Maintaining a romantic relationship in the restaurant industry is a tall order given the crazy hours, manic schedules and limited free time. So it's no surprise that so many chefs and restaurant folk end up dating their colleagues, publicists or customers, some even managing to find true love on the job. In honor of Valentine's Day, we're shouting out to seven of the coolest culinary power couples in town. Read on below to hear their stories.
Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito, chefs-partners at Quality Branded
Their story: The couple behind acclaimed eatery dinnertable met years ago while working at the original Park Avenue Summer on 63rd Street. After a late-night drink at The Subway Inn (RIP), the duo, who both share an obsession with food and Italian-American heritage, have been pretty much inseparable ever since. The couple eventually found their way to working once again at the same restaurant, Quality Italian, and tied the knot in Florence, Italy, two years ago. And then in 2016, they opened the much-lauded speakeasy restaurant dinnertable which they helmed for eight months before returning to the Quality Branded family to develop recipes, train staff and, most importantly, open an exciting new restaurant. Expect a larger version of dinnertable to open in the West Village some time this summer.
Future plans: The couple, who has traveled to Italy multiple times together hopes to someday buy an apartment there together. And also maybe travel to Japan (you can find influences from the cuisine in their cooking).
How they are spending Valentine's Day: It happens to be the first day of training at Quality Italian Denver so like many culinary couples, they'll be working.
Emily and Matt Hyland, co-owners/founders, Emily and Emmy Squared
Their story: "I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but it all happened very quickly." Emily Hyland tells us of the love-at-first-sight romance between her and now-husband Matt Hyland, chef/co-owner/co-founder of Emily and Emmy Squared. The duo met at Roger Williams University where Emily was an RA and Matt was a sophomore living in the same dorm. Before long the duo was hitting it off over pizza (a sign of things to come) and gin and tonics and they've been together ever since (a grand total of 15 years). After college, Matt went to culinary school and became a chef and Emily was working as a public school teacher but the duo always dreamed of opening a restaurant together. "The opportunity came up for us to do this together so we went for it." After opening the wildly successful EMILY in Clinton Hill two years ago, the duo opened Emmy Squared in Williamsburg last year to rave reviews. It takes the power of love to pull off a seriously authentic and dare we say, upgraded Detroit-style pizza in the Big Apple. The rest is Instagram history.
Future plans: Emmy Squared is expanding to the West Village this spring, opening in the former Blue RIbbon Bakery space, so the couple will be plenty busy for the foreseeable future. But Emily hopes to eventually focus more on QT in the future, once things (hopefully) slow down.
How they are spending Valentine's Day: Probably working! "We’re an old married couple at this point," says Hyland.
JP and Ellia Park, chef-owner and owner/general manager at ATOBOY
Their story: The duo behind the hit Korean newcomer, ATOBOY, first met while in college in South Korea but parted ways after graduation — Ellia headed for New Zealand and JP for London and Australia. They later reunited in South Korea, got married and moved to NYC together. Soon after arriving, JP took a chef job at Jungsik in TriBeCa, before the duo opened the critically acclaimed ATOBOY together in 2016. At their new hot spot, it's a classic FOH/BOH pairing — JP mans the stoves, creating inventive Korean-inspired small plates for the affordable tasting-menu concept, while owner Ellia runs front-of-house.
Future plans: "We hope to share and expand the various Korean food scenes here in the U.S.," says Park. "Atoboy is our first restaurant, but we're also hoping it can serve as a cultural place for Korean food too. We plan to open another restaurant featuring a different style of Korean cuisine in the future."
How they are spending Valentine's Day: Working at Atoboy, duh.
Floyd and Barkha Cardoz, chef-owner and HR/events manager at Paowalla
Their story: Acclaimed Indian-American chef, Floyd Cardoz, and his wife, Barkha, met 35 years ago in 1981 at culinary school in Mumbai. But after moving to NYC, the couple's dating schedule became slightly more difficult. At the time, Floyd lived in Queens and worked chef's hours and Barkha lived in New Jersey and worked 9–5, so every morning he met her at Port Authority to have breakfast before she went to work (after being up half the night). Floyd, who is known most notably for helming the acclaimed and now-closed Danny Meyer eatery Tabla (where Barkha briefly worked as an assistant) recently opened Paowalla in SoHo, a tribute to the flavors of India that's known for its killer bread program. There, he mans the stoves while Barkha oversees HR, admin and event planning.
Future plans: "We'd like to travel together as much as possible," Barkha says. "It's hard to find the time when you have a brand-new restaurant in NYC and another in India, but it's definitely a goal in the future!"
How they are spending Valentine's Day: Floyd will be in India at the couple's other restaurant, The Bombay Canteen, while Barkha will be working at Paowalla. They plan to celebrate when he gets back.
Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis, chefs-owners at Root & Bone in NYC and Sarsaparilla Club in Miami, FL
Their story: This culinary couple met in Miami at Gigi's Cafe when Janine fell in love with a plate of meatloaf she had just tasted. She asked to meet the chef to get the recipe and the two blond bombshells locked eyes. The dish inspired her to enroll in culinary school and shortly thereafter, she began staging at Gigi's and then eventually went to work at Yardbird, where Jeff was then executive chef. After working side by side for many years, the couple finally got together, moved to NYC and opened the wildly popular Southern eatery, Root & Bone. Now back in Miami, the duo opened Sarsaparilla Club and welcomed a baby girl, Sunny, in 2016.
Future plans: Opening their third restaurant, Stiltsville Fish Club in the Sunset Harbor area of Miami.
How they are spending Valentine's Day: Working at Sarsaparilla Club. "We are doing a very special tasting menu for our guests," Janine tells us, "and will go home at the end of service, sit by our pool in our backyard and share a bottle of my favorite champagne and some of Osetra caviar with buckwheat waffle blini, buttermilk crème fraîche and lemon zest."
Elisa Marshall and Benjamin Sormonte, founding partners of Maman
Their story: The couple met in a club in Montreal in 2011, after several failed setup attempts by mutual friends. Ben pretended to be a French actor but after getting her number, he admitted that he was actually "that guy" — the good-looking lawyer that her friends had tried to hook her up with. Soon after getting together, the duo opened the stylish Maman Bakery in SoHo and now has multiple locations around NYC as well as in Toronto and St. Barts.
Future plans: "We are looking to expand our e-commerce and are working on some more fun retail collaborations," says Elisa. "We also just opened a collaboration in St. Barts with the tropical hotel and we are looking to do more partnerships like that in the future."
How they are spending Valentine's Day: Elisa says, "Ben is full of surprises so we shall see."
Fernando Navas and Meredith Boyle, chef-owner and partner of Balvanera
Their story: Argentina-born Navas and Pittsburgh-raised Boyle met while working together at Orange Brands Management, where Boyle is corporate culinary director. Traveling around the world to places like Japan and Brazil, the couple got close quickly. "You really get to know every aspect of someone's character when you travel and work so closely. For better or worse!" says Meredith. The couple hooked up officially when Fernando left the company to open Argentina-inspired Balvanera in 2014. The couple's first child, Harlow, was born one year later.
Future plans: Keeping an eye out for their next location. "New York City inspires us every day," says Fernando, "We have a lot of ideas and we're excited to see what 'pops-up' next." Hint, hint.
How they are spending Valentine's Day: Meredith and Harlow will come to the restaurant early for a romantic dinner in the kitchen with the chef.