Lunch Will Keep Us Together

Birthdays are important in the restaurant business. Celebrating your first full year signals that you have a chance of succeeding in the long term. Making it to five means the community has accepted you. A decade? You're good to go.

But some folks in the restaurant industry mark a different sort of time. Instead of notching the anniversaries of their establishments, these couples note the years their personal relationships have survived. And they tend to do so by pursuing separate careers.

Take Hedy Goldsmith and Heidi Ladell. Goldsmith is arguably the top pastry chef in the city, supplying the sweets for the past seven years at Nemo, Big Pink, Shoji Sushi, and the newly opened Prime 112. Ladell, after a decades-long stint with Gene's Catering, left her executive vice president position to open her own consulting firm called Connoisseur Cuisine. They just celebrated their fifteenth anniversary as a committed couple.

Or look at Peter Schrank, formerly of 1220 at the Tides, Touch, and Tantra, and now general manager of the three-week-old Harrison's in South Beach. His partner, Brian K. Dasch, worked as assistant manager at the Van Dyke Café for the past six years; currently Dasch is the general manager of Ivy Aventura Restaurant and Lounge, which is set to launch in early March. Both men are so busy that Schrank says he saw Dasch during the week of Valentine's Day for a total of approximately two hours. On March 9 the couple will celebrate thirteen years together.

Then there's Dewey and Dale LoSasso. Dewey is a chef who has held the tiller at Tuscan Steak and the Foundlings Club; Dale has guided the front of the house at Chef Allen's and Mark's South Beach. After moving back to Miami Shores recently from positions in Manhattan, Dewey is "90 percent" close to sealing a deal at a local restaurant, and Dale is general manager at Carmen the Restaurant. Many nights she gets home after 3:00 a.m. Dewey, who says "a chef has to check his ego at the door," clearly admires her professionally as well as personally: "It just so happens she's pretty good at her job. [Yet] you can eat at Le Cirque with Dale and you can eat at Le Tub. She's good like that too." This past October Dewey and Dale toasted their tenth anniversary.

Each couple met through the industry, and today each is highly marketable. So why don't they join forces? Why work long hours away from each other when they could operate a family-linked business? Wouldn't it make sense for the LoSassos, for instance, to open their own restaurant?

The flippant answer is something along these lines: "We'd kill each other if we had to spend that much time together." But that's not quite true. The LoSassos have done special events together and lived to talk about it, and Goldsmith and Ladell have similarly linked up. Indeed the latter pair have had some unique near misses. Goldsmith, who once worked at a position previously vacated by Ladell, used to receive mail addressed to Ladell before the two had even met. Ladell admits that she and Goldsmith have been approached with some tempting offers. Still Ladell says, "Maybe I could do it as a project, but I wouldn't want to move forward with it [as a core business]."

Several factors conspire to inhibit joint ventures. Economic realities dictate against turning a two-income family into a one-income family, especially when earnings would come from an industry with such known risks that simply breaking even is a cause for celebration. Fear of disturbing the status quo is another factor. As Goldsmith puts it: "I wouldn't want to throw a wrench in things."

The biggest stumbling block, however, may be a simple desire to avoid being bored or unhappy with each other. "Would I be able to work with Heidi? Yes. She's the most thorough, professional person I have ever met," says Goldsmith. "But if we had a bad day, we would both have that bad day. At the end of the day, we like to bring something else to the table."

Dale LoSasso also acknowledges that she and Dewey would probably do fine at the same establishment, "as long as the final word on the front is mine and the final word in the kitchen is his." Dewey offers another caveat: "When you go home, you can't talk about work."

Schrank agrees: "When I go home, I just want to say, 'How was your day -- good, bad, indifferent?' I want to talk about who's going to walk the dogs."

Indeed it may be the pets, not the jobs, that keep these couples focused on the mundane but all-important details that go into building a life together. Each couple has at least one dog.

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