It’s Kind of a Funny Story: On Dating a Chef in New York
We talked to food industry vets Bobby Hellen and Eva Karagiorgas about how they met and why she broke her dating rule, just this once.
Haley Nahman: How did you meet?
Bobby Hellen, executive chef/co-owner of GG’s: It was on Governor’s Island. Huge summer event, everyone cooking outside. And you came by.
Eva: I was working on the marketing part of the event. He was one of the chefs, another person there that I was coordinating with. It wasn’t flirty or anything like that.
Bobby: Well, I asked you for your number…
Eva: Oh yeah, he asked me for my number! I remember being like, “Oh god, he doesn’t need my number right now. It’s not necessary!” I think I gave you the wrong one on purpose. This was before we got together – many years before.
Eva: That was the very first time we met. We both work in the food industry, so we crossed paths a few times after that too. He was just a contact of mine, we didn’t work super close. I thought he was cute though. I remember my coworker saying, “He’s cute, you should date him!” And I remember being like, “Nope! He’s a chef. Absolutely not.”
Bobby: She’s scared of the chef stigma.
Bobby: We lost contact for a while and then I had just gotten back to New York after being away for a few months and I ended up going to an event…
Eva: And I was there with my best friend Alex. I remember her pointing him out — she’s a great wing woman — and saying, “Oh, that guy’s cute.” I was like, “Oh yeah, whatever.” I never wanted to date in the industry, plus I didn’t recognize him instantly because I hadn’t seen him in like a year.
Bobby: I was in a suit, so I was definitely out of the element of working in a kitchen. I recognized her and came over and said hi.
Eva: You were very sweet. Kind of soft-spoken. You were like, “We should go have a drink and catch up.” I was in work mode so I gave you my business card. I had another event coming up, so I emailed him to invite him. Then he came with a guy friend of his, so I was like, “Hmm…” I wasn’t sure of his intentions.
Bobby: They were mixed, because I was kind of scoping out jobs, too.
Eva: I remember thinking, “Okay, so maybe he’s not dating somebody.” I was working the event so I was kind of floating — it was my job — and at one point you got me a drink and you were pretty flirty.
Bobby: And then you invited me to the afterparty, so I took my friend and it was such a small space. You were winding down with work and we were drinking and dancing.
Eva: We danced to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” It was really, really fun. You were a good dancer, which was also fun, and then we made out on the dance floor.
Haley: That’s a good first date.
Eva: Yeah, it was cute! But I’d been single for a while, so this wasn’t anything different to me necessarily…
Bobby: Nothing special. Just another Friday night.
Eva: I wasn’t thinking too much about the future. And then you emailed me.
Eva: I thought it was weird. We went back and fourth on email for two weeks before we moved to text…do you remember that?
Eva: I have the emails! Anyway, so the dancing was on a Monday night, and then we went on a day date the next Sunday.
Bobby: We went to brunch. I remember you thought it was weird I asked you on a date during the day. I thought that it was way less pressure.
Haley: It does have an air of innocence.
Eva: That’s what two of my girlfriends said. I said, “This is so weird.” But they were like, “That’s actually really nice.”
Bobby: It was a good space, I knew everybody there and we had drinks outside first. That’s the good thing about being in the restaurant business. We sat outside, had the table right by the window (not by accident).
Eva: We met for coffee first at Abraço, then walked around the East Village and then went uptown for brunch and we walked around there. And then he dropped me off and gave me a kiss goodbye. It was the first time I’d been on a first date during the day, you know? I thought that was really funny. My friends convinced me it was really cute.
Haley: So what next?
Eva: Well, we were still emailing. Not texting.
Haley: This is so Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks.
Eva: It’s funny, because I remember you thought you were going to be five minutes late to show up for coffee or something and you emailed me to let me know and I was thinking, “This would be so much easier if we were texting!!!!”
Haley: I think there’s something kind of nice about emails. Less pressure.
Eva: (Looking up emails on phone) Oh my gosh, I have them all! (Reading) “Can you do Sunday?” “Okay perfect what time.” “I’ll be a few minutes late.” “Actually, I’ll be on time.” This is going to be in the flipbook if we ever get married.
Bobby: I have no idea why I was doing that.
Haley: So, after your first date…
Eva: We had some really awesome first dates. When you’re first meeting somebody, it can be awkward. But we just had a lot of fun.
Bobby: I don’t think we ever had an awkward date. All of our dates went well because we both like to try things: new restaurants, foods…
Eva: Totally. We still do this, but in those first six months we would go out to so many different places. Here for a drink, there to eat, Brooklyn for this, uptown or downtown for that…it was really fun.
Haley: At what point did you talk about your relationship?
Eva: Never, like never.
Haley: So you tumbled into it?
Bobby: Well, I think we less tumbled, more dragged ourselves…
Eva: Bobby! That’s not how you say it!
Bobby: No, but there was a lot of time in a gray area. I remember when it definitely became serious.
