Cincy Chic’s new Chef-in-Residence Ken Durbin dishes on GNOs and why a private chef is the secret ingredient to your best girl’s night in.
As a private chef, I cook meals for all sorts of special occasions. While I’ve been privileged to curate cuisine for luxurious birthday parties, anniversary dinners, and even small company functions, I’ve also had the opportunity to work a different kind of event—and they are one I’d never be invited to as a guy! I’m talking about the GNO, or Girlfriends’ Nights Out.
Over the years, I’ve been hired to prepare meals for a lot of them, so here’s the 411 on GNOs (from a guy’s perspective):
Rule #1- No Boys Allowed
My GNO clients (who are amazing, successful, and dynamic women) have told me that the goal of their ladies’-only evening is for the busy women in their lives to have a chance to take a night off from their husbands or boyfriends to focus on celebrating and enriching the connections that they share as women.
Along with no guys, a GNO is typically also a night away from the kids, too. Many of my clients have told me that this is especially needed for stay at home moms. I could not agree more. The SAHMs I know somehow balance weeks full of endless soccer practices, PTA meetings, science projects, drying tears, cleaning up spills, and still managing to get everyone (and the dog) in matching sweaters for Christmas pictures. You deserve a night off from that craziness.
I also think about the women in my life who are rocking out demanding careers, going to school, caring for an elderly parent, or putting in thankless volunteer hours in your communities to make them better. And many of you are balancing many, if not all of all these roles. You all are amazing, and you all deserve a night off.
GNOs By the Decade
In your 20s, your GNO was all about going out on the town, dressing up to the nines, wearing your cutest dress with your highest heels, and dancing the night away in them… which I have no clue how you do, and fully respect when you take them off and just jam out in your bare feet.
But I digress.
So then, life happens and as you get into your 30s, your GNOs start to look a little different. It might involve back-and-forth texts for months until finally the planets align and somehow you can all get a babysitter on the same night and score reservations for seven at the hottest new OTR restaurant. So you go, you eat, you share, you laugh—and it’s transformative. Your girlfriends have brought you back from the edge of your sanity and brought out the “fun” in you again.
And you vow to keep doing it.
Then your 40s arrive and your GNO gently changes again with every other beautiful imperfection you’ve come to accept and embrace about yourself. You’ve officially stopped caring so much about what you’re wearing anymore or even what hot new restaurant you’re checking into on Instagram. Forget all that because where you’re at doesn’t matter—what matters is who you’re there with. And that’s when you decide to bring the girls night out in.
While your traditions may get altered as careers and husbands and babies and life happen, the spirit of your GNO remains intact. A GNO is about building and nurturing the bonds you have with the important women in your life. Through all of your life changes, your girlfriends have been your constant. You support each other on your brave journeys, motivating one another through everything from husband problems to job stresses to dealing with the gravity of breast cancer. You elevate one another gracefully in a way that, frankly, us guys really don’t know how to do.
The Definition of Eating Well
The women I’ve worked with on planning their GNO have had vastly different dietary needs—some request to keep it light (yet still gourmet and locally-sourced), Keto-friendly, or vegetarian/vegan-friendly. Or, on the flip side I’ve had women want to give their girlfriends a night off from their diets too and make something really decadent. The three tenets of my business are 1.) pamper yourself, 2.) enjoy life, and 3.) eat well. Eating well doesn’t always mean eating healthy. Sometimes eating well means that if you and your girlfriends want to eat bread—I’m going to make sure you eat the best damn bread in the tristate. If you want lobster, I’ll fly it in fresh the same day from Maine.
You’re going to enjoy the best food at an At Home Chef party, but what I’ve come to learn is that a GNO isn’t about the food. It’s about support and empowering.
Last December I had the honor to cook for a group of women who have been gathering for their GNO every single year for the past 27 years. Since the day they graduated high school together, they’ve come back at least once a year and have been there for each other through whatever life brought them.
It struck me the night I was preparing their dinner that it’s definitely not a coincidence that my client and her girlfriends are all so successful in life. Bankers, lawyers, doctors, hairdressers—they all resonated the same theme, which was that supporting one another’s careers has made a key difference in their lives. For them, their GNO honors their bond of friendship in a way that helps them all soar, both professionally and personally.
Bringing the Girls Night Out In
That’s the kind of friendship I see over and again and it’s all because the GNO these women planned in their home with my company gave them a night to just talk with no worries of who’s driving with whom, who had too much to drink, where to park, or what time the dinner reservation is. You’re all there in one house together, there’s no clean up to worry about (because I do all that), and you can have as much wine as you want because you know going in that you can all spend the night.
In the age of social media, it’s so easy to occasionally send a DM or text to your besties and move on with your day. It seems like it’s enough—but deep down you know it’s not. You need those genuinely warm hugs; you need the fits of laughter; you need that closeness that can only be felt when you have a GNO.
If you’re considering where to hold your next GNO, why not do it at home? The At Home Chef can take care of all the details so you can focus on what’s important—supporting your girlfriends, helping one another do this life thing, and inspiring and empowering each other like the extraordinary women you are.