Chef's Widow of the World

What is your name & what kind of widow are you?

My name is Sabine Filoni and my husband is Dominique Filoni.  What "type"?  Proud and accepting.  I am proud because we've been married for thirteen years, worked together, built businesses together, weathered storms, started a family and still love each other like crazy.  I'm proud of his talent and accomplishments (Best New Chef 2004, was the youngest French Master Chef in America, etc.) and accepting because I know that he will never pull in the driveway at 5:30 every week night to have dinner with us, to spend weekend going to soccer games, etc.

Being with a Chef in a successful relationship means accepting the lifestyle including the number of hours worked, the crazy days and times of the work, the focus or obsession with food.  You can't be with a Chef and complain down the line - - just like you can't cross the jungle and complain about the wild animals.

Where is your casa & what is your jobby job?

We are currently living in Little Silver, NJ about three miles from the beach.  Dom is chef at a swankly French brasserie on the ocean.   He is from St. Tropez and he the restaurant is modeled after the beach clubs of the French Riviera.  How perfect is that?

I was in the restaurant business for twenty years, mostly as a manager. We worked together for years until we decided to start a family.  I grossly underestimated the change that it would have on our lives and careers.  Initially, we had a nanny during the day, but we quickly realized that it was better for me to be home.  I started a business renting luxury vacation properties in the Caribbean and, four and a half years later, am still running my business from home.  It's great because I get enough adult time, but still get to be with the family. We also have a few investment properties, so I handle those.

How long have you been in a relationship with someone in the ‘industry?’

Dom and I have been together 14 years.  He was cooking in Paris while I was singing there eight blocks away, but we never met.  Six months later in Philadelphia, he was having dinner at a restaurant where I worked, Striped Bass.  I saw him from across the room and must have recognized him because I couldn't take my eyes off of him.  Later that night, he showed up at the employee Christmas party and I approached him.  He had only been in the country ten months and didn't speak much English.  Five minutes later, he had his arm around me, we were drinking Champagne and were talking about how great it would be to go to Paris together.  (We've since been four times.)

What is your biggest turnoff or dislike of being a Chef’s/Restaurant Widow?

Initially, there were none.  We worked together 90 hours a week, traveled together, spent every minute together, had fun days off together . . .  Once kids came along, it became pretty clear that I was shouldering the responsibility for the children.  Dom is the best, but if he's working, he's not here.  I like to say that I'm a single mom whose boyfriend really loves my kids.  Awful, I know.  He was living in Washington DC while I was in Pennsylvania with a two year old, one year old and newborn, trying to sell the house without a realtor and run a business.  I would have developed a nasty dependence on alcohol, but I didn't have enough time.  Seven months later, we were back together.  Dom's current position means that he works his tail off in the summer, then work less in the off season.  He now gets to see the kids for an hour in the morning before they go to school.

Another downside is that I worry about him.  I hope that years of difficult physical work, long hours on his feet, etc. won't take a toll on his health.

What is your favorite aspect of being a Chef's/Restaurant Widow?

I love tasting his food and the pride I feel when people talk about the restaurant.  Got to say I love the perks!  Traveling to Quebec, France, Italy, Aspen, cruise, etc. were all a direct result of his hard work and talent.  I love going with him to television shoots and prepping for him and watching him on camera.

It must be the tween in me:  I thoroughly enjoy hearing about celebrities when he cooks for them.  Elton John, Michael Jackson, Beyonce and Jay Z on their wedding weekend, Karl Lagerfeld, etc.  I want to know how they act and what they eat.  Maybe I should get a life????

Considering your significant other most likely works a million and one hours a week, how do you find time to keep the relationship alive?

This is a challenge.  I make sure that I am awake every night when he comes home even if it means that I have to up in five hours.  We talk about work (his and mine) for only a few minutes.  We recently took our first trip without the kids in six years. (Thanks, fellow Chefwidow who stayed with the kids!)  We just had another chef marriage break up in our circle recently, so it made us even more aware of how important it is to keep each other the priority.  We try to call each other at least once a day.

When you do have time together what is your favorite thing to do (besides the nasty :)?

We love to go out to eat, of course!  The kids have been raised going out to eat and we enjoy getting them to try new foods.  We like movies, but usually end up just watching them at home rather than getting a babysitter.  (It's tricky for him because he doesn't want to miss out on time with any of us.)

