Houston's Cutest Culinary Couples

See what these 12 industry pairs are doing to celebrate Valentine's Day
February 13, 2014
by Amber Ambrose

Love is in the air, and it's not just from the love birds dining in restaurants this week. Some of Houston's cutest couples are behind the scenes preparing your dishes, selling you wine, managing restaurants and more than likely spending Valentine's Day at work. Find out who they are, where they work, how they met and other intriguing details down to how they plan to celebrate (albeit either before or after) the day of love this year.

Phyllis Adatto & Tim Smith
Co-owners of French Country Wines

Relationship Status: Married
How they met: They went out on a blind date. Ironically - or not - it was Halloween night, 1997.
How long they've been together: They were engaged and married in 2000.
Go-to date spot: At any one of Houston's French bistros
How they're spending V-Day: They met on Halloween, but they were engaged on Valentine's Day. They consider it an anniversary, so they'll most likely be at home cooking together (and drinking champagne).

Julia Sharaby & David Grossman
Co-owners at Fusion Taco

Relationship status: Complex
How they met: The first time Sharaby hired Grossman as a bartender at Bice, the second time around it was through a mutual friend.
How long they've been together: Four years
Go-to date spot: Kiran's
How they're spending V-Day: Working together at Fusion Taco

Lasco Enterprises Couples
From left to right

Adrian "Pelon" Delangel & Ana Amaya 
He's the sous chef for Max's Wine Dive Fairview, and she's the sous chef for Max's Wine Dive Washington.
How they're spending V-Day: Working!

Joanna "Jo Jo" Liu &  Michael Pellegrino
She's a wine server at The Tasting Room in Uptown Park, and he's the executive chef for Max's Wine Dive, Houston locations.
How they're spending V-Day: Pellegrino will be in Italy for work over the weekend. He was planning to call from Italy, but thinks he should probably step it up a bit.

Laura & Jerry Lasco 
Vice president and president of Lasco Enterprises
How they're spending V-Day: Surprise dinner at one of their concepts

Quinn Hoang & Jonathan Horowitz
She does marketing and special events for The Azuma Group (Kata Robata, Azuma and Soma Sushi), and he's the chief brand officer for Lasco Enterprises.
How they're spending V-Day: Dinner at home with the kids

Laura "LJ" Jimenez & Alex Vassilakidis
She's the manager at Flow Juice Bar, and he's co-owner of Eatsie Boys Café and 8th Wonder Brewery.
Valentine's Day Plans: Larping in the park 

Erin Smith & Patrick Feges
Smith is the executive chef at the JW Marriott Houston, Feges is a line cook at Underbelly and main man at Feges BBQ.

Relationship status: Madly in love
How they met: While Smith was building the menu for Blacksmith (her former employer is the Clumsy Butcher Restaurant Group), she spent a lot of time at Underbelly tweaking her biscuit recipe. Feges chased her around until she agreed to go out with him.
How long they've been together: Almost one year
Go-to date spot: Their first official date was at Oxheart, though there were some unofficial dates at Maple Leaf. They still go there often and enjoy Down House as well.
How they're spending V-Day: Because of work, they’re celebrating Valentine’s Day on Sunday at Coltivare. They joked about hitting up Whataburger and sharing fries à la Lady and the Tramp, but Coltivare won. 

Ashley & Hunter Montgomery
She's the general manager at Pistolero's, he is the general manager at Royal Oak and managing partner of soon-to-open Stone's Throw.

Relationship status: Married
How they met: They were both bartenders in Austin and were friends for two years before their first "real" date.
How long they've been together: Eight years total, married for almost three years
Go-to date spot: They enjoy trying new restaurants and bars around town on their days off; the most recent was Cook & Collins and they really liked it.
How they're spending V-Day: They will celebrate on Monday this year and plan to spend a quiet night at home eating cheese and bread, cooking dinner and popping a bottle of bubbles.

Tessa Fairey & Danny Trace
She is the owner and baker at Tessie's Treats, and Trace is the executive chef at Brennan's of Houston.

Relationship status: Dating
How they met: During a Sunday brunch at Brennan's where they chatted about a culinary internship program for Fairey, who was attending the Art Institute at the time. A year and a half later, they became an item.
How long they've been together: Three years
Go-to date spot: Any nice patio in Houston with good bites and wine
How they're spending V-Day: Trace will be preparing food for 600 restaurant guests, and Fairey will be delivering her cookies. Instead, they'll celebrate on Sunday - which also happens to be Trace's birthday - with wine and a patio.

Tracy Vaught & Hugo Ortega
Co-owners of Backstreet Cafe, Hugo's & Caracol

Relationship status: Married
How they met: Vaught hired Ortega in 1987 as a dishwasher at Backstreet Cafe.
How long they've been together: Since 1988, and married in 1994
Go-to date spot: Galveston. They even bought a beach house there to escape to on weekends. When they're in town, you can find them at the Gumbo Bar, eating crabs at Benno's, or cooking fish at their beach house.
What they're doing for V-Day: Since they'll be working all weekend at the restaurants, the couple shared Peking duck at Gigi's Asian Bistro Wednesday night as a quick escape right around the corner from Caracol.

Erin Hicks & Shepard Ross
She's a cookbook author and restaurant interior designer; he's the owner of Glass Wall Restaurant, Brooklyn Athletic Club and MadCat Cellars.

Relationship status: Dating
How they met: Ross calls Hicks a "force of nature" that he met when she was working for the landlord of one of his restaurants. They were reacquainted when she was working on her latest cookbook, Houston Small Plates & Sips, when he planted a "daring stolen kiss" on her.
How long they've been together: One and a half years and going strong
Go-to date spot: Any place with great food and wine that's open on a Monday
How they're spending V-Day: Ross will be juggling both restaurants while Hicks will be out on the town with friends, though he's planning a late-night rendezvous with chocolate-covered organic strawberries, a bouquet of peonies and some champagne.

valentine's day