8 Tips for Wowing a Date with Your Cooking, Even If You’re Not Gordon Ramsay

cooking for 2
8 Tips for Wowing a Date with Your Cooking, Even If You’re Not Gordon Ramsay
The perfect date just got better.

The first time that you cook for a girl is a bit of a rite of passage for a relationship. It also makes a great early date – cheaper than a restaurant, it's more private, and it gives you a great chance to impress her. On the other hand, it also gives you a great chance to embarrass yourself in front of her, and visions of burned pasta and raw chicken are enough to scare many would-be-chefs away.

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple meals that are guaranteed to do the trick, even if you’re less than culinarily inclined. I’m going to go through a few simple tips and tricks to help ensure that you win that girl’s heart – rather than give her salmonella poisoning.

First, though, here’s five reasons you may want to consider donning an apron and embracing your inner Gordon Ramsay:

1. Nobody thinks that sandwich joke is funny anymore, and by cooking for her, rather than waiting for her to do it for you, you’re implicitly telling her that you are progressive: She doesn’t need to make your sandwiches for you; you make your own sandwiches, and you’re quite happy to make hers too.

2. You’re showing her you have practical interests. Let’s face it: you don’t wanna be constructing shelves in front of her to show her how useful or hands-on your skill-set is; a beautifully crafted meal is all you need to demonstrate interests beyond yourself, and show her that you take pride and care in the things you create.

There’s nothing more attractive than being immersed in your passions and it’s all very well and good to talk about them, but showing her them is a million times more effective. That, and she’s unlikely to rave to her friends about how great your shelf assembly was.

3. Providing others with food is the greatest and most ancient way to demonstrate care and affection. By cooking her a meal, you are actively expressing care, kindness, and of course, pampering. There is nobody in the whole world who doesn’t revel in leaving their responsibilities at the doorstep sometimes and you should take every opportunity to do this for her.

4. It gives you the opportunity to invite her to your place in the least creepy and aggressive way possible. Inviting people into your living quarters is symbolic for more than one reason, but perhaps the most important thing it signifies is trust. No girl wants to date a teenager trapped in a man’s body who insists on residing in his own personal man cave. [Need to adultify your place? Check out Primer's Intentional Apartment series.

5. It provides the perfect setting to really get to know her and find out if you’re compatible. Eating a lavish meal is the perfect pretense for long conversations, and offers an activity which is both conducive to finding out about one another but still active enough to allow for long silences if either of you are of the awkward persuasion.

So there you have it – if you need no additional convincing, then without further ado, my top tips for the perfect home cooked date meal are as follows:

Prep is Essential

If you’re not totally confident in the kitchen, then the worst thing that you can possibly do is leave yourself with everything to do at the last minute. If you want to prepare dinner for her, then make sure you actually prepare it. Make your plans a few days in advance, to give yourself time to come up with a menu, buy your ingredients, and familiarize yourself with your recipes. Be meticulous – you don’t want to be sprinting to the store to buy pasta 5 minutes before she arrives.

Cook in Advance

This is closely related to the first tip. If you’re planning your menu ahead of time, then why not prepare your food that way too? There are plenty of meals that you can make in advance, either earlier in the day or even days beforehand. This is particularly great for cold desserts (e.g. tarts, cakes, etc.), salads to be used as starters or side dishes, and plenty of other stuff. This saves you the headache of trying to manage the timing of four dishes that are all meant to finish at once.

Anything that’s prepared in the oven is great for this too – you can do the legwork earlier in the day, and just take it out as she arrives. The bonus here is that you’re not stuck in the kitchen when she shows up, and can talk to her while you wait for the food to finish.

Cook Unobjectionable Food

This may sound like a bit of an odd one, but I mean make sure that you don’t cook your famous 3 blue cheese soufflé only to find out that she detests the stuff. Ask about any allergies or vegetarianism in advance, just to be sure. And then try and stick to safe options. That means no anchovies. No brussel sprouts. And definitely no offal. Of course, if you really, absolutely, 100% must cook your “ox tongue & anchovy surprise”, you can just check with her in advance – but I’d probably just steer clear of it altogether, or you might find her grimacing through dinner out of politeness.

Keep It Light

Maybe you want to put together a 5 course feast, but you’ll probably regret it when you both reach the end of the dinner stuffed, bloated, and tired. There’s a time and a place for gorging on food, and a second or third date isn’t it. No more than 3 courses, and just keep them light. Salads are good for this, obviously, but otherwise just restrain yourself on portion sizes. You’ll thank yourself later.

Even seven course dinners at a fancy restaurant are designed to make you satisfied by the end, not full.

Keep It Simple

This is not the time to have your first stab at beef wellington or meringue. Stick to simple, straightforward foods, ideally ones that you’ve cooked a few times before. Pasta dishes are great for this, as are simple meat and vegetable mains. Once again, salads are perfect for this too. It’ll be a hell of a lot more impressive to have a simple dish cooked to perfection than a complex dish done wrong.

Decorate in Advance

If you’re planning to lay out the nice cutlery and tidy the place up a bit, then don’t leave that for the last minute either. For one thing, you want all that done before she arrives. More importantly, you don’t want it distracting you from the cooking. So set the table, get some decorations out, and light some candles – all before the cooking gets too intense.

Wash Up As You Go

This one’s all about presentation. When your lady friend arrives, do you want her to find you splattered with food and surrounded by towers of dirty pots and pans? Probably not. So whenever you’re done with a pan or utensil, wash it up at the first opportunity. It’ll give you more space to work in, and leave you looking clean, tidy, and like you actually know what you’re doing.

