My mother is a saintly woman. She doesn’t curse. She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t do anything that would be considered out of place in a G-rated Disney flick. Ever. She also tends to be a little more emotionally restrained (but not constipated). She’s almost Spock-like in her desire to maintain a logical, unbiased perspective at all times. That stoicism, naturally, tends to inhibit expressions of non-spousal, romantic interest as well. I don’t ever see my mom giggle girlishly when watching The Bachelor or gaze longingly at the handsome leading man that she fancies in a movie.
But recently, I have noticed a few raised eyebrows from my mother. I have seen some expressions that verge on, not romantic interest, but shall we say “interest that borders on the verge of romantic”? And best of all, I have noticed a pattern emerging from those moments. I have discovered that she tends to fancy a certain kind of celebrity. It’s not at all related to nationality, hair color, or body build. She doesn’t gawk lovingly at Hollywood movie stars or sweaty sports professionals. No! No!
As it turns out, all my mom’s favorite mens can all be found on PBS or Bravo. All her biggest crushes are professional chefs?
It makes a certain amount of sense when you think about it. My mother is the creative culinarian in the family. She likes to experiment in the kitchen (mind out the gutter, people) and frequently bakes breads and cakes on a whim. It makes sense that she would be attracted to another person who could also speak that foodie language. Her analytical, left-brained mind is attracted to the creativity of these food artists. Plus, what’s sexier than a man who knows his Tarragon from his Rosemary? A: Nothing.
Here are the only men-folk I’ve ever seen my mother swoon over:
3. Hubert Keller (Smooth-Talking French Daddy)
Hubert won my mother over when he competed on Top Chef Masters. One of the challenges was, effectively, to tell your culinary autobiography through food. Hubert waxed poetic about when he grew up in his parent’s house and would wake up in the morning to the smell of baking bread. It was one of those indelible food memories that really comforted him and stuck with him throughout his life. He told the simple story in such an eloquent, expressive way that my mother could not stop smiling after he finished.
His voice is gentle, and made even more so entrancing by his French accent. Tender is the magic word here. Everything about him has a softness to it, which is interesting since his culinary proteges make his kitchen out to be something of a boot camp. But hey, that’s probably an even bigger turn on for my mother: A clear behavioral distinction between personal matters and business affairs. Hot.
2. Tom Colicchio (Chrome-Dome, Bear Daddy)
Tom is the mentor / one of the judges from Top Chef. This one, I can’t explain as well. I think my mother likes him because he’s honest, but not emotional about it. He’s serious, and he’ll shut people down if they try to eschew responsibility, but he won’t brutalize anyone. Tom’s stocky, but in a muscle-y way. He’s also got a hearty chuckle when his funny bone gets tickled. I think my mom secretly likes his beefy-ness and the interplay between his fun-guy/tough-guy demeanors.
1. RICK BAYLESS (Sexy Anthropologist Daddy, and Honorary Mexican )
It’s Bayless, Bitch!
My mother loves this man for sooo many reasons. Firstly, like Hubert, his voice has this NPR-softness to it. It’s very relaxing to hear him talk about, well, anything. Secondly, the guy is super-smart. He got his PhD in Anthropological Linguistics. Say what?! And that trait nicely leads into the main reason my mother likes him: He works very hard to elevate the perception of Mexican Cuisine by the general public so that people don’t think “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” when they hear the phrase “Mexican Food”.
My mother is sometimes wary of white people, specifically white people who apporiate parts of our cultural heritage for their own purposes. Because of Rick’s academic background, I think he approaches Mexican cultural elements with more care and sensitivity, perhaps even more so than some actual Mexicans. He understands the rich history behind the food, and he respects it, even while he adapts it for the modern, fine-dining experience. He’s not a snob about it either. On his show he goes out of his way to support independant Mexican businesses; little taquerias and hole-in-the wall restaurants that serve tradtional cusine in a timeless way. He really seems to care about the country, it’s citizens, and the food, in all it’s forms. He also speaks Spanish flawlessly, does yoga, cooks with his adorable daughter, Lanie, and grows his own veggies. He’s all that and a bag of kettle-cooked, organic potato chips seasoned with sea salt and just a pinch of Rosemary.
We often debate potential family vacation spots around the dinner table, and my mother has mentioned Chicago several times now. Want to guess where Rick lives and works? I’ll give you a hint: It begins with a “Chi” and ends in a “Cago”.
(aaaaand the rest)
Rocco Dispirito (The Italian Stalion who Serves Meat in Medallions)
He was on Dancing with the Stars, but he didn’t get very far. This one is all about aesthetics. I think my mom just thinks he’s cute.
Eric Ripert (Silver Fox Frenchie)
Oy! Again with the French accents!
Eric, like Hubert, also has the golden-throat thing going on.