It’s hard enough being in a relationship—imagine not only living with someone but working with them as well? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. The courts are littered with the divorce papers of those tried to crack the work together/live together code and failed miserably. Somehow, this quartet of couples makes it work, and work well.
From fine dining to down-home comfort food, sweet treat cupcakes to neighborhood drinking spot, each pair has found that their passion for each other, coupled with the love of providing the community with food and frolic creates the perfect storm of satisfaction.
(614) Magazine and Stock & Barrel has had a long, fun relationship with Molly and Kelly Fankhauser. The adorable pair first debuted on our pages for a “Cribs” feature, showcasing their eclectic German Village home. We should’ve known at the time that the two would go on to open a bakery as the kitchen was large, open, and built to be a allow the cook to talk with her guests.
A few years later, we rang up the Fankhausers to feature their cupcake hot spot, Kittie’s Cakes, in an “At Home Chef” piece. Much like their home, the German Village space is open and inviting, beckoning the community to come in and share in their joyful little cakes. A success the minute the doors opened, the couple is deeply gracious for the response.
“[Our success] is hard to believe… the most fun is meeting people,” Molly said. “We’ve found such a sense of community, we have such awesome customers,” echoed Kelly. “And we get to be a part of people’s celebrations, so it’s happy.”
As with most couples, each one tends to their particular skill set. “Mollie develops flavor profiles and I have ideas for the frosting and garnishes,” said Kelly. “We’ll be eating out and try to find a way to take something that is not a dessert, and make it into a cake. Like, how to use pretzels in our cakes. That’s the fun part.”
“I’ve made some pretty gross things,” laughed Molly. “Trying to figure out how we can use Cheetos or Captain Crunch.”
After the cakes are baked, Kelly’s flair for artistry takes over. “I gravitated towards the icing and garnishing because I love the artistic part of it…I appreciate art and enjoy it.”
Inspired by both the love and food stories of Molly and Kelly Fankhauser, Stock & Barrel decided to seek out other couples who have found harmony in meshing their personal and professional lives. Maybe it’s the sacred science of pleasing other people with what you’ve created, in this case food, or maybe it’s the shared satisfaction of watching what you’ve built become a hub of the community, we’re not sure. But whatever it is, these pairs have beaten the odds and won our heart—and stomachs—in the process.
Family Style: Anita and George Keller
Owners, Hungry Soul Café • 30 S Young St.
The moniker Hungry Soul Café is a play on words. Anita Keller is the “soul,” and George Keller is the “hungry.” A mash-up of soul food and traditional Hungarian recipes, Hungry Soul finds the sweet spot between the two cuisines and manages to please everyone. Fantastic weekend brunches have recently gained the downtown eatery a whole new crowd of fans.
“I love being here,” said Anita. “Talking to people, making new friends, serving our food to people – we have the best waffles …”
George looks over his glasses at his effusive wife.
“Yes, I said it…they are perfect we worked for three years perfecting the waffle.”
And that’s how it goes with these two–Anita talks, gestures, is passionate in her words while George speaks with non-verbal facial expressions. Clearly, the couple have this dynamic down after years of being together.
“She’ll tell you I’m no good at it [talking to customers],” said George. “But I talk to people a lot, but if they’re complaining…”
“It escalates, that’s why I don’t let him go out there [on the floor] too often,” finished Anita. “Guess who likes to talk in this relationship?”
“I used to do stand-up,” she adds as explanation.
Walking this dance back and forth between the two is lovely, as is each plays on their strengths in running the business. “I would be out on the street crying if I had to do what he does,” said Anita. “Accounting, ordering, billing, some math, planning, organizing.” All the things at which one would expect a former engineer to excel. Whereas Anita, working mainly with people her entire life, either in retail or in human resources, is a hit with the customers, greeting each one, some of them with hugs.
George always had the idea in his mind of making food, specifically the food of his childhood, Hungarian, and serving people. It was his pork roast that seduced Anita. “That was the thing that told me we’d be together forever,” she said. “When it came out of the oven and was on the counter, we both went to pick at the charred bits around the edges… that roast never made it to the table.”
The Kellers bought the restaurant on a Saturday and opened for business on Monday. “‘Cuz we’re crazy,” laughed Anita. “We’re doing well, but we can always do better.”
“Hungry Soul is like Sisyphus, we keep pushing it up the hill,” said George.
“We struggle sometimes,” added Anita. “But this is it. This April it will be four years and I believe in us… we can do this. Everything happens for a reason. We haven’t gone under, there’s a purpose here.”
“I love him,” she said, tearing up. “I want this to be a good thing for him. I love it, I just love it.”
Family Style: Andreas Kleinhart & Kristy Venrick
Owners, The Shrunken Head • 251 W Fifth Ave.
Kleinhart and Venrick love food, music, and the drink. After meeting through a friend eight years ago, Kleinhart left his home country of Germany behind and moved to the wilderness of Columbus to be by Venrick’s side. Married a year later, Venrick comments, “I guess you could say the rest is all music and booze …”
The two purchased Victorian’s Midnight Café, as it was known then, in April of 2009. After a year, they rebranded as The Shrunken Head, and have been moving forward ever since. Owning a neighborhood joint was not in either of the two’s life plans; it just happened.