Give Breakfast a Go

Next time she stays the night, why not plan in advance to make sure you’ve got a bit more than just stale corn flakes and coffee in the cupboards for breakfast? Cooking up a simple breakfast is a sure fire way to win anyone over on the morning after. Poached or scrambled eggs are great options, and can be served with loads of different accompaniments, while you’re rarely likely to go wrong with a staple like pancakes or french toast.

With a bit of luck, you’re now all set to wow your date with some culinary masterpieces – or at least avoid giving her food poisoning. Although, if all else fails, it never hurts to keep a couple of takeout menus around the place – just in case.

A Few Recipes as a Jumping Off Point

  • A Greek salad. The preparation instructions genuinely couldn't get any simpler than this.
  • Coq Au Vin. Reasonably simple to make, quite impressive, and can be prepared hours (or even a day) in advance.
  • Pear Sorbet. Light, and can again be made well in advance.

A London-dwelling philosophy graduate with a penchant for films, gaming, and technology, with the occasional bit of tennis thrown in there.


  • Reply August 20, 2013


    Nice article, Dom.

    If I may add, if you’re being meticulous with your choice of what to prepare, consider two additional things: how it looks on the plate and how it smells (and how long that scent lingers in your home).

    Meals can be an incredibly sensual experience. An ugly (muddy, bland) presentation on the plate, cloud of smoke hanging in the air, or funk from cooking something like cabbage can potentially put a bit of a damper on the mood.

    If you’re being extra careful, you may even want to practice preparing the meal before the big date.

    • Reply August 21, 2013


      Good thought about aromas (good and bad). Perhaps a chef’s candle would be a good investment if you have olfactory concerns. Come to think of it, that kills two birds with one stone – cosy lighting AND smell control

  • Reply August 20, 2013


    I think the best piece of advice here is to prep before hand. Even when I’m cooking a new recipe for just myself I prep all the ingredients first-it makes it so much easier to follow a recipe when you know you’ve got your vegetables already diced and you don’t have to worry about rushing to finish prepping before the white wine burns.

  • Reply August 21, 2013

    Neil Awad

    Appreciate the table setup pic. Also agree, keep it light as you never know where the night might take you 😉

    Here are a few easy recipes…you can do 7 if you want to really blow your diner away or cut it back to 3: 1 x appetiser, 1 x main by say add a protein to one of the dishes and 1 x dessert. Tarts are great as you can make them in advance.


  • Reply August 21, 2013

    Agoge Advertising

    Nice post, I’ll surely keep this in mind 🙂

  • Reply August 22, 2013


    Great article overall but I do have a nit to pick. You mention in your article that making a sandwich for someone you are dating (I wont use woman or girl here because that would be sexist assume the sexuality of the parties involved, not progressive at all if you ask me.) is, in fact, progressive. Wouldn’t a relationship function better if you both are making sandwiches for one another? Your suggestion that the man is now responsible for sandwich making rubs me the wrong way here. Just a thought.

    • Reply August 22, 2013


      Primer is geared toward male readers, or at least lifestyle improvement of men, specifically. Thus, the male-focused nature of virtually every article. Nice “that would be sexist” strawman, though.

      Further, the article doesn’t suggest that “the man is now responsible for sandwich making,” nor does it suggest solely cooking for the girl as an extended relationship dynamic. It simply says that making a girl dinner is a good way to show her that you don’t expect her to be the only way doing the cooking. You’re free to do a buddy-chef date, in which case most of the tips here still apply.

      • Reply August 23, 2013


        I really was not trying to be rude, sorry if I came across that way.

        Not all men are straight. That was the point I was making. Although my use of the word sexist as opposed to homophobic or just ignorant might have been confusing.

        I agree all the points here are still valuable but the introductory paragraph really conveys two messages in the language that was selected. First, that all the readers are strait by identifying the sex of the party to be receiving the food. Second, that the readers are or want to be perceived as not conservative by the use of the word progressive. Because of this much of the good in the article is lost because of a politically charged statement in the introduction.

        I didn’t write this to attack Dominic, I find most of his work to be insightful and very valuable. I just wanted to point out an issue that might turn some readers off of his stuff.

  • Reply August 24, 2013

    Laura @MotherWouldKnow

    Dom, Wonderful advice and a great article. I’m a particular fan of the prep and cook in advance tips. I do hope that you (and your readers) take pleasure in the cooking itself and don’t view it as a chore or just a means to an end. http://motherwouldknow.com/journal/meal-preparation-rule-10-have-fun.html

  • Reply August 26, 2013


    I would add one additional tip, particularly for novices:
    If you’ve never cooked a particular dish before, cook it for yourself or some forgiving friends once before trying to impress a potential romantic partner with it. It will keep the surprises to a minimum and help you get your timing down.

  • Reply November 12, 2014


    Using herb-infused olive oil (think basil or rosemary) is a wonderfully simple way to add an impressive scent while you’re cooking… with no extra work on your part.

  • Reply January 29, 2016

    Lindsay Schramm

    My boyfriend cooked me and my family breakfast when he first flew out to meet them. It wasn’t anything too complicated, but he made us really amazing breakfast sandwiches with all the best ingredients. Fresh and fluffy croissants, Beecher’s white cheddar, organic Canadian bacon, rich pesto… my parents and I were both blown away. I was embarrassed by how fast I wolfed that thing down. Got him major points in all our books, and it was lovely for me to watch him pamper my family in his pajamas with bed head.

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