Creating Romantic Evenings

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 14, 2007
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Cheryl Gomez
Cheryl Gomez

If you work in the restaurant industry, you work when everyone else stays home, or, as in the case of Valentine’s night, when everyone else goes out. The National Retail Foundation reports that American consumers spend $14 billion in February, celebrating love and romance - a hefty portion of that total on dining out.

But don’t you wonder when the people who create romantic evenings get time to have one for themselves?

Chef Mavro is the chef/owner of arguably one of the most romantic restaurants in the country. Named as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world last year by Fodor’s, Mavro’s attention to romantic detail is not confined to the kitchen.

“Chef wanted the lighting in the restaurant to be very subtle,” says Donna Jung, Mavro’s wife and business partner, “because he thinks that women should always look beautiful when they dine.”

Did I mention that chef is French? In any case, Chef Mavro has been booked solidly on Feb. 14 for months, and says he can’t remember the last time he spent a romantic night in a restaurant.

“It’s romantic though, because when I go home my wife will have picked up poke, prosciutto, smoked salmon, pate, charcuteries, a selection of French cheeses, country bread, mochi ice cream and a bottle of Champagne Rose, and even though I come home after midnight half dead, I know I will be welcomed by a candlelit table and soft music.”

He assures me that he always manages to recover enough energy to enjoy his favorite treats.

Bill Tobin, the owner of Tiki’s Grill and Bar and the soon-to-open Holokai Grill in Waikiki, is content to count his blessings with small celebrations - after the event.

“A chocolate soufflé at Roy’s, Hawaii Kai or dinner at the counter at Alan Wong’s anytime after Valentine’s Day is romantic for me,” he says.

But how do the ladies of the industry fare on this, the most romantic night of the year?

Alex Kirley is the regional director of marketing for Desert Island Restaurants, and with a new Ruth’s Chris scheduled to open next month in Waikiki, she’s “enjoying” her busiest year ever. Alex doesn’t remember the last time she had a romantic evening out.

“For me, nowadays it’s all about taking time to be home when I can and take care of my two boys - my husband and our son, Matthew.”

Cheryl Gomez is the general manager at Hiroshi’s and Vino, both beautifully romantic restaurants in their own right. She’s used to never celebrating a holiday at home.

“When you’ve spent years in this business, you just get used to the fact that you’re never home for the holidays,” she says, with her ever-present smile. She’ll be guiding customers through the romantic menu at Hiroshi’s on Valentine’s night and then celebrating afterward with her beau, Chuck Furuya.

“Being in the restaurant business we are rarely free to enjoy sunset, so the hope of seeing a green flash as the sun goes down and being near the ocean at dusk with Chuck is my idea of a romantic moment.” (Chuck’s hot romantic wine pick, by the way, is a bottle of Diebolt Vallois Brut).

And over at one of the world’s most romantic destinations, food and beverage director Sabine Glissmann will be working to make sure that romance comes up to the level of her guests’ expectations. Afterward, though, she’ll take some time to celebrate.

“We all have such hectic lives in this industry, just taking time out of that routine and spending an evening with a loved one is pretty special and romantic,” she says.

As you’re enjoying dinner on the town tonight, spare a thought for our friends in the food and beverage industry who make it all possible.

Happy eating!

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