Love, Life and Linguine - By Melissa Jacobs


“Welcome home.” The U.S. Customs agent smiles as she closes my blue passport.

Minutes later, a cab carries me away from Philadelphia International Airport toward the heart of the city. Ah, yes. I’m home.

Two weeks in Paris seemed like two months. It was a business trip. I had to go. But I was anxious to return. I’m starting a new chapter in my life. Before I left for Paris, I moved in with my boyfriend, Nick. Technically, my boxes moved into Nick’s house. I didn’t have time to unpack before I left.

I should have rescheduled the Paris trip. But when else could I have gone? Today is my last day with Dine International. Tomorrow I become the business manager of Il Ristorante, Nick’s restaurant.

Not for the first time today, I look at my tote and read the business card placed behind the protective plastic. “Mimi Louis, Executive Restaurant Consultant, Dine International.”

Mimi Louis isn’t my real name. I was born Miriam Louis. I nicknamed myself Mimi when I was a toddler and couldn’t pronounce my own name. The Louis? My grandfather left Russia a Luvizpharska and arrived in Brooklyn a Luvitz. My father left Brooklyn a Luvitz and arrived in South Jersey a Louis. What’s in a family name?

My name might not be real, but my job is. Seven years. That’s how long I’ve been at Dine International. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to stop traveling. I’m ready to settle down and work on my relationship with Nick. We’ve been dating for three months, and I want Nick to be It.

I’ve paid my dating dues. I had the amuse bouche of boys in high school, the butlered hors d’oeuvres of Penn guys in college and the soup du jour men in my early twenties. When I was twenty-eight, I had what I thought was a main course relationship, but there were too many ingredients swirling around my life. My ambition, his ambition. My traveling, his traveling. My promotions, his promotions. We didn’t make time for our relationship, let alone a future. After that breakup, I had a palate cleansing rebound in Florence with Gio the Italian wine maker. Now, at thirty, I’m ready for the entrée. The main course. Marriage.

Nick is ready for marriage, too. I know this. How? I know chefs.

Seduction by Risotto

Being a woman in the restaurant industry, I am used to being preyed upon by male chefs. But Nick? He’s different. For starters, he’s the most talented cook I’ve ever met.

Before Nick became Philadelphia’s newest celebrity chef, he was the cook at a thirty-seat restaurant in South Philadelphia. A date took me to Nick’s for dinner. It was amazing. The food. Not the date. The next day, I told my bosses at Dine International that we should recruit Nick to be the chef at the new Italian restaurant we were already building on Avenue of the Arts. A month later, the deal was done.

Nick and I worked side by side to create the new restaurant. He flirted with me, and although I was hesitant to get involved with a client, my resolve crumbled when Nick invited me to his house for dinner. His passion for food ignited my passion for him. Nick cooked pan-seared salmon in white wine and herb sauce with julienned zucchini and yellow squash. And risotto. It was the risotto that did it. The textures of the rice and cream combined with the earthiness of the mushrooms. It was seduction by risotto. I couldn’t resist Nick. I didn’t.

Mustard Memories

“Where are you going, miss?” the cabdriver asks, jolting me away from Nickalicious memories. I have given him Center City as a destination, but it’s time to get specific.

“One moment, please,” I say. Am I going straight to the office or do I have time to stop at Nick’s? There’s no room in my head for my schedule. I am BlackBerry dependent. Reaching into my tote, my hand closes around a glass jar of mustard I bought in a shop near Musée Rodin. I collect mustard.

When I was a child, I would lie in bed at night, trying to stay awake until Dad got home from Café Louis, the dressed-up diner he owned in South Jersey. Dad’s workaholism made precious any moments I had alone with him. If I could stay awake until Dad came home, I would tiptoe down the stairs so as not to wake Mom, who was usually asleep after a long day of housework, car pooling, and homework.

I adore my mother. She is,