Wooed By Food

Couples find taste of love is irresistible

Cindy Wolf, Tony Foreman

February 09, 2000|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Food -- it nurtures, it soothes, it woos.

This sustenance of life has played a starring role in romantic literature, films and real life ever since Eve gave Adam the apple. Turn the pages of such books as "Like Water for Chocolate" (Anchor, 1989) by Laura Esquivel to find a lovers' tale laced with food.

And who can forget the sumptuous feasts of love in movies like "Big Night" and "Eat Drink Man Woman"? Or the tender scene where Lady and the Tramp share a strand of spaghetti and a kiss in the Disney classic.

Does life imitate art? Is the way to one's heart really through the stomach? With Valentine's Day approaching, we talked to four local restaurant couples to find out what the impact of food has been on their relationships. We found that not only are these duos passionate about food, but food has fueled their passion.

Cindy Wolf, Tony Foreman

No one knew that Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman were falling in love. Romance was not encouraged among employees at Capital Restaurant Concepts, let alone between a head chef and house manager.

Wolf and Foreman, now co-owners of the East Harbor restaurant Charleston, met early in 1993 at a tasting in Towson. They were preparing for the opening of Georgia Brown's, a Washington restaurant they were tapped to run.

Wolf was immediately impressed by Foreman's "genuine interest," food knowledge and offers to help in the kitchen.

He was equally impressed that Wolf wasn't a temperamental tyrant. "I had always worked with European-trained chefs, and/or lunatics," he explains.

The couple's relationship, at first professional, eased into friendship, as Wolf and Foreman ate out frequently, testing the competition, before Georgia Brown's opened.

By September, they were dating, but under cover. It was stressful, Wolf, 35, and Foreman, 34, agree, although their covert assignations lent some intrigue to the courtship. As a foil, Foreman even escorted a longtime female friend to the company executive Christmas party.

Early the next year, Foreman asked Wolf to marry him. They received the blessing of his grandmother, Elizabeth Owens, who lived in Baltimore at the time. The folks at Capital Restaurant Concepts were stunned by the news. Turns out, Wolf and Foreman were very good at keeping a secret.

Romance hasn't changed their working relationship, Wolf and Foreman say. At the heart of their affection is an "overwhelming love for the table." Not just the food. Not just the business. "We love the china, the crystal, the table linens." Everything.

Wolf particularly loves the champagne. In August 1994, the couple quit their jobs, married and took a honeymoon tour of French champagne houses, where Wolf celebrated her 30th birthday. They returned, moved to Baltimore, and opened their first restaurant, Savannah, in 1995.

In late 1997, they opened Charleston. Two months later, Wolf discovered she had breast cancer. Even during treatment, she came to work, grateful that she could focus on her new kitchen, not her illness. Foreman used the new restaurant as "a mental crutch" to help him grapple with their crisis.

Today, Wolf is cancer-free. And, as they have been for nearly seven years, she and Foreman are together almost constantly. "There is almost never a time when we're not together," Wolf says. It's doable, they say, because they think alike about so many things. This spring, they will open Petit Louis, a French bistro in Roland Park, where guests can enjoy a Wolf-Foreman favorite: French comfort food, such as cassoulet and steak frites.

When they do occasionally have differences, as Wolf runs the kitchen and Foreman the front of the house, it's all for the better. "We both grow and learn," Wolf says.

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