Carrie and Rupert Blease, co-chefs and owners of Lord Stanley, with their daughter, Hazel. (Photography by Daniel Triassi)

Two Cooks in the Kitchen: SF restaurant couples show us how it's done

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The San Francisco restaurant world is filled with family-owned establishments, where one partner might run the front of house and another is a certified sommelier, and maybe a distant cousin runs the kitchen.

But did you know there are actually very few restaurants where both partners in a real life couple share kitchen duties in a restaurant they own together? We sat down with a trio of cooking couples to chat about love and restaurants. These power couples—from Nightbird, Lord Stanley, and Rich Table—share the dish on how they found romance in a decidedly non-romantic profession and how they they make sure the pressure of restaurant life doesn't travel with them home.


Kim Alter and Ron Boyd, Nightbird

Ron Boyd and Kim Alter, at their restaurant Nightbird.

(Photography by Daniel Triassi)

Kim Alter and Ron Boyd—owners of the Hayes Valley tasting menu destination Nightbird and its adjacent Art Deco–style bar, The Linden Room—have never not worked together. The couple met at Elisabeth Daniel—the now-closed Jackson Square collaboration between Elisabeth Ramsey and Daniel Patterson (the restaurant was located where Verjus now sits)—and they've been cooking together ever since, at Aqua as well as at various Daniel Patterson Group restaurants before launching out on their own.

These days, Alter says Nightbird gets about 80 percent of their attention (needy child much?): She cooks; he's the cocktail maestro; and together they ensure that the same philosophy comes across on the plate and in the glasses.

The rest of their time is devoted to each other, family, friends, and their dog, of course.


7x7: Tell us about your first date.

RB: "I think [my memory] is different from hers.....but whether you believe her story or mine, both took place in a bar."


7x7: When did lightning strike?

KA: "He told me he loved me and always had at Mr. Bings, so..."

RB: "For real, the first time we hung out."


7x7: What's the hardest thing in pulling off the working/romantic life?

RB: "Time! Time for the business, time for us, and time apart. Just isn't enough to go around."

KA: "Not wanting to murder each other."


7x7: What's your partner's best trait?

KA: "Ron is very patient—he can put up with me as a chef and then as a woman. He always jokes, 'I don't want to talk to Chef Kim now, I want other Kim.' Ron is the best chef, he honestly is a mentor and I joke he is my blankie for when I am struggling."


7x7: If your partner was a song...

RB: "If Kim was a song, i think she would be 'Against the Grain' by Bad Religion. If I was thinking of her, the song would be 'These Arms of Mine' by Otis Redding."

KA: "'Murder City Devils I'll Come Running' or 'Try Me' by James Brown—but I always think of Otis Redding or The Smiths, what we listen to driving to Mendocino or something."

Sarah and Evan Rich, Rich Table

Sarah and Evan Rich, of Rich Table.

(Photography by Daniel Triassi)

Sarah and Evan Rich may be best known these days for those iconic sardine chips at their Hayes Valley contemporary American standout, Rich Table, which earned its first Michelin star this year. But it was a labor-intensive baby pea sauce that lead to their first date.

They were working the same station at Bouley, one of New York's most formal restaurants; she worked the early shift, he the late. Ever the prankster, Evan used to joke about dropping that pea sauce that Sarah had spent so much effort making. And then one day, he actually did drop the sauce too pissed off at this cute guy, Sarah asked him out. And the rest is restaurant history.

Today, Evan (along with chef de cuisine Brandon Rice) runs the savory side of things at Rich Table; Sarah masters the desserts. And when they aren't jaunting between their namesake restaurant and their newer RT Rotisseries (a second is coming to the Lower Haight in spring 2019), the couple can be found hanging out with their four- and seven-year-old sons.


7x7: When did you realize she was the one?

ER: "When she chased down, on foot, a car that rear-ended me in front of Queens Bridge projects at 4am one late night after work."

SR: "There may not have been one specific moment, but I knew early on that I didn't want it to end."


7x7: How do you manage to balance married life at home and business-married life at the restaurants?

SR: "It is definitely not easy, and some days are better than others. But the restaurant is our life, and not in a sad way. We really enjoy working together and talking shop. But we do try to make an effort to have actual time off together when we can—to get away even for just one day to give ourselves and our family a break."


7x7: What's the hardest part of pulling off this lifestyle?

ER: "Is this lifestyle hard? We don't know anything else."

SR: "It is constant, you are never really truly off work. It is like having another child—we are never not thinking about the restaurant."


7x7: What's the best dish your partner makes?

ER: "Sarah's cannelloni is the reason I married her."

SR: "He makes really good rice dishes in our donabe. They are always very tasty and healthy and full of flavor."


7x7L If your partner was a candy or a song...

SR: "Sour Patch Kids. So many layers...sweet, sour, tart, colorful...and beloved by all."

ER: "'Is this Love' by Bob Marley—our wedding song."


7x7: And you have kids too! How do you sleep?

ER: "Oh, I sleep, Sarah usually deals with the kids. I work late, so she gets up early."

SR: "What is this 'sleep' that you talk of?"

Carrie and Rupert Blease, Lord Stanley

Carrie and Rupert Blease, with their daughter, Hazel.

(Photography by Daniel Triassi)

Rupert knew Carrie was special the moment he looked up from his fish station at Oxford's legendary Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. The year was 2002, and it was Carrie's second day as an intern there. You might think they'd have named their first culinary baby after that restaurant, but in fact the now four-year-old Lord Stanley takes its name from their favorite English pub.

At their Russian Hill eatery, the pair works closely together to compose the Michelin-starred menu, with Carrie slightly running the pastry side. Their one-year old daughter, Hazel, spends lots of time with mom and dad at the restaurant (though she's not quite ready to cook yet).


7x7: Tell us about your first date story.

CB: "It was a long day! We went to a bar, had beers, played pool, and ate bacon burgers (which I criticized because it wasn't my 'kind of bacon'). Then we went to the movies and saw The Passion of Christ, which was super weird."


7x7: How do you balance work life with married life?

CB: "It's weirdly all separate but the same at once. You learn to make the restaurant a family in a way, keeping a good home and comforting environment for everyone. It wouldn't work if 'mom and dad' didn't get along."


7x7: This is your moment to brag on your partner.

CB: "Rupert is a constant source of energy and humor, he can have the room laughing within a blink."

RB: "Carrie is the most enthusiastic at work and at home. Her willingness spreads through all we do."


7x7: What's the best dish your partner makes?

RB: "She makes lovely late night snacks."

CB: "His carbonara."


7x7: Ideal date night vs. actual usual date—go.

CB: "Ideal date night would be Louis XV Monte Carlo in Monaco. Actual is noodles in Japantown with a high chair every Sunday."

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