship], so you really can’t pinpoint anymore which one is personal, which one is work. I guess, with regards to our personal and work ethic with the significant other, we just try to make sure that there’s still respect, there’s still understanding. Yun nga, we’re sensitive to each other, when he looks too stressed and all that.

G: And yun nga, it’s become normal, like sometimes our staff would get awkward na parang biglang may naglalandian diyan sa gilid (laughs).

T: Or if we’re really having a big fight they would all be like, “okay…”

G: Oh, it’s funny there was a time before, wala pang 12/10, nagsisigawan kami ni Thea, and like automatically the staff just knows. Nagsisigawan lang kami sa loob, and then we look outside and like “Oh, shit.” So really, it’s not like you can pinpoint na parang “Oh work tayo ngayon,” parang ganon.

Thea, what are the pros of dating a chef?

T: Of course, you get to eat a lot! Well, I’m always the first to try dishes. It’s mostly that, like when you label it as me dating a chef, of course it would have to be related to food, right? So, I think that would be the biggest pro: me being the first one to try whatever he comes up with. Kwento lang, I guess the common misconception though is that, well for me at least, dating a chef would mean like your boyfriend cooking for you all the time. But no, because outside work he would never want to cook because he would like to rest, or he’d just rather have dates outside.

G: Well, we’ll see. Who knows. We’re actually planning on getting our own place soon, so we’ll see what happens when we have to cook na talaga outside work.

T: Well, I guess another pro would be being introduced to a lot of different ingredients I never knew before. I get to be more adventurous when it comes to food, or like when we eat out, my palate becomes more cultured in a way.

Are there any cons?

T: Yeah, amoy isda siya palagi. Amoy kitchen. Laging madumi apron niya. Basa yung towel, ganon. Pag- ihuhug ko siya basa, or amoy isda. Just kidding! None.

How about you Gab? Have you ever brought inspiration from your relationship into the kitchen?

G: Food-wise, we have a lot. For me, Thea is the number one. Parang whenever I would come up with a dish, if it’s not Thea-approved, I question myself. Like, this is your significant other, it has to be. I mean, first, we have to be proud of it, na parang you’re confident about it. Pero, it happens a lot more when your partner is also proud of the things you do.

So, always when we do something, palagi yung reason is yung staff alam na pag may mga times na Thea’s not around, and then biglang dadating si Thea and naubos na, and I would be like “Sorry.” Like ako, always, when Thea has an idea, sige I’ll make it happen. If that’s something we want, sige let’s see how we can play with that idea. So yun, even naman ako, well I guess in the kitchen, pwede namang we’re front of the house. Also, lalo na ako very OC, so marami rin, marami rin kaming inputs sa isa’t- isa.

Is it true when they say that the front of the house and the kitchen never get along in restaurants? How do you guys bridge that without having it affect your relationship?

G: For us, that’s one of our strengths. Ako, I super understand na yung front- back relationship is super essential. Wala eh, front of the house, that’s your name and frontline. The kitchen will want to do something, we wanna do things our way, pero at the end of the day, sila yung humaharap sa customers and take all the shit. Kung may complaints, it’s them who would take them all. Pero, I guess from us, since it’s me and Thea, we already have our way of doing things na minsan service is a lot smoother when both of us are working kasi parang we have our way na of communicating with each other. Kaya for us, at the end of the day, siya yung totoong boss.

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T: No, ‘cause at the end of the day, it’s the customers who are paying right? So, sometimes we can only do so much to make the kitchen more comfortable, but if the customer is being really difficult, wala eh, wala ka nang magagawa. At the same time, ‘cause a lot of people ask “So how do you do if you have two restaurants?” Yun nga, like what Gab mentioned, we have this way sometimes, parang we’re just gonna look at each other and know something’s wrong. So, parang we work best talaga when we’re together. We tried it before, like somedays sa BF, Wednesdays here para it’s always, not naman a disaster, but it’s always not the way we want things to go.

G: It also saves other staff, the other members, from the stress. Kasi, if there’s a problem, then it’s me and Thea, kung kailangan man magsigawan, it’s me and Thea, at least it’s not one staff member from the front and another staff member from the back. At least sila, you guys focus on your work, we’ll handle this.

T: And I guess, the reason why some people have that saying is because they’re not in a relationship like ours. Because me and Gab, we know that at the end of the day, what happens in service stays in service. ‘Pag nagsigawan kami, we know that we just want the best for the restaurant. Sometimes, kunwari si Gab masigawan niya yung isang staff, we know it’s for work and we know when to not take things personally.

What’s your take on Gab’s and Thea’s chef + restaurant manager relationship? Who would you like to see next featured in this series? Sound off with a comment below!

Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez

Pamela Cortez writes about food full-time, and has honed her craft while writing for publications such as Rogue, Town and Country, and The Philippine Star. She once rode on a mule for a mile just to eat mint tea and lamb in Morocco, and has eaten a block of Quickmelt in one sitting. Her attempt at food photography can be viewed online @meyarrr.

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1 comments in this post SHOW

One response to “What It’s Like to Date A Chef: Gab Bustos and Thea de Rivera”

  1. Volts Sanchez says:

    In any good restaurant, front of the house and the kitchen have to be perfectly in sync for the dining experience to be optimal. Factors such as pushing, pacing and timing cannot be done by one side alone.

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