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!)

Market Steer Steakhouse’s Kathleen Crook and Kristina Goode (seated).

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.

6 ounces fresh or dried spaghetti (fresh will cook faster)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper

1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated, divided

Red chile flakes, to taste

Makes 4–6 servings

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a good amount of salt. Add pasta and stir. Cook pasta in boiling water until it is about two minutes shy of al dente. Drain noodles, reserving ¾ cup water.

  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until lightly charred.

  3. Add ½ cup of reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low, add ¾ cup Parmesan and red chile flakes, and gently toss.

  4. Remove pan from heat. Using tongs, toss pasta until butter and cheese have coated the noodles, cheese is melted, and pasta is still slightly al dente. Add more pasta water if it seems dry. Put pasta in warm bowls, top with remaining cheese, and serve.

Mille’s Stephanie and Marcel Remillieux.

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!

14 ounces French dried coco (Tarbais) beans, available online

6 cups chicken stock

2 carrots, cut into thin strips

1 onion, cut into 8 pieces

2 large garlic cloves, slightly crushed

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 small confit duck legs, available in specialty food shops and online

4 Toulouse (pork garlic) sausages

8 ounces pork belly, cut into thick pieces

4 ounces pork rind, chopped

½ cup bread crumbs

Makes 4 servings

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Soak the dry beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a deep saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, turn off heat, and steep for 30 minutes.

  2. Drain the beans and add stock, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary and simmer, covered, for at least 1 hour or until tender, stirring occasionally.

  3. Place the confit duck legs in a frying pan, skin side down, on a gentle heat and cook until the fat has rendered. Remove legs and set aside; reserve the fat.

  4. Brown the sausages in the duck fat, then set aside. (Toulouse sausages are uncooked, so they should be sliced after sautéing. Kielbasa is smoked, so it can be sliced before sautéing.)

  5. Fry the pork belly in the remaining fat until golden.

  6. Line the bottom of a deep casserole (I love the ones from Le Creuset) with the rind pieces. Remove the bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, and onion pieces from the beans. Using a slotted spoon, place half the beans over the pork rind. Reserve the stock.

  7. Add the duck and pork belly to the casserole and finish with the rest of the beans. Push the sausages into the beans, then pour in just enough stock to cover everything.

  8. Drizzle 1 tablespoon reserved fat from the sauté pan over the beans. Top with bread crumbs. Cook uncovered in a preheated oven at 300° for 2 to 3 hours. A crust will form, which should be broken several times while cooking—except for the last time it forms. Bring straight to the table from the oven without breaking the crust. Enjoy the accolades.

Pat and Terry Keene at the Artichoke Cafe.

Terry and Pat Keene

Artichoke Cafe, Albuquerque

In 1983, Terry and Pat Keene opened 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.”

1 pound dried cannellini beans

8 cups water (or vegetable broth)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

14½-ounce can Muir Glen organic petite diced tomatoes

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or, if you prefer, you can use 2 slices uncooked bacon, chopped)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley for garnish

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Makes 6–8 servings

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Rinse and sort beans, removing any broken pieces or pebbles.

  2. In a large soup pot, combine beans, water (or broth), onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes, and olive oil (or bacon). Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for approximately 1½ hours, or until beans are tender. Stir occasionally and add additional water while cooking, if necessary.

  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Garnish with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty bread and salad.