Haley: What marked that moment?
Eva: It was like a year after we started dating.
Bobby: I originally didn’t want a relationship.
Haley: Why not?
Bobby: I had just gotten out of one and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. We would touch on it but never outright talk about it.
Eva: I was used to being independent. But after a while I was like, “Umm, what’s going on here?” At a certain point, you either go for it or you don’t. I wasn’t going to do that for five years. So after around a year I was like…
Bobby: “What the fuck is going on.”
Eva: That was when it came to a head. I was cool with it for the first nine months and then there were like three months where I was thinking, “I can either take it or leave it at this point.” Because you weren’t doing anything.
Eva: You were perfectly content!
Bobby: I was totally fine with how things were.
Haley: A bit cliché, huh.
Eva: We had a huge fight and I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” It was becoming, for me, very redundant. At some point, you have to keep moving. Like at a job, if you never get promoted, why are you doing it? If you’re not making any more money, what’s the point?
Haley: Up to that point were you acting like a couple or acting casual?
Eva: Both! Which is why it was really confusing.
Haley: And you hadn’t defined the relationship?
Bobby: There were a few serious conversations. Some of them I would stand my ground and be like, “I said I didn’t want a relationship.” And then it got to the point where I was like, “No, you’re totally right. There should be a decision made.” And I didn’t want to make the wrong one.
Eva: When I finally understood why he was hesitating, it was less of the cliché than I thought. He was more concerned with making sure it was right before he committed. He wasn’t just going to get into a relationship because he was a certain age or someone was in front of him and he thought it was the right next step. I thought that was really interesting.
Haley: You waited until you were sure before committing?
Bobby: Well I don’t want to give myself too much credit. I was told I had to make a decision, but it had become clear to me that that’s what I wanted. It didn’t feel like an obligation — like something I should do — it’s what I wanted to do. By then we were almost dating on a different level.
Eva: Yeah, it’s true.
Bobby: But you know from that one big fight that we had…
Eva: We never fought again.
Bobby: Yeah we really don’t.
Haley: Do you remember saying “I love you” for the first time?
Eva: I do. I said it first, but I remember you said it with your eyes first.
Bobby: This was in your apartment, on the couch.
Haley: Did you say it back?
Bobby: Yeah, right away.
Eva: And then he asked me to say it again. It was really cute. After that we became serious and things moved pretty quickly.
Bobby: Being in the same industry cemented things faster. Like we’d go to events together and go out to eat together. Our personal lives overlapping so much with our work lives…it glued it all together.
Haley: At what point did you start having serious conversations about the future?
Bobby: It just came up. We go upstate every year for Christmas and last year we were like, “We’ve gotta get a house up here…” and then from there other plans followed. Getting a house, having kids, getting married, etc.
Eva: Yeah. It came up naturally. Our relationship is very comfortable in a good way.
Haley: What is your favorite part about each other?
Bobby: How caring she is. She tries to take care of everything and, when she needs to, she nudges me and helps me get things done. It’s very caring, it’s very warm. She knows how I work.
Eva: My favorite thing…hmm…let me count the ways…
Bobby: You had time to think when I said mine!
Haley: She was distracted by you calling her warm!
Eva: You know what I love about Bobby? He’s a very good-hearted person. All of his intentions are really pure, never malicious. I also love that you can physically fix things. It’s kind of old-school, like my dad. There’s nothing you can’t do. If there’s a broken chair, you know how to fix it. It’s this very attractive quality. You’re not a wimp.
Bobby: (to Haley) Can you put that in there please? Thank you.
Haley: We have it on tape! Do your interests overlap or do you have your separate things?
Eva: He will not go to hot yoga with me.
Bobby: No, but I’ll try to get into what she’s doing and she’ll come to a Mets game and find things she likes there.
Eva: Like hot dogs and beer.
Haley: That is the only thing that will get me to a sports game.
Bobby: I find myself hanging out with the girls a fair amount.
Eva: That’s true, you do hang out with my friends a lot.
Haley: You said something about him seeming different than anyone you’ve ever dated – what felt different for both of you in this relationship?
Eva: He’s so earnest. I feel like you could’ve been born in the 1920s and could be 80 years old living on the Upper West Side with your bagel and jazz music and newspaper and you’d be perfectly happy.
Bobby: I’d be happy with that.
Haley: What about it feels different for you?
Bobby: Seeing how warm she is, how she wants to take care of things that matter to me, and wants to make everything better, it means a lot. She puts such thought into everything.
Eva: It’s true…we have a fun life.
Bobby: We have a fun life.
Haley: What advice would you give to either people who are looking for a relationship or just starting one?
Eva: You should approach with love. Lead with your heart versus your mind. Accept people for who they are instead of trying to change them.
Bobby: You have to let your ego go. You have to be open to being selfless sometimes. To really listening.
Eva: That’s good advice.
Haley: You seem very in love.
Eva: Yeah, I love this guy.