How 4 Foodie Couples Met, Work & Cook Together | sheerluxe.com
Think Valentine’s Day, and you conjure up a busy restaurant, crammed with couples tucking into carefully curated set menus. But we rarely consider the people working behind the scenes, rustling up chocolate puds (with two spoons) while missing out on seeing their other half. With that in mind, we asked four pairs of restaurateurs – who also happen to be couples – to share how they met, their most romantic meal and what they’ll be whipping up for their own dinner for two.
Favourites 2

Helen Hall and Luke West-Whylie, Peckham Cellars 

How and when did you meet? 

Helen: We met working at The Blues Kitchen Shoreditch. I was Luke’s manager at the time and had never really seen him that way. Notting Hill Carnival came around and there was a wild party at The Paradise by Kensal Rise. Both heavily influenced by Wray & Nephew rum, we kissed for the first time and have been together ever since.

What's the first dish you both made for each other?  

Helen: Luke was actually vegan at the time we got together, so I had to be creative in what I cooked for him. Asian food is always my go-to for vegan/vegetarian food, so I made Luke super spicy laksa with deep fried tofu puffs.  

Luke: Helen is the chef in our relationship, especially at the beginning. I mainly get to chop (with careful guidance) and wash up. However, when we first got together, I introduced Helen to the combination of cucumber and marmite in a brown pitta. She loved it.  

What's your go-to meal to cook together?  

Helen: When we have the time, we love to make fresh pasta together. There’s something very relaxing about the whole process. I usually make the pasta and Luke makes the sauce. If we don’t have a lot of time, we love to make a proper carbonara. We always have spaghetti, eggs, parmesan and a big chunk of guanciale in the fridge so we can quickly whip one up. We are sometimes a little sacrilegious in adding a few mushrooms. If we have more time to devote to cooking, we love to make a slow-cooked ragout. Beef shin or oxtail or just a classic bolognese. Lasagne is Luke’s favourite and we make a mean beef shin one. 

Luke: Since opening Peckham Cellars, our go-to is late-night fried rice dressed up with mirin, soy, spring onions, eggs and whatever we have in the house. Easy, quick and delicious after a long day – there’s also minimal clean up involved.

How do you balance working together with your life outside the restaurant?  

Luke: It’s hard! We try to have dates where we ban ‘work chat’. Inevitably,  it tends to crop up in some form, but talking is always easier over a bottle of wine.  

Helen: We don’t really have a work/life balance at the moment, as we live a five-minute walk from the restaurant and both work five or six days a week. We just try to enjoy the time we do get together.  

What will you be doing this Valentine's Day? 

Helen: Working. It’s our first Valentine’s Day at the restaurant and we’re pretty busy already so we’ll both be there.  

Luke: It’s Helen’s birthday shortly after, so we’ll be going to Cornerstone and doubling up on our important occasions. We went last year, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’m really looking forward to going again.  

Helen: The standout dish was most definitely the whole john dory in chicken butter sauce. The depth of flavour in the sauce was just amazing. I pretty much had to stop Luke from licking the plate.

Where's the best restaurant you've been to on the big day?  

Luke: We were in San Sebastián three years ago for Valentine’s Day. We did a lot of eating, but on Valentine’s night we went to Bar Nestor which is a restaurant that only serves three things: a tomato salad, padrón peppers, and txuleta steak. I’m going to say it’s the best steak I’ve ever had.  

Helen: We both still talk about it being the best meal we’ve ever had. We were standing up, crammed next to loads of people but the restaurant had such a nice vibe. We were drinking txakoli and everyone that worked there was lovely. My dream date. 

What's your ultimate Valentine's Day meal? 

Helen: Veal and pork white ragù with paccheri. I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever cooked together.  

125 Queen's Road, Peckham, SE15 2ND

Visit PeckhamCellars.co.uk

Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, Honey & Co

How and when did you meet?

Itamar: At an Italian restaurant outside Tel Aviv, Sarit was a sous chef and I was a lowly line cook. We were flirting for a long time before we got together and kept it a secret for months until we got busted going to a movie.

What's the first dish you both made for each other? 

Sarit: Very early on in our relationship I wanted to make him chicken soup, but my hob broke halfway through, so I finished it in the oven. He said he loved it but I know it could have been better.

Itamar: I tried to surprise her with a cake once. I rarely bake and took quite a cavalier approach to the recipe, changing apples for pears and olive oil for butter. Needless to say, it was a disaster.  

What's your go-to meal to cook together? 

Itamar: We try not to cook together as we are two very bossy people and even though we have great respect for each other’s abilities in the kitchen, we invariably try to manage each other. We learned very early on not to try.

How do you balance working together with your life outside the restaurant? 

Itamar: At the beginning it was really hard, we were working all hours and putting everything into the business. We love our work, but we take care to make time in the week just for the two of us.

What will you be doing this Valentine's Day?

Itamar: Cooking, probably, with each of us in one of our restaurants’ kitchens! 

Where's the best restaurant you've been to on the big day? 

