Meet five couples who make working together in the stressful world of restaurants a lovely endeavor.
Nathan and Rebecca Lockwood
Together the Lockwoods own Altura, considered among the very finest fine dining in Seattle. He’s the chef; she runs the business side of things.
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How they met: Twelve years ago, Nathan finished a 12-hour-plus shift at Mistral, then met his little sister at Dick’s on Broadway. “I’ll always have the mental image of the first time I saw Nathan — Rhiannon and I pulled into the Dick’s parking lot, and there was Nathan leaning over a Dick’s Deluxe at the counter out front,” Rebecca reminisces. “She flashed her headlights at him and he laughed.”
She says/he says: That fateful day at Dick’s, Rebecca says, “He got in the car with us and shared his fries with me, and we’ve been together ever since.” Nathan’s recollection: “Rebecca asked if she could hold my fries … then she ate them all.” (Now, their restaurant is five blocks away.)
She loves/he loves: Nathan’s cooking at home is so varied and excellent, Rebecca can’t even choose a favorite. “One night, we’ll have Thai curry and green papaya salad, the next night it might be fish tacos, tajarin with pork ragu, or kimchi soup.” He defeated her vegetarianism early on. Also early on, she made him lasagna while he was at work: “It was perfect,” he attests. He loves her chocolate-chip cookies, too.
On cooking together at home: “I am the prep cook,” Rebecca says. “I peel garlic and stay out of the way. I throw in a ‘Oui, Chef!’ every once in a while for good measure.”
All-time-best-date restaurants: The Willows Inn on Lummi Island and Piazza Duomo in Alba, Italy. Both “incredible, unique and couldn’t be more different,” Nathan says.
Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton
Tamara’s the chef of Seattle’s beloved Terra Plata; Linda’s there full time (and more) on the front-of-house/business side.
How they met: In San Francisco in 1997, they went on a double date to Traci Des Jardins’ grand opening of Jardinière … but they weren’t each other’s date. That came later.
She says/she says: Tamara says cooking together at home goes pretty well, but Linda makes her chop all the garlic and onions, “and gives me a bad time because I forget I’m not at work and things may get a little messy.” Linda laments that she herself is “not nearly as fast or efficient as my cheffy girlfriend … And I constantly have to remind her we don’t have a dishwasher to hose the place down at the end of a meal, or a floor drain, for that matter.”
Best thing about working together: “We get to spend a lot of time together,” according to Linda.
Worst thing about working together: “We spend a lot of time together,” also according to Linda.
Extra sweetness: From Linda: “Owning and running a restaurant with Tamara is my dream job … I am incredibly lucky!” Tamara: “Linda is my best friend, and the best playmate ever. She also loves food and has a great palate … She can eat me and most anyone I know under the table.”
Wiley Frank and Poncharee “PK” Kounpungchart
Wiley and PK run Seattle’s favorite Thai-food walk-up window, Little Uncle, with new Big Uncle (with a dining room) opening soon.
How they met: Sixteen years ago, Wiley was a sculpture student at the University of Washington. So was a friend of PK’s. They met at an art show on campus and went to $1 tequila night at Flowers on the Ave afterward. “The only thing I remember from that night is that I fell in love, and at the end of the night PK and I were left alone together at a table to pick up $50 worth of $1 tequila shots,” Wiley says.
She says/he says: For their first meal she ever cooked, “I made Wiley the worst French toast ever,” PK confesses. “I used bad bread. I did not let it soak overnight or anything like that. I have not made French toast since that day. Not only did he get bad French toast for breakfast, his car was also stolen. He never lost his cool.” Wiley says, “The car turned up later that week over on Roxbury with some extra tires and an extra stereo in the trunk … PK can cook me anything, except French toast.”
On working together: On their first night in a professional kitchen together, at John Sundstrom’s late Licorous, Wiley admits he “got all worked up and barked at PK like she was a worthless commis (junior chef) in a normal restaurant. PK accurately let me know that I could not be such a jerk.” Nowadays, PK says when they’re cooking together, they often do the culinary equivalent of finishing each other’s sentences, dovetailing their work wordlessly.
Ideal date night: Start at “always evolving” Standard Brewing, where they “find inspiration in how (owner/brewer) Justin (Gerardy)’s business has been built”; then dinner at one of their friends’ restaurants — like Salare, Spinasse or Kedai Makan; then a drink at The Hideout; and then, according to PK, “walk to the ID (International District) for some noodles” at Hong Kong Bistro.
Angela and Ethan Stowell
He’s the big-name chef of the eponymous restaurant group; she’s co-owner and officially the chief financial officer, but carries out more of a general manager/CEO role.
How they met: Ten years ago, Angela worked for a wine distributor, and she’s pretty sure her boss was hazing her by sending her to (now closed) Union to deal with “the (then) notoriously grumpy ‘Chef Stowell.’ ” Then Ethan kept calling her to inquire about a certain wine. She finally replied, “We’re still out of stock … what do you really want?” And then he finally asked her out.
She loves/he loves: They’ve got two little kids, but for an occasional extravagance, Ethan will prepare shigoku oysters on the half-shell topped with fresh sea urchin and a squeeze of lemon. For his part, he says, “I have a special spot in my heart for Angela’s world-famous curry in a hurry. It’s the first thing she ever cooked for me and I’ll always enjoy the memory of that night. She can tell you how it turned out.”
Favorite restaurant: Sushi Kashiba — they consider chef Shiro Kashiba an inspiration, and, Angela says, “We also sat at his counter the night we got engaged, so it has extra significance (cue the sappy eye roll).”
Extra sweetness: Asked if he has anything to add, Ethan simply says, “I love my wife more than she knows.”
Josh Hart and Clare Gordon
How they met: It’s a scene ready for Hollywood (including product placement): “I was in the kitchen at Spinasse when this girl in a Jacobsen sea-salt hat came in for a stage (apprenticeship),” Josh recalls. “And I think I helped her find some stuff in the kitchen …”
She says/he says: Clare thinks their first meal together was brunch at Boat Street Kitchen. “Neither of us had ever been there before,” she says. Josh reports, “I’m pretty sure we went to Ba Bar for late-night pho. She loves soup.”
Best things about both working in the industry: Doing events together and, when they eat out for fun, being able to complain about crummy service and poorly executed food “to someone who gets it,” Josh says.
Worst thing about both working in the industry: Working opposite schedules — Clare’s on from 4 or 6 a.m. through the afternoon right now, while Josh works from early afternoon until late. It makes for “some long days without seeing each other,” Josh notes.
All-time-best-date restaurants: Bar del Corso, “the best casual Italian in town”; Lecosho, for great service and because “the food is so underrated;” Kedai Makan, “reliably tasty and they change the menu all the time, plus now they have a full bar!”