us two

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Thomas Heaton Pho­to­graph/ Chris Skel­ton

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”

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