It’s often said that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, and there’s something really vulnerable about cooking for someone. You’re spending your time and energy in hopes of making that special someone feel nourished and cared for. And hey, cooking is a skill!
All of that makes choosing what to serve a new SO for the first time challenging. Not only is it hard to predict what someone will like, but the whole cooking process is unpredictable, too. No one is immune to the occasional #foodfail.
Here, nine people in the wellness space get real about exactly what went down the first time they cooked for their significant other. From what they decided to make to how it was actually received, the stories are both heartwarming and inspiring. Ready for a little dose of food romance?
1. “We still make it three years later”
Registered dietitian and Well+Good Wellness Council member McKel Hill, RDN, went big with the first meal she made with her now-husband. “We were about a month into dating and we made curry-baked tofu, red peppers with fresh parsley, lemon, and olive oil. We also made a massaged kale salad with nutritional yeast, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and dill,” she says, adding that they ended their meal with some store-bought coconut milk ice-cream.
Ambitious as the dish was, it turned out awesome, Hill recalls. “It was perfect for so many reasons,” says Hill. “We still make that meal often!”
2. “I wanted to make her something special”
Celebrity chef and Charley St. restaurant co-founder Dan Churchill says his go-to meal to make people is usually spaghetti bolognese, but he decided to switch things up when he cooked for his girlfriend Milena for the first time. “She’s just as into health and wellness as I am, and I wanted to make her something special,” says Churchill. He landed on making a juicy chicken breast, watercress salad, and hummus.
“The chicken breast is something I love making due to its simplicity and flavor, as well as it being super nutritious,” he explains. Churchill also likes that it’s a super collaborative dish, so his girlfriend was able to get in on the action, too. “It’s a great one to have a helping hand for,” he says.
3. “It definitely didn’t go as planned”
When Rumble boxing instructor Julian Devine set out to make breakfast for his girlfriend, Christina, also a Rumble instructor, let’s just say the morning took a turn. “It definitely didn’t go as planned,” says Devine. “I was going to impress her by making breakfast and chose scrambled eggs. Easy, right? In my head I was thinking this is my moment to show her that I can handle being in the kitchen. I grabbed the eggs, threw the pan on the stove, turned the burner on, and the worst possible thing happened… I forgot how to do everything.” He says he’d gotten so used to ordering takeout instead of cooking that even the simple act of cooking eggs totally threw him off.
“I looked Christina dead in the eyes with the pan smoking in the background and said, ‘I forgot, do you put butter or oil on the pan for your eggs?’ She looked at me, laughed and said, ‘Move aside, Devine!’ and ended up making what had to be the best eggs I had in a long time.” That was the moment, Devine says, he decided to start cooking more. “It wasn’t my finest moment, but it turned me into a finer man,” he says. “I became obsessed with learning how to cook, from grilling to baking.”
4. “It was pretty nerve-wracking”
Even though My Drunk Kitchen host Hannah Hart has built her career through her skills in the kitchen (including a new cookbook out this fall), she says she was super nervous to make something for her fiancée Ella for the first time. “It was pretty nerve-wracking,” she says. “That’s why I went for a simple pasta dish. Pasta is easy enough and can even include some prep time spent together. Who doesn’t love some sexy banter over chopping chives!”
Together, they spiced up the easy dish so that it was full of flavor. “The recipe for my go-to pasta is heavy on the garlic,” says Hart. “It’s not great for kissing, but great for tasting!”
5. “I remember being so pleased with myself”
Kathy Patalsky’s site, Healthy. Happy. Life., has an extensive library of impressive recipes, but the first time she made something for her husband, she decided to keep it simple. “I’m pretty sure the first thing I ever made for my husband was chocolate chip cookies,” she says. “I can remember baking them and being so pleased with myself when he immediately gobbled up two cookies.”
Patalsky says after putting out the plate, she went to work on something else and when she came back to the kitchen a short time later to put the cookies away, two more were gone. “This was the first time I realized I could not leave my husband alone with freshly baked cookies! But on the flip side, I’m so glad he loves them,” she says.
Want to try your hand at chocolate chip cookies? This delicious grain-free recipe is to die for:
6. “He barely touched what I made him”
Food You Want: For the Life You Crave author and The Flexible Chef creator Nealy Fischer remembers exactly what she made her husband for the first time. “On the night after our wedding, as we settled into our modest NYC apartment, I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner. He thought about it for longer than normal and finally settled on eggplant Parmesan.”
Fischer says she was excited about cooking him his favorite meal, calling her mom for their family recipe and spent all hours frying, breading, layering, and baking the big, cheesy dish. “When dinner came around, Seth barely touched his serving,” says Fischer. “When I asked him why he confessed, ‘I don’t even like eggplant Parmesan, it just sounded like the hardest thing to make. I thought I’d test your cooking skills.’ We had eggplant Parmesan in the freezer for the first year of our marriage!”
7. “His response was rapturous”
Domesticate-Me blogger Serena Wolf’s husband is essentially the inspo for her cookbooks, The Dude Diet and The Dude Diet Dinnertime, and she still remembers the very first meal she made for him.”It was a ridiculously indulgent bacon mac and cheese,” she says. “I was between terms at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, we were still in the early courtship phase, and I wanted to make something that incorporated all of what I’d discerned to be his favorite things: cheese, carbs, and bacon.”
As you can imagine, he was very into it. “His response to that mac and cheese was rapturous, and it’s become the target reaction for all of my cooking—Dude Diet and otherwise—in the years since,” says Wolf. While her recipes now tend to be on the healthier side, she still aims for that exact same reaction. (Though she says she still makes that OG creamy, buttery, bacon-y mac from time to time.)
8. “We were in college—which is before I started cooking regularly”
Even before her Love & Lemons website and cookbooks were an idea in her mind, healthy foodie Jeanine Donofrio was seeking out ways to cook plant-forward meals for people she cared about. “I’ve been with my husband since college, which was well before I started cooking regularly,” she says. “He tells me that the first thing I made for him was a frozen veggie burger!” Some of her other early cooking-for-him memories include veggie lasagna and black bean tacos with mango salsa. And he’s been her collaborator and taste-tester ever since.
9. “I made my mom’s spaghetti”
When Sweat trainer Kelsey Wells cooked for her now-husband for the first time, she made the one meal she knew she couldn’t mess up: her mom’s spaghetti. “I made garlic toast and Caesar salad to go with it and served it to him on the little card table in my tiny college apartment,” she says. “He still remembers it well!”
Join Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook group for more fun food talk. And if you’re looking for something to make your significant other, the Well+Good Cookbook is full of yummy ideas.
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