As those of us who refuse to shell out for restaurant meals on Valentine’s Day start to plan fancy romantic dinners cooked at home, chef Abbi Merriss shares a childhood lesson on how NOT to impress your loved one in the kitchen.

By Chelsea Morse
Updated May 23, 2017
Credit: Photo © Seton Rossini

Those of us who wouldn’t be caught dead paying Hallmark holiday prices for restaurant prix fixe meals on Valentine’s Day are starting to make plans for a cozy dinner at home, and inevitably, we’re scheming about something impressive we could cook to wow our beloved. To get inspired, we’ve been chatting with chefs about what they make for special occasions at home. Indianapolis chef Abbi Merriss of Bluebeard was reminiscing about one of the first times she attempted to make a special meal for her mother.

“When I was about 12 years old, I came home from school one day and decided to cook my mom a fancy dinner before she got home from work. I made heart-shaped burger patties, green beans and mac and cheese. I had the house clean and the dishes all done when my mom came home, but while the burgers were cooking on the cookie sheet, the fat rolled off and burned at the bottom of the oven, starting a small fire. I threw water on the burgers, and there were fumes everywhere, so I grabbed my sisters and ran down the street. When we came back, everything was fine and my mom said they were the best burgers she’d ever had. So I suppose it went off without a hitch, besides almost burning down the house.”

Moral of the story: Maybe it's the thought that counts, but keep a fire extinguisher handy. And heart-shaped food always tastes good—but cakes might be safer than burgers. Below, our suggestions for other less-flammable ways to express your love.