Itamar: Ours, obviously! Valentine’s Day service is so much fun, you only get tables of two and the vibe coming from the room to the kitchen is so happy. This year, we’ll be serving a one-off tasting menu at both Honey & Smoke and Honey & Co, serving the likes of roasted mauve aubergine with a BBQ tahini crust, jewelled rice salad and lime, followed by feta and honey cheesecake.

What's your ultimate Valentine's Day meal?

The ultimate treat for us is a good, luxurious breakfast. Preferably in bed.

25 Warren Street, Bloomsbury, W1T 5LZ and 216 Great Portland Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 5QW

Visit HoneyAndCo.co.uk

Tayler and Matthew Carver, The Cheese Bar & Pick & Cheese

How and when did you meet?

Tayler: We met when I first moved to London, almost six years ago. I was actually interviewing for a summer job with The Cheese Truck, believe it or not. Mathew spent most of it ranting to me about the Sustainable Restaurant Association. I remember he had a hole in his jumper. Incredibly romantic.

What's the first dish you both made for each other? 

Tayler: I cooked Mathew my ‘signature’ risotto, with leek and mushroom. Totally messed it up, it was disgusting. I had anxiety about cooking anything else for him for months afterwards. I think the first thing Mathew cooked for me was beans on toast, late one night after a boozy date. 

What's your go-to meal to cook together? 

Tayler: Maybe a roast or a stew. Something which takes absolutely ages usually – we often spend the whole day cooking at the weekend. Mathew loves making ramen and usually ropes me into looking after the broth if I’m working from home.

How do you balance working together with your life outside the restaurant? 

Tayler: Life outside the restaurant? What’s that again?!

What will you be doing this Valentine's Day?

Tayler: Mathew’s working at Pick & Cheese. I’ll probably just be at home with the dog.

Where's the best restaurant you've been to on the big day? 

Tayler: Valentine’s Day is always one of the busiest nights in the restaurant, so we’re usually working. Our pals White Men Can’t Jerk did a Valentine’s collaboration with Morley’s a couple of years ago that I went to with my friends, which was pretty awesome. You can’t go wrong with fried chicken. 

What's your ultimate Valentine's Day meal?

Tayler: We love a good cheeseboard and it makes a perfect late-night, post-shift dinner. To make the ultimate cheeseboard, you need something soft – we love Rosary goats cheese from Salisbury; something hard – like Kingham, from King Stone Dairy in Gloucestershire, which is a hard, Alpine-style cheese with flavours of caramelised onions and toasted hazelnuts; and finally, something blue – we’d recommend Young Buck from Mike’s Fancy Cheese, near Belfast. It’s Northern Ireland’s first-ever raw milk blue cheese, made in the same way as stilton. Don’t be afraid to try something new: chutney and honey are fine accompaniments, but you can create some delicious pairings when you think outside the box.

94 Camden Stables, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1 8AH; and Seven Dials Market, Short's Gardens, Covent Garden, WC2H 9AT

Visit TheCheeseBar.com

Kate & Rick Toogood, Prawn On The Lawn

How and when did you meet?

Katie: We met ten years ago on a dating website called My Single Friend - shame it wasn't Plenty of Fish! Your friends write a profile for you, so you don’t have much say in the matter. The fact Rick liked cooking really made him stand out – who doesn’t love a man who can cook?

What's the first dish you both made for each other?

Katie: Rick made me a fish pie (of course) and I made him a moussaka. 

What's your go-to meal to cook together?

Katie: By the time we finish service and get home it’s usually gone midnight, so we need something quick but also tasty. We make a lot of Asian-style soups/broths – Thai, Vietnamese, Indian. You just chop onion, garlic, ginger, whatever veg you like and fry in some coconut oil. Then throw in a couple of tablespoons of curry paste (either homemade or from a jar if you don’t have the time). Add some stock, kaffir lime leaves, noodles and some prawns and simmer until it’s all cooked.

How do you balance working together with your life outside the restaurant?

Katie: We used to have hectic, unsociable jobs (I worked in music and Rick worked as a general manager of a restaurant), so we never saw each other. That’s one of the reasons we started Prawn on the Lawn, as we needed to find something which allowed us to spend time together, doing something we were both passionate about. We do our best to try and leave work in the restaurant but that’s easier said than done. We go out for dinner together every couple of weeks and ban work chat. Although we love working together, opening Barnaby’s in Padstow has meant we don’t work with each other 24/7, which means we have something different to talk about.

What will you be doing this Valentine's Day?

Katie: We’re both working this year (in different restaurants), but as they’re only 20 metres apart we should be able to pop out for a cheeky glass of fizz on our break. We’re postponing Valentine’s Day until the 17th February, and going away together for the night.

Where's the best restaurant you've been to on the big day?

Katie: We haven’t been out on Valentine’s Day since we started Prawn on the Lawn nearly seven years ago. The last place we went on the big day was Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden, but now it would probably be Brat and Smoking Goat in Shoreditch or Sabor in Mayfair.

What's your ultimate Valentine's Day meal?

Katie: It has to be oysters (either raw or deep-fried) with garlic crème fraiche – the ultimate Valentine’s Day combo.

292-294 St Paul's Road, Islington, N1 2LH

Visit PrawnOnTheLawn.com

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at info@sheerluxe.com.

You are not seeing this website as it was intended. Please try loading it in an up to date web browser.