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Five things to do this Valentine’s Day

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As the 14th of the second month of the year beckons, an avalanche of promotions, offers, to-do lists, deals ad inifinitum either conveniently welcome themselves into your inbox or plaster themselves along your residential area. While the origin of Valentine’s Day is still a debatable subject the alleged day of love is well established and recognized across the world. Couples in love resort to a couple’s retreat, families go out for dinner or indulge in a mini stay-cation and the single folks are either ready to mingle or have set up a massive heart shaped (presumably black) piñata propped up at a private party with the words ‘we are anti-valentine’ glued on with a dash of glitter. In any case, for those of us who choose to waddle with the lot of happy penguins, here are a few things you might want to consider on Valentine’s day this year.

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Before I list out my take on the best options you should consider this year, I would like to thank Chef Tomas Reger and his magnificent wife, Kristyna Reger for having helped me put this feature together. If you are a regular reader then you would probably understand by now how I prefer the raw approach when it comes to describing something. There are different ways of being and staying in love – but to live and lead by example is a different story all together. I chose to revolve my post along their story because theirs is a tale worth sharing and the best part is, you can spell it using four alphabets – just four! L – O – V – E.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the fantastic five things you could do this Valentine’s:

1. Walk back into the future – together

Every story has a beginning and when it involves two individuals the beginning can sometimes be a curious one. Look back and reflect on how it all began- compare it to where you stand now. You had dreams then and you have dreams now as well. As a couple, at least one of you might have seen the other in your future. Perhaps it’s time to revisit those memories?

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The charisma that you see in this picture exists on those faces even today. Tomas and Kristyna not only grew together as a couple but they grew stronger as individuals as well. Unlike the common tale of boy meets girl and they eventually fall in love, this story unwinds with boy meets girl, smiles at her, girl thinks, “Hmm.. he seems interesting. I think I like him”, She later realizes that she loves him and says, “Marry me or I’ll take away all of your knives to a dark and dangerous place.”
The end.

It would have been funny if that actually happened.

Young Kristyna and Tomas first met in their hometown Kroměříž, Czech Republic in the year 1998. What started off as meeting up with friends, gradually blossomed into waiting after school to conveniently cross each other’s paths. Kristyna recalls, “I remember this one time Tomas and his friends had come over to my house to meet my sister and I had to sit in this awkward position on my chair the whole time to hide my ridiculously pink toe nails. I didn’t want Tomas to see the colour I had experimented with, even if it meant sitting like that with my toes curled for three hours straight and fighting the urge to use the bathroom.” She says this with the same admiration she had for Tomas at the age of 16, glistening in her eyes as she smiles at him. As time flew by, the friendship between the teens grew but they still weren’t sure if they really were in love or simply were just attracted each other.

Unfortunately, Tomas had to leave to Australia and New Zealand the following year to seek better opportunities and study along the way. His passion for cooking grew with him and so did this new found friendship with Kristyna. Staying in touch with access to the internet only at the library was going to be tough, but they were willing to give it a try. As the couple recalls this part of their story, Kristyna proudly showed me a picture of the hair band that was tied along her wrist. She had “borrowed” it from Tomas and held on to it without ever taking it off her hand, until he came back home. Come 1999, the two finally realized that what they shared was more than just friendship, and decided to journey together as a couple.

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2. Remember, you are both on the same team

In a relationship, it’s sometimes quite easy to lose sight of the common goal. True there are compromises to be made along the way but that shouldn’t have to take place sans mutual understanding.

Tomas and Kristyna ventured into London in 2003 and managed to get a job in the same restaurant – Dim T. It was a struggle and it took them a while to acclimatize to a new country, new people to work with and above all, to live together with each other. The long work hours and extended trainings presumably left them both exhausted – mentally and physically. In fact, it got to a point where they both felt that it was getting a wee bit too monotonous and that the relationship itself was probably not working out the way it should have. One thing lead to another and sadly, Kristyna and Tomas had agreed to part ways the following year.

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3. One cannot distinguish between bitter and sweet without ever tasting both:

Following the split, Tomas continued to work (some say as a machine) in London, whilst Kristyna had signed up at drama school back home in Kroměříž. Though they both did keep in touch on rare occasions, they couldn’t ignore the void they were both feeling. Young Tomas worked overtime and double shifts to keep himself distracted and this sounded worrying to family, friends and especially, Kristyna. She had decided to spend a few days with Tomas in London during Christmas to help him get a hold of himself and to let go of what was worrying him. Prior to this, she had quit drama school after realizing that her true forte was managing a food business.

However, as luck or fate or tarot cards would have it, they both realized that what they both needed was not space by being away from each other, but the room to grow as an individual even with each other. In addition to this, Tomas and Kristyna acknowledged the mutual feeling that life just wouldn’t be the same without the other.

4. Love and life are nothing without passion:

You could either live life or you could just exist – like a rock decorating the sidewalk.

