Member share stories of finding love in the kitchen & maintaining peace amongst the chaos
Long before the po-boy became a menu staple, even before they were being slung for free from the Martin Brothers to ‘poor boys,’ there was the Peacemaker. Oyster sandwiches, otherwise known as an oyster loaf, were originally marketed for seafood saloons as a “peacemaker” between husband and wife. Upon returning home after a long day of suspected presumptuous behavior, the husband, often arrived with a French bread loaf stuffed with fried oysters in tow to keep the peace between the couple. She didn’t have to worry about dinner; thus, a happy wife. Dating back to 1851, New Orleans newspapers ran ads for seafood saloons, bars, and restaurants selling stuffed oyster loaves, and the original po-boy was born. Today, the modern peacemaker po-boy is typically a combination to satisfy both parties. All’s well that ends well.
At Mahony’s Po-boys and Seafood, the peacemaker is a combination of fried oysters and shrimp topped with bacon and cheddar. If you’re at Acme Oyster House, the po-boy is split in half, one side oysters, one side shrimp with the addition of Tabasco-infused mayo for a spicy kick.
In the fast-paced restaurant industry, things are always changing, but it’s in the kitchen where these hard-working chefs and owners find peace among the chaos. Let’s meet three couples who met and fell in love in their home away from home, the restaurant.
Holly & Eli
Holly and Eli Cure own Antoni’s Italian Cafe in Lafayette. The casual Italian eatery has stood for 25 years, since 1996. It was 17 years later the former owners sold their beloved café to an even more beloved couple, Holly and Eli. The two met while working at the former Blue Dog Café. “We were friends first, and you know,” Holly said as she trailed off in giggles. “The rest is history.”
She left to work at Antoni’s in 2008, and soon after Eli joined her there in the kitchen. When they were offered to buy Antoni’s in 2013, it was a dream.
“That’s the ultimate goal, to own your own place,” said Holly.
Eli works front and back of house, while Holly mas moved on to a 9 to 5 office job, but it was their time working together in the restaurant that remains the binding element of their relationship. “I think we both bring our own strengths to the table, and it sort of fits together like a puzzle piece. I couldn’t do it without him, and he couldn’t do it without me,” Holly said. “To have a constant in the swirling madness is comforting.”
You can find Holly greeting diners on the weekends, and she teaches a wine class to the service staff twice a year.
“I still remain very involved,’ ‘It’s really important for me to be visible to our guests,” said Holly. “They’ve known me forever. A lot of our guests have been coming to Antoni’s since 2008 or before, so they’ve seen the entire trajectory of what we’ve done.”
When they aren’t at Antoni’s, the couple is in their home kitchen making tacos or gumbo!
Chef Aom & Frankie
Chef Aom Srisuk and her husband Frankie Weinberg opened Pomelo together. This boutique restaurant serves Thai comfort food on Magazine Street. Their story of origin, however, is more detailed than just meeting, getting married, and starting a business together. Aom has worked in restaurants her entire life. She was 21 when she met Frankie while waitressing at her family’s restaurant in the small beach town of Cha Am. Frankie, a fresh college graduate, was teaching English in Thailand. He became more enamored with Aom with every visit to the cafe. Once his one-year teaching contract was up, he returned home to Baltimore while staying in touch with Aom.
“I spent every penny I earned to travel to Thailand to see Aom or vice versa,” said Weinberg.
Eventually, the long distance and changing time zones became too much for the couple, but they did remain in touch. Frankie nearly proposed before they parted ways, but Aom was given a great opportunity from her mother to run one of their restaurants in Bangkok. Frankie continued his work as a business professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
“I said to myself ‘I can’t ask her to step away from this.’ So, she didn’t know,” said Weinberg. “And I’m there on the island, ready to propose, with the ring burning a proverbial hole in my pocket for 8 weeks.”
It simply wasn’t the right time. Seventeen years later, Frankie returned to Thailand on sabbatical. The two picked up where they left off, and eventually moved to and married in New Orleans. Pomelo is something the couple has always envisioned for themselves, Frankie even remembers having a sketchbook from his time in Thailand where he would sketch ideas of the interior.
Frankie sticks with his day job as a Professor of Business Management but keeps a presence at Pomelo greeting customers and managing the social media accounts. Aom finds peace seeing Frankie interact with customers, while Frankie is calmed by knowing Aom is building something special in the kitchen.
When Aom and Frankie aren’t at Pomelo, they enjoy being together in their kitchen at home cooking Japanese food, Aom’s favorite cuisine second to Thai. Frankie says they frequent the neighborhood joint Frankie and Johnny’s from time to time for some classic New Orleans comfort food.
Michael & Laura
Michael Boudreaux and his wife Laura have been married just over 20 years. When he was working as a manager at Outback Steakhouse on the Westbank in the 1990s, there was a moment where decided he was done with restaurant management. He returned home to Baton Rouge and started graduate school at Louisiana State University. Boudreaux took on a part-time job at Juban’s Restaurant in the catering department. It was at a Christmas catering event he met Laura Juban, daughter of the owners. She would help with events on occasion, but they didn’t engage much at first.
“I saw her, said ‘hey’ and she just kind of walked off,” said Boudreaux.
Over the course of the next few months, Michael and Laura grew closer. The pair “began to click and work well together,” Boudreaux said. Their affinity for one another continued to grow and ultimately culminated with their marriage in 2000.
A few months later, Boudreaux acquired the family business, renovated the space, and reopened the restaurant on Valentine’s Day 2001. With Laura by his side, it just felt right. Juban’s has since closed due to the pandemic but plans to reopen again in 2022, on April Fool’s Day, no joke!
“Laura is very type A, straight laced, ‘She’s my safety, I’m her excitement.” Boudreaux said.
Excitement would be an understatement when the couple learned Michael was in possession of a winning lottery ticket, unbeknownst to him. He and Laura had switched vehicles for the day, and she discovered a generous stack of tickets beneath the sun visor. Boudreaux owned up but admitted they were purchased “only if he had quarters on hand.”
Upon some sifting and cross referencing numbers, the two realized one was the golden ticket. Boudreaux credits Laura for squirreling away the money until the time was right, and it ultimately helped them survive the financial woes of the pandemic.
Story originally posted on February 17, 2022.