Laura and Ed Verner’s Auckland restaurant Pasture has been open for just over a year, and it’s already taken out a few prizes, including a Cuisine Good Food Award. The couple, both 34, got together over a stolen camera and a steak and now their labour of love is provoking New Zealand palates – in the best way. ED/ In 2012, I was working at (Auckland restaurant) Sidart. Laura was a photographer before I brought her over to hospitality, and she was taking photos of the Sidart kitchen. That’s where we first met each other, but it wasn’t until a couple of months later at a friend’s gathering that we met again. Apparently she noticed me at Sidart, so that was nice, and I liked her style. She’s alternative, funky, super-friendly and warm.
Someone broke into my house and stole all my stuff and she found out about it. I lost my camera, a pretty expensive camera, and she found me on Facebook and said she had a camera she could lend me. It was an open invitation for a first date, really. I went round with a chunk of bloody steak, not knowing she was vegetarian and she didn’t know how to cook it. The rest was history. She ate the steak and hasn’t been vegetarian since.
We got married last January, and that was literally seven months before we opened Pasture. We went from the wedding to full-on setting up Pasture. I still owe her a honeymoon, which she holds me to, to this day.
You’re not the same husband you are at home, when you’re in the thick of it. I think anyone who works with their partner is going to have the same thing, in whatever profession, but in a high-pressure, high-stress kitchen environment? That’s a whole other thing.
We’re both perfectionists. It’s a good thing in the hospitality world, because that’s your vision. It can be quite tense. We both have to understand it’s a quality in both of us and meet in the middle somewhere.
She’s learnt to understand how I work and to also let things go sometimes. You always say in the kitchen “what happens in service, stays in service”. I think early on I said things that really p...ed her off. I certainly learnt that and had to rethink how I did things.
I do the food, she does the front, and it all comes together. She brings that natural part to Pasture. Laura taught me everything I know about the plant side of things. Sometimes I sit in the kitchen and watch what she’s doing, and people are doing that who’ve been in the industry for a decade.
When we opened Pasture, I think that’s when we started to build our life together. What’s exciting is pushing Pasture forward, alongside building a life around it and hopefully a family, eventually. Also, I don’t want it to end at Pasture – there will be other things. LAURA/ The beginning stages of our relationship were quite challenging. For me, I had my own photography business and I was working a lot and my hours were quite different to his. We had very fleeting moments together.
Our relationship was kind of formed from these conversations we’d have in the early hours of the morning. We continued like that for quite a long time, and it was really challenging. I mean, that was one of the reasons we decided to sell everything we had and move overseas, because we really wanted to give our relationship a chance.
I think I knew something was up, because Ed doesn’t really get up early in the morning. We went for a walk one morning and he came out with this ring that he had designed by one of my favourite jewellery artists. It couldn’t be more perfect, I was so blown away. It was just the two of us.
We got married in a forest, which is very us. We just wanted to be outside, surrounded by friends and family. As soon as they left, it was full-on.
I’m sure that couples who work together have to be continually evolving, especially when you are in an industry like ours. When we first started, there were so many things going on.
I didn’t anticipate how hard or stressful it was going to be. It’s been tough. In those circumstances, you don’t really have resilience or experience on how to deal with that. I’m working with the person that I love most in the world, and we’ve had to learn a lot techniques to deal with stress and how we leave that at Pasture.
One of the things that we’ve really had to learn is our boundaries. When we first started dating, it seemed like the hardest thing in the world to have time together. Now we are always together. I think at the moment, we know we each need different things. I get my energy and regenerate in different ways to Ed. I get my energy from being active and outside and going on really good walks, and he gets his from sitting down with his cookbooks and notepads. We have a dog, who is absolutely awesome, and we always have Marlo. No matter what’s going on in our lives, he’s always there. He’s such a character.
There are a lot of pressures that we both face. We can be each other’s worst critics, but we are full of hope for each other. We’re very different in personalities and so we offer different perspectives. I may have weaknesses, but Ed will balance me out. It’s a constant dynamic.
I really want to have gardens again, I think that would be really important for Pasture as well. Neither of us want to step away from it, but it’s going to be a drive to make it a sustainable business, so we can have a bit more time. We want to have a child together too, and puppies – I won’t be physically having the puppies.
“I went round with a chunk of bloody steak, not knowing she was vegetarian. She ate it and the rest was history”