It takes passion to create a story worth remembering and sharing and it doesn’t really matter what the real definition of success is as long as every experience is taken as a learning curve. The couple slowly worked their way up the ladder together from London to Spain to Egypt to Dubai to Abu Dhabi and the list continues to grow. Here are a few highlights of their journey together beginning with the day they said, “I do”.

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Chef Tomas (or Tom as most people call him), gained a wealth of knowledge, experience and nurtured his creativity over the years. This culinary ninja can cook up a storm using a handful of ingredients simply because of his love for experimentation with flavours. Tom currently works as a consultant offering a myriad of services, one of which includes being a private chef. No one understands pop ups better than Tomas as he spear headed and ran The Junkyard at Mar Mikhael, Beirut. It’s called the Junkyard for a reason – the entire dining area was built from recycled products.

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Chef Tom is pretty down to earth, considering the number of laurels that decorate pockets of his residence. This recipient of the Golden Toque award (2012) after wowing the judges and the crowd with his piquant skills at the International Fine Food Festival still continues to learn and research whatever he can in this ocean called the food and beverage industry. He makes a pretty good tutor too as he goes into the fine details.

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For those of you who know the Regers well enough, you might be able to guess who placed that monkey beside the award as I was clicking this picture. The monkey has a companion (who also comes in various outfits) that goes travelling with the couple. If one of them has to go on a long trip, then the other hides the monkey in the luggage and it’s up to the globetrotting partner to dig it out eventually.

Chef Tom recalls, “I once had to fly to Saudi Arabia for a few weeks and in my luggage, this monkey had a custom made abaya on. I couldn’t believe Kris would actually stitch something like that and I had a good laugh thanks to her”.

Kristyna Reger had bloomed into an established manager at Hakkasan Dubai and Abu Dhabi by the year 2010. This comes as no surprise as she is gifted to win the audience’s heart by simply smiling. Her warm and amiable nature, studded with a whimsical sense of humour adds colour to the family business. You can tell that she has an eye for detail just by looking at the set up she had put together in the comfort of their balcony.

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Kristyna Reger was also a nominee for the title of the Top Restaurant Manager at the Pro Chef awards (2013). She complements the business with her creativity and managerial skills.

IMG_27995. Life begins NOW. Live it:

My last tip is quite obvious. As a couple, two individuals might experience shifts in the relationship weather from clear skies, to choppy waters. Do not fret too much about what once was and do not grow anxious of what one could become. What you have now is yours to cherish and only you can decide how you would like to live that moment.

It wasn’t easy for Tom and Kristyna to establish themselves in an already saturated market. The need for something fresh is what the customers want and that’s what this couple always strives to deliver. If anything, it has helped them both grow stronger together and with each other.

You would have noticed pictures of the food on the table so here’s a look at what we had for lunch that day in the middle of this casual interview:

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It sure was enjoyable to watch them create magic together in kitchen and a treat to witness all of these dishes being put together from scratch. Some of the ingredients were picked up from the Farmer’s Market and there was no pre-set recipe in mind. What you’ve seen here are the works of true artists. Chef Tom’s got a keen sense of flavour combinations.

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The making of the beef cheek stock

The making of the beef cheek stock

Tender salad bursting with flavour

Tender salad bursting with flavour

Radish, yellow tomatoes and roka on the side.

Radish, yellow tomatoes and roka on the side.

Baby pumpkin grilled alongside the leg of a rather well picked lamb.

Baby pumpkin grilled alongside the leg of a rather well picked lamb.

And there she is - the barbecued leg of lamb

And there she is – the barbecued leg of lamb

Celeriac cooked in beef cheek,

Celeriac cooked in beef cheek.

Strawberry and fennel gazpacho inviting us to the table.

Strawberry and fennel gazpacho inviting us to the table.

Le lunch!

Le lunch!

My apologies if you were expecting an article on which resort to stay in or if you were expecting a couple’s package at a popular spa. Here’s a preview of Kristyna’s doll collection to make up for dampening your anticipating spirits.

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Though it’s alright to pamper yourself and your partner a little once a while, the most important thing to do on Valentine’s day (for those of you who observe it) is to value the person you’re sharing your life with because you genuinely do care about that individual. Love does not always have to be centered around tangible elements because it’s the little things in life that always add up and you can never place a price on that.

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On that note, I wish you all a happy 14th of February.

I am expecting a few stray red balloons to welcome me tomorrow morning when I look out the window. Why? Because speaking after inhaling helium is hilarious!

 

You did not hear that from me.

 

Comestible regards,
Judy Sebastian

2 Comments

  1. Pooja Pillai

    April 1, 2015 at 7:45 am

    A refreshing read! I am a bonafide fan of your page!

    • Food She Blogged

      April 1, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you Pooj!
      How are you? How have you been? It’s been eons!

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