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Photograph: David Williams

This food power couple talks opening restaurants together and not killing each other

Written by
Dan Q Dao
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Ann Redding and Matt Danzer, the husband-and-wife team behind the Thai critical darling Uncle Boons and the Southern newcomer Mr. Donahue’s have managed to keep the romance alive while running two successful restaurants together. Talk about #relationshipgoals.

How did you meet?
Matt Danzer: In the kitchens at Per Se. We were both cooks. I tried to get Ann to date me for a long time.
Ann Redding: I really just thought he was crazy.

Were you a couple long before you decided to work together?
AR: We ended up on Shelter Island, New York, opening a little mom-and-pop grocery store. We hadn’t even been dating a year, so people thought we were nuts. I now have to say I agree with them. It wasn’t just us; it was me, him and his mother! A lethal combination. It may be too soon to joke about it.

Who’s in charge?
AR: I’m in charge all the time.
MD: She wishes. We still butt heads, but it’s nice that we’re looking at things from completely different perspectives, which makes us that much more thorough.

What’s the best part of working with your spouse?
MD: It’s that kind of no-questions-asked commitment. I’ve worked at other jobs where you don’t know if you’re going to have that kind of support. Now if I’m having a bad day or not feeling well, I know she would cover me. It’s unconditional love and support.

What advice can you give to workplace couples? 
AR: Date each other for at least three years. And force yourself to make time for date night.

Is it hard to work in such a confined space together?
MD: We switch off so we’re not on top of each other. We bounce between the two restaurants
to make sure that one of us is at each location.
AR: The staff did point out that when we say the word chef to each other, it seems to be secret code for “fuck you, asshole.” [Laughs] It’s a little sarcastic.

So how do you move past kitchen conflicts and not bring them home with you?
MD: We tend to make a joke out of it and put it in perspective. Is it worth arguing about? For example, when you’re arguing about what plate to put asparagus on….
AR: This is from yesterday, by the way.
MD: Yeah, we had a white asparagus side and couldn’t agree what plate it should go on. It’s something that really doesn’t have a wrong answer….
AR: Or does it?
MD: [Laughs] Sometimes you have to just walk away. If asparagus is the biggest issue of the day, then we’re in good shape. 

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