Do you have any sage words of wisdom for those men or women just starting a new relationship with a Chef or Restaurant manager?

Enjoy being with your significant other and take a long, hard look at your life together.  Before you commit, know that this is what you want.  You will not get married and suddenly have every night at home together.  You will not have children and suddenly have your man there to see the first step, change the baby's diaper while you help the oldest with homework.  Know that you can be happy and satisfied with the limited and strange hours your partner can give.  If you are a dependent person, have a bunch of really good dates and move on.  It is unlikely that your chef is going to be able to adjust hours/days.  Read a few chefwidow cautionary tales:  One of the most incredible pastry chefs we have ever known has had his marriage break up because his wife was tired of being a mistress to his pastries.  Just got an e-mail that he worked over 119 hours last week.   One chef marriage just broke up because he was always working and she was lonely and stressed. She ended up cheating.  These circumstances can happen with a spouse in any occupation, but chef marriages have a built in degree of difficulty. If you are independent and strong, go for it!  You can be a successful chefwidow.

Do you cook?

Yes, I cook every night.  I don't devote a lot of time to it, so it stays pretty basic.

What would your last meal/adult beverage on earth be?  Who would you eat it with?

I would have seared scallops over pumpkin risotto with pinenuts and lobster jus and a glass of Champagne.  I would eat it with Dom and the kids (Bianca, 7; Sebastien, 5; Julian, 4). I would invite Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, Bill Clinton, Coco Chanel, Bill Gates and Alain Ducasse.

I know that being a mother and being married to a Chef makes me insane, how do you handle balancing your family life with such a demanding work schedule of your partner?

I keep my expectations low. I take responsibility for everything - - bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, homework, shuttling the kids, etc.  I expect nothing, so when he does help, I consider it a bonus.  I think keeping the kids tight with Papa is a big priority, so we call him in the afternoon and will drop by in the afternoon from time to time so that they stay connected. Our life has been like this for so long that it seems natural now.

If you have/had kids would you encourage them to pursue the restaurant industry as a career?

I want to encourage my kids to pursue their dreams.  If it includes dream in the restaurant business, I will encourage them to take an internship so that they can see the true picture of monotonous potato peeling, vegetable chopping, rearranging the store room, washing pots, long hours, burns, cuts, etc. and not just the fun of creating new dishes or the glory of winning Top Chef.  They would need to understand the enormity of the commitment and, if they were still enthused, I would back them all the way.

Feel free to share an awesome widow facts about yourself &/or anything you’ve got going on…blog, restaurant events, etc…

I am a shameless Karaoke singer, am unable to resist buying cute clothes for my kids, have two rescued cats:  Norwegian forest cat named Prada and a Maine Coon, Gucci.

The kids and I have a dance party every night.  I love play doh, drawing with chalk, Vote for the Worst and my FAVORITE thing in the whole world is vacation.  I love escaping with my family away from the house, school, restaurant, work and love to go on cruises, discover new places, eat in restaurants, drink wine, make sand castles and jump the waves.

Dom and I got married in Las Vegas at Treasure Island.  We were already living together and his visa was about to expire.  I waited until we were married for eight years to change my name on my passport and I used to tell him that I was waiting to see if the marriage worked out to save me the trouble of changing it twice.  Wonder why he never laughed at that one?  He just became a citizen a few months ago.

My business is Exclusive Club Vacations (luxury property rentals in the Caribbean) and I have just started L’Orangerie Group (a consulting firm specializing in hospitality recruiting, special events, etc.).  See my site:

Please feel free to elaborate on anything.

To everyone who knows that I am married to a chef:

1. No, he does not cook for us every night.  He is not home every night.  When he is home, he is tired so we usually go out to eat.

2. Thanks, but I’m not that thin.  I stay thin being married to a chef because See No.1.

3. No, he won’t necessarily be home today.  Sometimes “day off” means “I’ll only be in the kitchen for four hours.”

Sounds like I have lots of negative things to say about being married to a chef.  I love being with a chef - - I just assumed that we all do or we wouldn’t do it!

Love it Sabine!  Hopefully someday I will be able to meet all of you in person.  All you chef's widows are so DAMN interesting.  xo

If you are married, living with, in love with someone in 'the industry' & would like to participate in my wow (widows of the world) feature, please email me now!  chefswidow at gmail dot com yo.