Jackie and Ron

How We Met

Cute smile. French/Vietnamese chef?!?. As a foodie looking for love in New York City, Ron’s profile of him in a chef’s jacket caught my eye. It felt a little serious and more my style. And I really liked his dimples.

I swiped right and quickly got a message: “How’s it going?” That kicked off a week of “How’s it going?” openers from Ron and easy back-and-forth about our days. He liked to hang out with his crew in Greenwich Village. He worked evening restaurant hours almost every night but got Sunday’s off. He grew up in Atlanta. This led to him revealing that his childhood pet was a pig, which obviously prompted a lot of questions and many laughing emojis. I told him about going to a New England boarding school and my office job as an economist at the New York Fed. About my quiet evenings on the Upper West Side spent reading books ranging from a former Defense Secretary’s memoir to a World War II novel called All the Light We Cannot See for my book club. About the highlight of my visit to see my grad school friends in New Haven being an avant-garde student play. Our worlds couldn’t have been more different but in our case opposites seemed to attract.

I was elated when Ron (finally) suggested we grab dinner. He proposed the Breslin, a gastropub inside the swanky Ace hotel, and I was impressed with his first date choice which managed to be casual, chef-driven, and hip all at the same time. When I started to plan out my outfit a couple days in advance (something feminine but that didn’t look like I was trying too hard), I knew I was excited to finally meet this intriguing person. and prepared a list of conversation topics in case the date began with: “How’s it going?” Knowing that Ron was a chef, at the top of my list was “favorite restaurants.” His life seemed so different from mine, but he cared about good food even more than I did.

When I walked into the Breslin’s cozy foyer, I recognized Ron’s friendly smile from his profile photos and right on cue Ron asked, “How’s it going?” and I was ready with a big smile and “great! Is the Breslin one of your favorite restaurants?” It turned out it was, along with several others that I diligently wrote into a new Note in my phone.

After we sat down, the conversation easily flowed as we studied the menu. I pointed to the vegetables and Ron pointed to the famous “scotch eggs,” which he explained were fried balls of ground lamb with a soft boiled egg in the middle. We decided to try everything—which I would later learn is Ron’s favorite way to to order. As we shared the food, Ron was surprised he liked the salad so much, and I scarfed down the crunchy, fatty balls of deliciousness. Ron kept offering to make me the perfect bite, and I found myself smiling and happily accepting each composed forkful. The curious nerd in me loved how Ron wanted to try the sweet potato ice cream to see how they pulled off what he explained was a technically challenging dish. We agreed the result was a bit stringy. We both ate the ice cream anyway.

I felt completely at ease around Ron’s relaxed and attentive manner, and halfway through our date, while studying his bright eyes, I spontaneously thought, “Yeah, I’d kiss this guy!” After dinner, I shot off a message from the cab on my way home: “I enjoyed tonight so much and had a wonderful time,” and I meant every word. A reply came back almost immediately, “Me too. Are you free next Sunday?” And that started a series of dates at amazing restaurants across the city and one very special dinner at Ron’s place where he taught me how to make spaghetti carbonara using mounds of creme fraiche and perfect squares of chives. I never stopped feeling good every time I saw Ron, and I knew that I never wanted to not be with him.

How He Asked

Jackie and I had been planning a Europe trip for a while, and I wanted to use this trip as a stage to propose. The only questions were when and where. Being that Jackie is such a Francophile, France was ideal, but where exactly?

With the romantic backdrop of spots like the Seine River and the Eiffel Tower, Paris was an obvious answer to this question. However, after researching where within Paris and seeing tons of pictures and hearing tons of stories of proposals in the “city of love” I wanted something that’d be more unique to us. Using Paris seemed so played out. I needed another alternative!

I reached out to my old mentor/boss, Frenchman Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, to shed some light on my question. He agreed Paris was overdone and suggested Marseille, which sits right on the Mediterranean Sea. One of his good friends is Chef Gerald Passedat, and Eric assured me that a dinner at Gerald’s restaurant, 3 Michelin Star Le Petit Nice, would ensure a resounding “yes” from Jackie. I took him up on his suggestion, and he secured me a dinner for two.

As part of our vacation in France, I had a 3-day stage (a kind of “internship”) in the kitchen of Le Petit Nice. I walked along the sidewalk every morning to get to work and walked back to my hotel at night while enjoying the breeze of the Mediterranean Sea. On one of my nightly walks home I started to devise my plan on how to propose. I considered asking the chef to send out the ring as part of the dinner. After all, this is one of the best restaurants in the world and had a super romantic dining room that overlooked the sea. I then recalled Jackie expressing a strong displeasure of being proposed to in a public, restaurant setting. There goes that idea. As I stared out into the sea, I noted how beautiful and serene it was. That’s when I decided, I’ll suggest walking home from dinner and propose at some point along the boardwalk.

The night of the dinner was going perfectly. Jackie looked gorgeous (as usual). The food was amazing. The wine pairings were doing their magic. The view of the sea was mesmerizing and the weather was perfect for a walk home. Everything was falling into place. As we were leaving the restaurant, I suggested walking home to help us digest the 3.5-hour dinner we just ate. Jackie and her heels had other ideas. She did not like the idea of walking a half hour home in heels. I pleaded with her that it was our last night in Marseille, the Mediterranean ocean would be beautiful, and that we should capitalize on this opportunity.

The heels weren’t hearing any of it. So, in the last ditch-attempt, I said, “Let’s just walk as far as we can and take a cab from there.” The heels conceded! Now I just hoped we could walk far enough to reach a spot that “felt” right for a proposal. As we sauntered down the sidewalk, I grew more and more nervous. Every pit-pat of the heels hitting the pavement was like an exclamation to hail a cab. Luckily the view of the sea and the perfect weather made Jackie forget about the heels. As we steadily progressed down the sidewalk, I knew the moment was perfect. We had the boardwalk basically to ourselves. The stars were glistening over us.

The only sound other than our voices was the gentle lapping of the ocean. And most importantly, the wine from dinner was still giving me enough liquid courage to pop the question. I spotted a bench that would give me the perfect reason to stop and propose and suggested that we take a break and sit for a minute. As we sat, I fumbled around in my pocket and got a hold of the ring. When a break in our conversation finally came, I got on one knee and pretended to tie my shoe. When she looked down at me and realized I wasn’t tying my shoe, I asked Jackie to marry me. A smile started to peak out of the corners of her mouth before she said “Yes”, followed by “You put the ring on the wrong hand”. Other than that, it was the most perfect night of my life.

Special Thanks

Gianna Keiko Photography
Photographer