“The main inspiration was Andreas’ love for food, drinks and music. We basically jumped right in. From backgrounds in computers, engineering and architecture, we didn’t know much about the restaurant or bar biz. However, we both have a fairly extensive music background. Not something on our list per se, but food, drinks and music create so many memories for people that it’s great to be a part of that.” As for that music experience, Venrick has been a part the venerated EDM band The Azoic for years, as well as running Nilaihah Records alongside Kleinhart.
For the couple, the best part of owning The Shrunken Head together is not having to explain away hanging out in a bar all the time. “The worst part is the learning curve, especially early on, and the work load,” said Venrick.
When asked how The Shrunken Head reflects Kleinhart and Venrick’s relationship, Venrick explained, “The bar is simple, yet cozy, with hints of ordered chaos. Wood, exposed brick, bold colors and eclectic décor… the German is ‘ze stylist.’”
For a bar that features bands playing everything from twangy rock to industrial dirges, it’s not a shock that there is no one theme song that represents “Ze Head.”
“Choosing one theme song is hard because musically, the bar is all over the place with both live music and radio. It can be anything from old school country, bluegrass, singer/songwriter and America to rock, punk, indie and rockabilly. Variety is the spice of life, right?” asked Venrick. “But, we do aspire to be a cool local hang out where “everybody knows your name.”
“However, we are looking for a writer of that theme song. Must include whiskey and beer,” added Kleinhart with a laugh.
Family Style: Rick & Krista Lopez
Owners, La Tavola • 1664 W First Ave.
So, you may notice that the format of this bit is a little different than the rest. Well, Krista and Rick Lopez’s responses to our questions were so deep and loving towards one another, we decided to let them speak for themselves. This is the couple everyone should aspire to be. And their kids are damn cute too.
Describe the first meal you two shared.
Krista: Our first date was at Rigsby’s. We both lived in the Short North and back in the early ‘90s, Rigsby’s was basically the only restaurant in our neighborhood (boy, have things changed!). I was still in college and living on a college budget so I had never been there before. I was young and not very sophisticated when it came to food. I remember thinking how fancy it was and feeling a little intimidated. I was a (short-lived) vegetarian at the time so I had the Penne all’Arrabbiata, probably the least “fancy” thing on the menu. We had so many courses and so much wine. It was an amazing night. We talked about everything and ate everything. Rick had such a passion for food and the whole pageantry of the meal that I immediately felt at ease in Rigsby’s with him. I remember him telling me of his dream to open a restaurant and thinking, “I want to be part of that.”
Rick: I am going to have to say the first meal was at my little carriage house on Lundy. I really wanted to impress Krista so I made a nice dinner of steamed mussels in garlic tomato broth with rosemary and a crostini. Bread from the old Pane I think in the Short North. Then, we had a stuffed artichoke. My Grandma served this where each leaf had a garlic lemon breadcrumb mixture. I finished with a stuffed lobster with peppers pancetta and a saffron sauce. We drank so much I think she always forgets about the lobster. I can’t even remember dessert. I just remember talking all night and sharing stories and laughs. I knew I wanted to spend my life her, and each date strengthen that feeling as we grew closer.
Best and worst thing about working with your partner.
Krista: The best thing is being able to spend so much time with my best friend. I am sure not everyone feels that way about their spouse. We definitely have a special relationship. I knew Rick was my soul mate on our first date. I also knew that if I ever wanted to see him, I would end up in the restaurant business too. Good thing I fell in love with the business as quickly and deeply as I fell in love with him! Worst thing: I think the hardest thing about working together is leaving work at work. It’s hard not to discuss work all the time when you are both so involved in it. But we made a pact long ago: “What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen.” It is easier said than done, but we really try.
Rick: The best thing about working together is we make our own schedule. And we are always together at some point in the day. Sometimes it is hard, and sometimes I even make notes to write down things I want to tell her. But we are lucky because we share a lot of the same experiences and know the same people. It is not like trying to tell your spouse a story about some unknown person at the office. We also have a lot of trust and mutual respect. I don’t know how she maintains baking, taking care of the kids, and dealing with me and never complaining. The other great thing is that we have shared some great triumphs together that are very fulfilling. We truly are a team. The downside being we have shared in many defeats as well. Too many. But it has strengthened our bond and helped us both to grow and pick ourselves up. We are both fighters and together our strengths and weaknesses balance out. Going to work is not like work at all. Sure it is hard. What isn’t hard and fulfilling at the same time?
How does La Tavola reflect the two of you—your life, your relationship, your family?
Krista: Now that we have kids, our schedules are completely opposite. I work during the day, while the kids are at school, and he works at night. We don’t see each other as much as we used to. It’s just that period in a couple’s relationship where the kids come first. Schedules change, priorities change. Family comes first. When we opened our first restaurant, our priorities were different. It was all about us—what we wanted to do, to serve. Is that the best way to run a restaurant? Not really. But we learned. You have to put family first and if you treat everyone that walks through that restaurant door like family, they will appreciate it.
Rick: La Tavola is our family. This is an extension of who we are. We love to entertain. This shows how we both are intertwined. She bakes the breads and makes desserts. I use that bread for bruschetta and crostini, breadcrumbs and soups. I make pasta sauces and all savory dishes. Together we have a complete restaurant. Apart, we are a chef and a baker. When you come in, you get to experience the two of us in one way or another. Complimenting each others’ skill and passion.