You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together. If your date makes the experience uptight and restrictive, well, the sex is going to be horrible too.
Eating is best when there is spontaneity and variety. I’m very type-A, and many things in my life are about control and domination, but eating should be a submissive experience, where you let down your guard and enjoy the ride.
I don’t have much patience for people who are self-conscious about the act of eating, and it irritates me when someone denies themselves the pleasure of a bloody hunk of steak or a pungent French cheese because of some outdated nonsense about what’s appropriate or attractive.
Stop worrying about how your breath’s going to smell, whether there’s beurre blanc on your face, or whether ordering the braised pork belly will make you look fat. Eating with abandon couldn’t be more of a turn-on: it shows that you’re comfortable with yourself.
A perfect date is with a person who eats without fear, prejudice, or concerns about his or her appearance. I remember one of my first dates with my wife: She ordered a six-pound lobster.
I sat there, enraptured, watching her suck every bit of meat from it—she got a standing ovation from the floor staff. She’s the kind of woman who will order filet mignon as an appetizer followed by a T-bone steak. Her fearless, open-minded approach to food is completely alluring.
It’s also wildly exciting to be open to the unfamiliar, because it just might be delicious. And I know not everyone can travel the world like I do for my TV show. But wherever you are, you can explore.
One of the best things about this country is that it’s filled with people from somewhere else—you can travel the world without leaving your town. L.A. has the most vibrant Korean- food scene (we explore it on my show). In Minneapolis, you’re close to amazing Vietnamese food. Atlanta and Chicago have fantastic South American and Mexican fare.
I like dive-y places like Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food in NYC: no wine list, no white tablecloths, no long tasting menu—no pretense at all.
The night is about having a self-indulgent time without any of the intrusive notes that come with fine dining. You don’t have to worry about how you look or try to impress the waiter with what you know. You can eat with a fork, chopsticks, or even your hands.
It’s all about the enjoyment of the moment and the company and food. And if you can be yourself slurping spicy peanut noodles in front of another person, you may have a keeper.
I promise you will go to a more intense place with your date or friend if you try something new. You don’t bond with a safe order. I’ve eaten fermented shark. I’ve eaten cobra heart. (It was beating when I put it in my mouth. How to describe the taste? Think very athletic oyster.)
I don’t want to experience these foods again, but I’m glad I tried them. What’s the worst-case scenario? You spend some extra time in the bathroom. (Admittedly, not a turn-on for most people.) But you’ll have a good story to tell. You’ll share an experience. And, maybe, you’ll change your palate forever.
For a dinner date, I eat light all day to save room, then I go all in: I choose this meal and this order, and I choose you, the person across from me, to share it with. There’s a beautiful intimacy in a meal like that. It’s about exploration and taste. And kissing after dinner. And maybe there’s a little wine and curry on your breath…and that’s nice.
It’s only when you open yourself to the adventure of the unknown, the strange, even the shocking, that you get to enjoy the sensual, passionate, joyful experience of sharing food and drink. And it sets the stage for whatever might follow.