7 Metro Phoenix Chefs Share Their Valentine's Day Horror Stories

Oh, Valentine's Day. If you're happily coupled up, this day might conjure images of red roses, pink heart candies, and a special night out. And if you're single, well, it's probably not your favorite day of the year.  

But when you work in the restaurant industry, it's a completely different story. Chances are you'll have to work and have probably seen some downright gnarly scenes. From rejected proposals to a menu gone awry, here's a sampling of some of the worst things metro Phoenix industry professionals have seen or experienced on Valentine's Day.  

Tell us about the worst Valentine’s Day dining experiences you've had or have witnessed. 

Rick Phillips, owner/menu development at Bootlegger's

After an elaborate plan by the groom-to-be, his intended swallowed the ring he dropped in her glass of Champagne. Not a movie. Happened.

Rebecca Tillman, executive chef of Hilton Squaw Peak Resort 

I was in Asheville, North Carolina, working and saw a man kneel down to propose to his girlfriend. She immediately stood up and said, "No" very loud, cried, knocked off the drink on her table, and ran out of the restaurant. About two minutes later, she slowly came back because she forgot her purse. The whole restaurant just stared at her. It was the most awkward thing I have ever seen.   

Sadhana Raj, owner of 24 Carrots Natural Café & Urban Juicery

We once had a couple that was particularly public with their affection for one another, and it was pretty awkward/impossible trying to serve them while not looking directly at them. This couple was making out on our couch, and at one point, the man lifted up his girlfriend's shirt a bit and started kissing her stomach. While he was doing this, she was giggling and trying to ask questions about the dishes she had ordered. Sigh, young love.

Tracy Dempsey, owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals 

I tried to be a little playful with a dessert menu at one of the restaurants I worked at, and it was a big flop. I should have stuck with flourless chocolate cake, raspberries, and whipped cream. I can't remember every detail of the desserts I made that time. I remember I studied up on aphrodisiacs and went in that direction. What I didn't serve was anything chocolate. We got a letter about that, and after that, I decided I would always make something chocolate and something fruit. I wouldn't try to be a show off. After all, it's not a night about me. I learned my lesson and have been very faithful to the Valentine's Day diner's expectations since. 

Aaron Pool, chef/owner of Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soups

At Gadzooks, a couple was in line ordering and kind of being snarky to each other. They went and ate lunch on the patio. Next thing you know, she throws the cazuela (clay dish we use at the restaurant) at him and misses. It explodes all over the window, and she runs to her car and leaves. I mean, she had probably finished one-tenth of the meal. It was a teary-eyed mess of jalapeño ranch, some red sauce. I think there was some slaw in there, too. I poured a little tortilla soup on the floor for the cazuela we lost. Rumor is he was cheatin’.

Brian Archibald, executive chef of The Boulders Resort & Spa 

Had a guy rent out our private dining room at one of my restaurants. [He] had me do a 10-course tasting menu and paired every course with top-notch wines to propose on Valentine's Day. And he got shot down. And [the recipient] of his proposal [said] something to the tune of "let me think about it."

Kelly Fletcher, chef de cuisine of El Chorro 

I think it was Valentine’s Day. This guy had a violinist. Every table around his table was coordinated so when he actually stood up and got to his knees, the violinist stood up and started playing music. It was kind of sweet. And I’m remembering that she actually said no. He did everything right. He sent the ring into the kitchen so that we could send it out in a dessert or something crazy. Yeah, I think that’s pretty unforgivable. 
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Teresa is a writer, editor, traveler, and food enthusiast. She loves chocolate, espresso, and Chihuahuas.
Contact: Teresa Traverse

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