Romancing the stove – what makes a winning kitchen unit?

Food of love: Anton and Clare Piotrowski

Food of love: Anton and Clare Piotrowski

The 2012 winner of MasterChef The Professionals, Anton Piotrowski, fears his wife’s verdict on his cooking more than any restaurant reviewer’s or TV show judge.

The couple have worked together for almost three years now running the Treby Arms near Plymouth where Piotrowski’s teenage sweetheart, Clare, is the restaurant manager.

“Clare’s opinion matters to me more than anyone’s. She’s my best friend and best critic,” says Piotrowski.

Even before they married in December 2012 Clare knew what she was letting herself in for. In the same year she was left to hold the fort for five months when Piotrowski spent five months travelling back and forth to London to film MasterChef.

“We were stretched but I’d be on the phone to her all the time in my breaks,” says Piotrowski. And thanks to the TV show they had to cut their honeymoon short and spent most of it writing recipes.

“In this business I work 110 hours a week so I wouldn’t see her otherwise,” says Piotrowski. “We both give as good as we get. When the pressure’s on there are occasional slips, and I think ‘Oh, my God, is that my wife? How did she say that to me?’ But that’s business. Truth is, it’s an adventure and we love being in each others pockets.”

Long hours, hot kitchens and too much time with your partner don’t always add up to such professional and personal harmony. Making a marriage work and running a successful restaurant are two of life’s toughest challenges – couples combine the two at their peril.

Clearly not everyone is cut out to work with their spouse, says Glenn Muske, who has studied “copreneurs” at North Dakota State University, especially when the job involves juggling work and personal life, hot kitchens, pernickety diners and a measure of economic uncertainty.

“It helps if you start out with a well-synced relationship where both parties are up for an adventure,” says Muske. “But ground rules are essential. These include good communication, defining roles that allow each person do what they do best, and setting clear boundaries around when you are “on the job” and when are you off.”

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