An illustration of a white handsome chef with brown hair in an a naturalwine bottle, bag of coke, hunk of meat- all the size of his head.
Illustration: Esme Blegvad

Introducing: The Dickhead Chef Boyfriend

Are their knife skills hot? Yes. Will they drag you down to Hell’s kitchen and then say they’re not looking for anything serious? You bet.

You get to his place after a long shift, and he’s made pasta from scratch. He pours you a glass of red wine that you could never afford to buy yourself – he got it free from work, because he remembered how much you loved it the last time you came in. He ladles a rich ragu over the pasta. While you eat, he cracks jokes about all the regulars at his restaurant and the elaborate dietary requests he had to deal with the night before, and then you have the best sex of your life. Perhaps you let out a “yes chef” in the heat of the moment.


Some fantasy, right? Because, come on, we all know it wouldn’t actually go down like that. Chefs make great on-screen characters, but great boyfriends? Not so much.

Sorry to the yearners and dreamers, but I’m here to bring us back to earth. For months now, pop culture has been in the grip of chef mania. We’ve been too busy reposting photos of Anthony Bourdain and ogling Jeremy Allen White’s bulging abs and invisible belly button to remember that, in real life, anger issues and coke habits aren’t that cute. Certainly not as cute as the cute waitress your Dickhead Chef Boyfriend is undoubtedly shagging behind your back after every lock-in.

Why Do Men Keep Fingering Food?

Look, I know the coke-addled, top-shagger, shouty chef is a stereotype that's been hanging around since Marco Pierre White got everyone white hot under the collar back in the 90s. But it’s a stereotype for a reason, folks: Dickhead Chef Boyfriends are very real and they walk among us, covered in stick and poke tattoos, talking about Topjaw and Thomas Straker, and asking for “just one more bump”. And with all the hoo-ha around “chef daddies” recently, they’re only getting more powerful.

Are their knife skills hot? Yes. Is their unbridled passion for new flavour combinations alluring? Sure. Will they drag you down to Hell’s Kitchen and then say they’re not really looking for anything serious? You bet.


“I've erased most of it due to trauma,” says 29-year-old Jen, of her experience with a Dickhead Chef Boyfriend in the wild. (Jen’s name has been changed for privacy reasons, as have the names of all the interviewees in this story.) Now, she wants to warn others from repeating her mistakes. “He didn't seem to shower much despite being in greasy kitchens. Coke was more important than hygiene,” she declares. “Saying they can't afford new clothes or to go out for dinner but buys a bag in a blink,” she continues, adding that her old chef paramour used any excuse he could think of to pick up – including “to ‘cheer up a mate’.”

For Jen though, it wasn’t just the coke habit that bothered her, but the hypocrisy that came with it. “One time, we went to the pharmacy to get something for him and he winced at the price, which was literally nothing compared to coke costs,” she says. “He needed the medicine, but then started saying that he didn't trust what was in pharma drugs. I was like: You take coke.”

In the hands of a Dickhead Chef Boyfriend, all that glitters is not gold – it’s more likely a highly-calorific, glistening concoction of butter and MSG. “Bringing food home late at night was the bonus,” says Jen, “but you also ended up putting on weight, eating greasy food at midnight.” Evie, 30, had a slightly different experience – “They never cook for you because they are always tired and stressed,” she says.


Though, if you think this lack of cooking will save food from becoming a dating battleground, think again. Consider, for instance, the chef bf of one of my mates who had a habit of “going foraging for 'everything... then getting horrific food poisoning after,” or imagine coming home to find him “fermenting your fridge leftovers for a recipe experiment,” which happened to another innocent pal. Then, there’s the social pressure that comes with being a plus one in the hospitality scene. “For every social meet-up with their crew, you always have to bring something fancy,” says Sarah. “Ten quid tinned fish from the organic shop, a £50 quid bottle of fizzy 'low intervention wine' or else you look like a weirdo.”

The Revival of Grimy Drugs

Of course, that's if you even make it to the hangout. Because one trait is even more essential to the Dickhead Chef Boyfriend than foraging and getting the bag in, and that’s flakiness. To some extent, this is only natural – working unsociable hours is an innate part of the hospitality industry, after all. But, where the Dickhead Chef Boyfriend excels is in using the few hours he does have to drive you completely nuts.

“You only see them on a Sunday, but then they want to meet up with all their mates and get smashed down the pub,” as Chloe puts it. Which inevitably leads to “doing coke on a Sunday night,” says Mia, 28, adding her judgement that this is “lame”. Add to this the Friday and Saturday night lock-ins, “smashing natty wines till 5AM, then ruining the rest of the weekend you had planned together,” says Sophie (also 28), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.


“Disaster” might be too mild a word for 31-year-old Olivia’s Dickhead Chef Boyfriend story though. I’m calling her “Olivia” not just for her privacy, but for her safety, as the chef she dated was part of a notorious mafia family. “There's a Channel 5 documentary about them,” she says. But, good food and an undercurrent of violence is sexy, right girls!? Olivia didn’t let the mob connections put her off arranging a date. “He stood me up and when I asked him why, he told me he’d just found out his mum had died,” she says. “He then turned off his phone and went on a coke binge.”

On their next date – “Yes, I know, why did I go on another date,” she says – he casually mentioned he’d been on the phone to his mum. So, she wasn’t dead then? “He said, ‘Oh, yeah, apparently it was a joke’,” Olivia recalls. The worst part though? The restaurant he worked at is one of her current partner’s favourites. “So that’s awkward,” she says. “Also, he had smelly feet” – perhaps from the mandatory 24/7 Birkenstock comfort shoes?

Maybe the thing to take away from all this is that contemporary kitchen culture is not the best breeding ground for stable mental health, secure relationships or positive masculinity. It seems we haven’t quite moved on from the sweary-cokey kitchens of the 90s as much as we’d like to think, and the whole industry is still rife with people who crave the adrenaline rush of a frantic Friday night service. Or perhaps we have moved on, and the Dickhead Chef Boyfriend is actually a dying breed, albeit one that is most definitely burning and raving and not going gentle into that good night. Is there hope yet that Fantastic Chef Boyfriend may rise from the dickhead ashes?


“I've worked in kitchens on and off over the years and can confirm most people in there are mental,” Robyn, 27, tells me. “My former kitchen manager did gay porn on the side with his boyfriend, and my chef colleague would watch those videos, of his boss, on shift,” she says by way of an example. “But if you're sound with them, they're sound with you.”

Sometimes though, even this won’t cut it; not with the most dangerous of the Dickhead Chef type. Jaz, 31, used to work in an award-winning gastropub, and describes one of the head chefs there as “a complete cunt”. “He would rack up lines in the cellar to take throughout the night,” she recalls. “He would start off okay and progressively get more and more short-tempered. All of the teenage part-timers were terrified of him.”

One staff member was targeted more than the others. “He took a fancy to one of my friends,” Jaz says. “He would feed her endlessly in an attempt to woo her. She ended up putting on loads of weight and he told the guys that he was fattening her up so that she would lose confidence and sleep with him.” The culmination of his reign of terror happened on a quiet Sunday evening shift, when, as Jaz puts it, “he blocked her in the walk-in fridge – he was 6’5" and about 20 stone – dropped his trousers and tried to kiss her.”

“I've steered clear of chefs in my romantic life,” Robyn says finally, “because I know what I'd be getting myself into. I hooked up with one once,” she admits. “He told me he went to prison for armed robbery and when he got out, he worked in a kitchen where the KP stabbed another chef to death.” Suddenly those knife skills aren’t so hot after all…