Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and plenty of romantic Boston restaurants will be filled with couples wining, dining and flirting their way through a special feast. For most of those who actually work in the dining industry, though, Valentine's Day is sadly spent apart from a significant other — someone has to cook for all those hungry lovebirds! So we took a moment to offer our annual salute to cute industry couples: chefs, servers, bartenders and other restaurant staffers who have found someone to share a passion for food, a love of hospitality — and, well, work hours that make it really, really hard to date. (Want to "aww!" your way through more couples? Check out our 2016, 2015 and 2014 lists at these links.)
The couple: Julia Auger (wine director) and Jared Forman (co-owner and chef) at Deadhorse Hill
How they met: Before joining forces for this hot new Worcester restaurant, the couple met working at Watertown's Strip-T's.
How long they've been together: Two years. (But "we just bought a new bed, so we have 15 years ahead of us," says Forman.)
Most romantic food moment: Food is "at the center of our relationship," says the couple, who fell in love sharing sandwiches after service. From country drives to score pancakes at a mom 'n' pop sugar house to rib-eye steaks cooked at home (and eaten in bed), they've made dining adventures a cornerstone of their free time. Another favorite memory: crushing "hundreds" of hot sauce–spiked oysters while crashing an ornithology fundraiser on the South Carolina coast.
How they're spending V-Day: Working at Deadhorse, which will offer a four-course prix fixe menu with two options per course. "It leads a couple to look at the menu and say, 'We'll have one of everything.' Exactly as we would do!"
How they met: Working together at Craigie on Main. Lydia sliced the fish, and Paul would always play dumb about the day's catch, just to have an excuse to chat her up.
How long they've been together: Five years. They made their grand debut as a couple with a Jumbotron-aired kiss at Fenway Park.
Most romantic food moment: For years, the couple toyed with the idea of getting a dog. On the day they finally took home Sam, their beloved Siberian Husky, they celebrated with heirloom tomatoes from their garden, cheese from Formaggio Kitchen and a bottle of Krug they'd saved for the occasion.
How they're spending V-Day: Working, followed by a late-night stroll through the dog park, a glass of bubbly and a bowl of popcorn.
How they met: While working at the late Sel de la Terre on Long Wharf. Carrie came to the rescue when Michael was tending to a knife wound on his finger — with Krazy Glue.
How long they've been together: 11 years
Most romantic food moment: When Michael moved into Carrie's North End apartment, and they shared their first dinner living together — a large cheese pizza and an $8 bottle of sparkling wine from The Wild Duck.
How they're spending V-Day: Working. Keep Carrie company at SRV — on Valentine's Day, the hot South End Italian will offer special $45 and $65 family-style meals of chef's choice dishes.
How they met: Laura was sous-chef at Chicago's Trenchermen when Brandon swung by to prepare a guest chef dinner. He was charmed at the start.
How long they've been together: Three years
Most romantic food moment: As much as they would like to have dinner together every night, two restaurant industry jobs and a new baby make it tough to plan regular date nights. But when they do have time for a romantic dinner together, they'll opt for any chance to enjoy a fireside meal.
How they're spending V-Day: While Brandon prepares a seven-course tasting menu ($125), serving Cafe ArtScience guests dishes like prosciutto-wrapped monkfish, Laura will stay in to care for their 10-month-old daughter.
How they met: They grew up a backyard away as neighbors in Pennsylvania, and even went to their senior prom together. But they didn't become an official couple until after high school.
How long they've been together: "So long we lost count!" They've been married for 11 years, and a couple for twice as long.
Most romantic food moment: One of their first dining splurges together, a grand tasting menu at Paris' Pierre Gagnaire. More recently, an unforgettable meal at Pierluigi in Rome last spring, sharing fresh seafood alfresco in the glow of an amber sunset.
How they're spending V-Day: Working, then unwinding together over a red wine–accompanied dinner at their Somerville home.
How they met: Before chef-owner Michael Scelfo opened Waypoint last summer, the couple met working at his first restaurant, Alden & Harlow. Kenny was a line cook at the time, and Toni nabbed some burrata from his station during break-down. The rest is history.
How long they've been together: They're still in the honeymoon stage, dating a year and a half.
Most romantic food moment: They share a love of pastry, so they'll never forget sharing half a dozen donuts while sitting on a sunny pier at Folly Beach in Charleston, South Carolina. True love trumps beach bodies.
How they're spending V-Day: A late-night Chinese food binge after working at Waypoint. The coastal cuisine–inspired restaurant is serving à la carte specials for Valentine's Day, including torched tuna crudo with blood orange, braised pork shank with pickled huckleberry and baked scallop and sunchoke gratin.
The couple: Kevin Walsh and Meghann Ward, chefs and co-owners of Tapestry
How they met: Kevin was Meghann's boss at the now-shuttered Radius, and he was so demanding that she couldn't stand him — at first. Months later he asked her out and sparks flew. They've continued to work together at San Francisco's Flour + Water, Kennebunkport's Earth at Hidden Pond, and now at their first self-owned restaurant, Tapestry.
How long they've been together: Eight years, married for one
Most romantic food moment: Traveling Asia with a culinary guide, where they learned to make spicy broth in a local woman's home. She didn't speak English, but they "communicated through food."
How they're spending V-Day: In the kitchen together at Tapestry, which happens to be one of our picks for unexpectedly romantic restaurants.
How they met: They came together slowly, through many fits and starts. Dan and Caroline first met through mutual friends in '99, back when they were "rebellious party kids." Time and travel took them apart, but they reconnected in 2012 when Dan was working at The Hawthorne and Caroline at Menton — then they both wound up on the opening staff at Liquid Art House. They went their separate ways again, and finally started dating a year later, after realizing that the love of their lives had been there all along.
How long they've been together: Nearly 20 years of friendship, two years of dating
Most romantic food moment: They'll never forget a beautiful day last spring when they rode the train to Revere Beach and sat outside Kelly’s Roast Beef to enjoy fried clams by the water. It was the ultimate nostalgia-inducing experience for a pair of New England kids.
How they're spending V-Day: They usually celebrate Valentine's on February 13, since they're typically working on the holiday itself. At Area Four, Dan will be mixing up a shareable, honeymoon-inspired cocktail for couples: the Any Other Name, a gin, vermouth, rose liqueur and absinthe elixir that will be served in a rose petal–filled suitcase.
How they met: They nearly met many times. Both attended Johnson & Wales University, but Tom was a few years ahead. They both interned at Boston Harbor Hotel, but a few years apart. Liz shadowed at Blue Ginger once, where Tom was protégé to star chef Ming Tsai; he happened to be off work that day. Ironically, it was Tom's ex-girlfriend who finally introduced them at the 2005 Tanglewood Food & Wine Festival. They worked together for several years before romance bloomed.
How long they've been together: Four years
Most romantic food moment: They've spent at least 100 date nights at Pi Pizzeria in Nantucket. But for Tom, nothing beats a night in with Liz's home-cooked eggplant Parmesan.
How they're spending V-Day: They'll open a bottle of wine after a night spent working. At Yvonne's, Valentine's Day specials will include lomi-lomi salmon ceviche and a shareable 32-oz. porterhouse with smoky blue cheese. At Ruka you'll find soft-poached duck egg with a purple potato purée and a bone-in annatto-rubbed veal chop with aji-creamed beet tops.