Relationships: From spark to simmer – How to cook together on a first date


When you try cooking together on a first date, there’s always something to keep things sizzling even when conversation slows. Photo: 123rf

First dates can be nerve- wracking – awkward silences across the table at a restaurant, frantic stabs at subjects as your conversation sputters during a walk, pained smiles as your date immediately runs the table in a “friendly” game of pool.

But there’s a fun activity that helps you get better acquainted easily and won’t leave you at a loss for words: Preparing a meal in tandem.

“Cooking together is a great first date. You see straight away whether you blend well and how the other person goes about things,” says Arne Anker, head chef of the Berlin restaurant Brikz.

Roland Trettl, a South Tyrolean gourmet chef and presenter of a dating show in Germany, agrees: “Cooking and eating together helps you get to know each other. The selection of foods, aromas, seasoning, and slight twist of the hip when flipping the frying pan, all give a good indication of whether the ingredients are right for deepening your acquaintance.”

What’s the best first-date dish?

“Noodles with tomato sauce aren’t exactly conducive to showing your seductive side,” says Dominik Obermeier, executive chef of the Brasserie Colette in Berlin. On the other hand, truffles and caviar are delicious “but would definitely appear pretentious on a first date”.

If you’re considering blood pudding, liver or the like, think again, he says. “It could be just the ticket, but they’re so specialised that I’d only cook it if I knew the person and that they liked it.”

Obermeier’s tip: “If your date has mentioned they love a certain dish, that’s exactly what I’d make, and they’ll see right away that you’re very attentive. Unless, that is, the dish is a speciality of your grandmum or hers – you wouldn’t do it justice.”

In the view of Raphael Reichardt, manager and head sommelier of the Tim Raue restaurant in Berlin, your personal connection to the dish and the story behind it can be more important than the food and drink themselves. “You should show you’ve given the matter some thought, and not simply ordered or thawed out something,” he says.

A good recipe on a first date?

Reichardt recommends a not-too-elaborate but lovingly prepared lasagna. “And if the evening doesn’t go very well, the lasagna will almost taste better the following day when you eat it by yourself.”

Anker strongly advises against foods that cause a build-up of gas, such as beans or cabbage.

“The same goes for garlic in large amounts,” he says.

“Instead, I’d go with ingredients regarded as especially stimulating, such as ginger, cinnamon or celery.”

His top choice for a first date: Homemade gnocchi with watercress. Too complicated, you say? Anker begs to differ: “Making gnocchi yourself is a lot of fun and provides activity on the date too. You can easily divide up the various tasks: One of you rolls out the dough, the other forms the gnocchi.

“You ‘get your hands dirty’ and have a go at something together.”

Who rules the stove? And how do you divide up the tasks?

A fairly even distribution is advisable. “You should make sure you’re not too bossy, patronising or critical of the other person,” says Anker. “But at the same time, you want to impress them with your culinary skills.

“If you’re the one who selected the recipe, initiated the date and extended the invitation to cook together, feel free to take the reins – it can be sexy.”

Taking gnocchi as an example, if your date has trouble using their thumb to gently roll the square pieces of dough over the back of a fork to create the classic grooves (they help sauce cling to the gnocchi), you can politely offer to show how it’s done – and move a little closer...

And you should naturally be open to any creative additions to the recipe that your date may have, or suggestions on altering a step in the directions, says Anker.

Go with the flow

Trettl says he wouldn’t overplan a date at a stove, because for him, “cooking is like dancing or sex”. His advice: Simply go with the flow, and you’ll be able to tell whether there’s chemistry between you.

“It’s a good indicator, actually. If things don’t go smoothly in the kitchen, maybe you should stay away from the bed,” he says, with a laugh.

What should you drink?

It’s clearly an advantage if you’ve learned in advance that your date drinks alcohol. If they don’t, an ordinary cola or other soft drink may be too uninspiring. Sommelier Reichardt recommends creative alternatives such as freshly squeezed juice or homemade iced tea.

Whatever the drink is, you’ll score points with your date if it goes well with the meal. “Being knowledgeable about wines is sexy,” says Reichardt.

“If you’ve already decided on what to cook, it’s best to get advice in a wine shop.

“Alternatively, you can acquire basic knowledge about wines from influencers on Instagram.”

Reichardt suggests three marvellous matches:

1. An exciting Tuscan red wine, such as a Chianti Classico from the Sangiovese grape, is a full-bodied and spicy complement to a classic pasta from the region with tomatoes, capers and olives.

2. A crisp, acidic Riesling from the Rheingau region of Germany goes well with sauteed prawns with fresh lemon, some rice and steamed broccoli.

3. As an alcoholic alternative to wine, you could plump for an interesting beer or a long drink that’s not in everyone’s refrigerator. “It may even give you something you can start talking about,” Reichardt says.

My place or yours?

Once you’ve agreed to cook together, you’ve got to decide where. If you’re not yet ready to have your date come to your home, you can immediately steer the question of location in the other direction by asking what cooking utensils you should bring with you. – dpa/Claudia Wittke-Gaida

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Dating , first date , cooking


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