5 More LA Culinary Sweethearts

By Lesley Balla  |  February 14, 2014
Credit: Courtesy the Sundance Channel

Maybe it’s all that love in the air this week, but chatting with some of LA’s sweetest culinary couples made everyone all warm and fuzzy inside. Since it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re feeling the amour, here are five more powerhouse couples heating up the food scene.

  • The Couple: Tara Maxey and Matthew Poley, owners of Heirloom LA
    He’s the chef, who got his start with Gino Angelini at Angelini Osteria, and she’s the style. What grew out of a lasagna cupcake company grew into full-fledged event and catering operation, private event space (The Salon) and food truck featuring seasonal dishes you rarely see served curbside.

    How They Met: At work, of course. “How else would you meet Matt??!,” Tara says of her hard-working partner. “We were both working at the short-lived Italian restaurant, All’Angelo."

    How Long They’ve Been Together: Seven years.

    Most Romantic Food Moment: Too many to count, says Maxey. “Matt is so gifted at cooking, so I always just love watching him do his magic, especially when it’s just the two of us.”

    How They're Spending V-Day: Attending an 80’s themed Murder Mystery Party at a friend’s house "because love and murder go hand and hand, of course.” Poley and Maxey are in charge of food. “We haven’t made a menu yet but I’m thinking lots of dips and pasta salads and wine coolers,” she says. “It was the decade of the microwave so we’re going to play on that, you know things like Lean Cuisine but not lean and prepared in an oven! It’s going to be so fun!”

  • The Couple: Neil and Phyllis Strawder, Bigmista’s BBQ
    The two hit the farmers market circuit with their smoky meats and pig candy, and will soon open a brick-and-mortar restaurant at The Medallion in Downtown LA.

    How They Met: The two met on the internets. “We were doing the social networking thing long before Facebook,” Neil says. “We had our first face-to-face when I invited her over for dinner at my house. I cooked jambalaya with a tomato-cucumber salad. She's been hanging around ever since (wink).”

    How Long They’ve Been Together: “I put it in my contract that I don't have to remember dates,” Neil says. “That being said, our first dinner was during the first season of American Idol. You do the math. I do know that our 10th wedding anniversary is in July of this year. Phyllis told me so.”

    Most Romantic Food Moment: His choice was a quiet New Year's Eve a few years ago where he cooked a Chateaubriand with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. “We had champagne and prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe for appetizers. It was a delightful night at home.”

    How They’re Spending Valentine’s Day: “We try to make it a point to show love to each other everyday, so outside of sending our daughter to school with cards for her friends, Valentine's Day is just another day. Love you Phyllis!” (Editor's Note: Awwwwww!)

  • Credit: Sundance Channel

    The Couple: Ludovic and Krissy Lefebvre
    You know them from the Ludobites pop-ups and the Sundance Channel show where they took it across the country. These days Ludo is not only a popular judge on ABC's The Taste, but he’s usually behind the open-kitchen counter at Trois Mec, the restaurant he co-owns with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. Krissy, who was the calm behind the storm of Ludobites, is co-mastermind behind the forthcoming All-Star Chef Classic, which hits Downtown LA this March.

    How They Met: “I was on a date at L'Orangerie and Ludo, who was then the chef, was standing at the maître d stand when we checked-in. It was love at first sight for me,” Krissy recalls. “I had never been to a fancy fine dining restaurant before so when the amuse-bouche arrived ‘compliments of the chef’, I thought he was sending me a secret message and had the same feelings I felt. At the end of the meal petit fours came ‘compliments of the chef’ again, and my perfect love story had been completed in my head. Come to learn every table gets them. But it worked for me. As Ludo always tells me, ‘good thing you moved to Hollywood, you do movies in your head’.” It wasn’t all movies: they were married nine months later.

    How Long They've Been Together: Married since 1999.

    Most Romantic Food Moment: “The first time he cooked for me at his condo,” Krissy says. “It was steak au poivre with pink peppercorn. He had NOTHING in his kitchen at home. We bought the pan to cook it at Von's. Pretty cute. I thought pink peppercorn was romantic, it was so delicious!!!!!!”

    How They’re Spending Valentine’s Day: Ludo will be working at Trois Mec, and I will be spending it with our twins at home.

  • The Couple: Claudio and Adria Blotta, co-owners of Barbrix and Cooks County
    Claudio has been on the LA food scene filling just about every position - server, manager, wine director and owner - since 1981. He and wife Adria, an actress who was most recently in The Artist, own the Silver Lake wine bar, and co-own Cooks County with chef-couple Roxana Jullapat and Daniel Mattern. They're opening an Italian concept in Atwater Village with Barbrix chef Don Dixon later this year.

    How They Met: At Campanile. Adria was hired for a server position when Claudio, who was managing partner (a “very picky and skeptical” one, Adria adds), was out of town. “If you had told either of us we would date, let alone marry, we would have peed ourselves laughing at the absurdity,” she says. “We always joke that if Claudio had been in town, I would never have been hired.”

    How Long They’ve Been Together: They’ve known each other since 2000, and started dating in 2002. “It took a year of pole dancing class for me to realize I should stop dating jerks and call Claudio,” Adria says. The whole affair - a misinterpreted invitation for drinks, avoidance, realization - was chronicled in her one-woman show, Strip Search.

    Most Romantic Food Moment: Per Adria, “On our first Valentine's Day together, I somehow got the night off from Campanile. But the last thing two restaurant people want to do if they have Valentine's Day night off is go to a restaurant. Claudio drove from his beach cottage in Redondo to Campanile and brought us take out and we ate it sitting on the floor around his coffee table out of the to-go containers. And I proceeded to tell him I could never live in Redondo....”

    How They’re Spending Valentine’s Day: Claudio will be at Cooks and Adria at Barbrix. “He'll come over after the rush and give me a kiss, and then we usually order more food than two people can eat, sit at the two top in the bar area and feed the staff on duty. We even take requests from them! And we'll drink a dry Austrian or Loire Valley white wine, which we both love.”

  • The Couple: Jason and Miho Travi
    Jason is the executive chef at Littlefork in Hollywood, and will be consulting at the soon-to-open Superba Food & Bread in Venice this spring. Miho, one of the city’s best pastry chefs, helps raise their two children and still contributes to restaurant menus (those are her pastries at Littlefork).

    How They Met: Spago Beverly Hills. Miho was working as a pastry plater straight out of culinary school, and Jason was a sous chef.

    How Long They've Been Together: Dated for one year, married for nine.

    Most Romantic Food Moment: According to Jason, he "usually just finishes food Miho can't eat when having a many-coursed tasting menu." Ah, the romance!

    How They're Spending V-Day: Like they do most years, drinking Champagne and eating pizza.