THE PRESSURES OF RUNNING A RESTAURANT—especially during these past two years, when many eateries succumbed to the challenges—can be enhanced by working with a life partner. Well, sometimes. It can also turn the experience into a boiling pot of mayhem. But when harmony prevails and the culinary stars align, entrepreneurial duos can double their success, enhance the creative process, and make it easier to endure the long hours that the hospitality industry requires. I tracked down three such couples whose restaurants, it turns out, also deliver a charming dose of romance. (Hint, hint: Make your Valentine’s reservation now!)
Kathleen Crook and Kristina Goode
Market Steer Steakhouse, Santa Fe
They met over the deep fryer of a Dallas restaurant, Kristina Goode laughingly recalls. Twelve years later, they forget who made the first move, but the harmony they enjoy in running one of Santa Fe’s premier steakhouses has certainly paid off. “We’re both very particular about our individual spaces and roles,” says Goode, the general manager of Market Steer Steakhouse, at the Hotel St. Francis. “We’ve been characterized as ‘firm but fair.’ We play to each other’s strengths.”
Chef Crook was born in Artesia; Goode hails from Texas. The joy they share in working together is obvious in the relaxed but professional environment they create in their business. “I get to see Kristina every day,” Crook says. “With as much as we work, I would miss her if we didn’t.”
“Balancing love, life, work, and the freedom to just be a couple can have its challenges,” Goode says. “But seeing firsthand how our own individual styles together create a place where people are proud to work is great. I also get an immense sense of pride when a guest says that this is the best meal they have ever had. I know how hard Kathleen works and how much of herself she puts into each dish. That makes it all worth it.”
At the height of the pandemic, the couple purchased domes to place on the patio for dining parties. “I was skeptical of the idea, so to ease me into it, Kristina suggested we come to the restaurant on a Sunday—when we’re closed—and set one up,” Crook says. “She brought a bottle of wine and a Bluetooth speaker. We got set up, and she turned the speaker on to play our wedding song. At that very moment, it started to snow. We looked at each other and said, ‘It’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this.’ ”
For this traditional spaghetti with black pepper and cheese, chef Kathleen Crook recommends grating your Parmesan rather than using the pre-shredded variety, which will not melt properly.
Stephanie and Marcel Remillieux
Mille, Santa Fe
What happens when two physics students at Virginia Tech catch each other’s eye? A near implosion, it turns out, when early in their courtship Marcel Remillieux forgot to pick up his sweetheart from the airport. She forgave him and, in 2011, married him. In 2013, Stephanie and Marcel moved to New Mexico after he was hired to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2017, the duo opened the acclaimed Fleur de Lys, a café and grocery in Los Alamos. It closed late last year, but by then they had purchased the former Bouche Bistro, in Santa Fe, which they plan to reopen as Mille in early 2022.
The pair (she’s from Paris, he’s from Corsica) develop the menu together, Marcel focusing on the kitchen and Stephanie handling more of the behind-the-scenes tasks. “She is the voice of reason and keeps me from overthinking dishes and making it complicated,” Marcel admits. A shared management style has fueled the couple’s success. “Leading by example with an honest and open personality has always been our approach,” he says. “The best part of working together is growing together in our business. Running our business is not a job; it’s an important chapter of a life project—a journey—and our relationship is part of this journey.”
Stephanie’s favorite memory of romance in the workplace was when Marcel hired an a cappella group to sing for her on Valentine’s Day at Fleur de Lys. A common affinity for freshly made sourdough bread with cheese and jam is an edible expression of their relationship. “French sourdough country bread is a work of love and patience: a hard crust; a very soft and flavorful inside,” Marcel says. “A little sour taste, but well balanced when enjoyed with butter!”
Chefs Marcel and Stephanie Remillieux say that this hearty dish from the countryside of southwestern France is about slow cooking and honoring French traditions. This cold-weather comfort food takes time to make and will appear often on the menu of Mille. You can substitute kielbasa or other garlic sausage for Toulouse—but don’t tell Marcel!
Terry and Pat Keene
Artichoke Cafe, Albuquerque
In 1989, Terry and Pat Keene took over the Artichoke Cafe on a stretch of Central Avenue that was just beginning its comeback. The restaurant often receives credit for starting the shift to gourmet dining in a town long famous for nothing but chile and salsa. They met at age 20, both reluctant attendees at a disco in New Jersey. “We started talking, and we’ve been together since,” Pat says.
In the workplace, Pat handles all the recipe development and kitchen management, while Terry focuses on service, running the dining room, and staff training. “I tend to be a little stricter, but he has the last word, because the floor is his area of expertise,” Pat says. “Our favorite part of working together is that we get to share a vision and see it come alive. We are very social people and enjoy the dynamic of a restaurant, working with our teams, interacting with our guests, being involved in the community, and making a difference. I think your romantic partner is the best partner you could have in business.”
As for romantic memories, Pat remembers the time she surprised her husband on his 40th birthday with a party on the restaurant’s back patio. “We both had worked that night, and when Terry went out there to check the room, friends had gathered and yelled, ‘Surprise!’ ”
The Keenes’ favorite love song is, appropriately, “Still the One.” “Our shared favorite dish is beef bourguignon,” Pat says—“classic, traditional, made with good ingredients, cooked with good red wine, and timeless. And I do make a helluva one!”
Chef Pat Keene of the Artichoke Cafe recommends the Camellia brand of dried cannellini beans, available via Amazon. “They’re the brand my grandma used,” she says. Should you have some leftover soup, but not quite enough, she has a way of making it stretch: “Sauté greens such as broccoli rabe, kale, or escarole in olive oil and add them to the soup.”