Valentine’s Day is near and that means many of you will take to the kitchen to try and impress your partner with a fancy meal. GR|MAG figured some of you could use some help in this pursuit, so who better to reach out to for some tips than husband and wife culinary duo Bernard and Dana Lucas. The pair heads the kitchen at Leo’s with Bernard serving as head chef and Dana serving as pastry chef.
GR|MAG: First off, how long have you two been together and how did you meet?
Dana: We have been married eight years and we’ve been together 11, and we met here at Leo’s.
GR|MAG: Do you remember the first meal or dessert you made for one another or one that was particularly special?
Bernard: Probably the first meal I made her was a grilled tenderloin with a saffron risotto and grilled asparagus.
Dana: He’s a cookie monster, so I make cookies for him.
GR|MAG: Do you still try to surprise each other with food?
Dana: All the time! I always surprise him with little treats and cookies and when we do have days off he is always one to surprise me with a really nice meal instead of taking me out.
GR|MAG: What’s something that you think is a great Valentine’s Day entrée that someone might be able to tackle at home?
Bernard: It all depends on the person, but I like risotto because you can put whatever that person likes in it. We like a saffron risotto, but sometimes we’ll do a vegetable risotto depending on the mood, again whatever that person likes.
Dana: You can add meat or seafood.
GR|MAG: Is it best to get the ingredients ahead of time or the day of?
Bernard: I recommend picking the ingredients up the day of, so you have fresh product.
GR|MAG: And what about for dessert?
Dana: For people doing it at home, I always say chocolate and strawberries. You don’t have to be a baker or a pastry chef, you just have to melt some chocolate and dip some strawberries. It’s so simple!
GR|MAG: What message do you think cooking or baking for someone sends?
Dana: For me, I want to show them that I’m thinking about them and that I care about them. I’m not just filling them with food, but with love. We cook with love.
Bernard: It is a sign of love, nurturing and caring for someone, and a great way to bond with someone. Caring to take the time and effort to show someone how much you love them and to see them smile on their first tastes gives me the satisfaction of a job well done.
GR|MAG: If you watched the TV show Parks & Rec, there was a great holiday invented on that show, “Galentine’s Day,” and I’ve seen other fun takes on this. What’s a great brunch spread for celebrating with friends this time of year?
Dana: I haven’t seen that. But, I’m a chocoholic, so for me, whether I’m celebrating love with my husband or my friends it’s got to be chocolate.
One of the things I love to do is Rubies and Crème, and it’s going to be on the menu here for Valentine’s Day. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce that I reduce it with sugar to make a syrup and I drizzle it over vanilla ice cream and serve it with fresh raspberries and a heart-shaped shortbread cookie. It’s light, especially if you are having a brunch. I also serve truffles and some chocolate dipped strawberries.
Bernard: When I get together with a bunch of guy friends we like to try different beers and we do a smoked brisket with different marinades, or we try different meats with different marinades.
*Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity
**Photo courtesy of Leo’s