"Eating anything releases dopamine and stimulates pleasure and reward centers," says relationship expert Pat Love. "When you eat with someone, your brain associates them with pleasure. That's why we bring candy and food for Valentine's Day. That's why chocolate is an upper. It's all part of the love cocktail."
Both strategies seem to work. Paul, who, as far as I know, invented the term "the closer," is the one-dish type. If he liked the girl, she got the "chicken rollatini"—chicken breast pounded thin and rubbed with rosemary and garlic before being stuffed with fresh basil, mozzarella, and prosciutto. "I have no idea if it’s actually called 'chicken rollatini,'" says Paul, who learned how to make the dish from a friend who grew up cooking with his Italian grandmother. "But it's chicken, and it's Italian—and you roll it."
Clearly, it wasn’t the dish's authenticity that was making Paul's dates swoon. "It's the details," he says. "It's not about going out and making a million courses…it's about showing complexity." To that end, he continues, if he really liked the girl, he'd make her a green salad strewn with edible flowers. "She'd see that, and boom! I'm hand-feeding her flowers before I have the chicken out of the oven," he says, laughing.
Edible flowers are what John would call a "panty remover." An accomplished cook, John has got quite a few of his own. They include: flambé (lighting something—anything—on fire), the old pan flip (where you toss hot ingredients in the pan like a star on the Food Network), even chopping a few vegetables. "I'll precook almost everything, but leave whatever high-heat sautéing or simple chopping I have until she gets here. Then she sits in my kitchen, drinking wine, and watching." His last meal that closed the deal: lamb shanks with creamy mashed potatoes and caramelized carrots—though he admits that his date gave him a nice…er…reward for a great seared salmon dish.