Happy Spring everyone! I love this time of year. I don’t know many who do not like it (well, those who have severe allergies, eek.) The flowers are blooming, the weather is warming, the grill cover is coming off! Most likely you went solo on Easter, but hopefully made the best of it!
This month, I’m excited to introduce you to one half of an amazing Epicurean team. These two definitely have the experience and wisdom, after 25 years, and from what you can gather, it sounds like Amy and John definitely know how to make life fun and exciting! From their beginnings in culinary school, working side by side, owning their own restaurant, TV and magazine appearances, and raising a family together, to supporting Johns literary aspirations, it’s clear these two have what it takes to thrive. Just reading Amys experiences and hearing their story through the years, reconnects me to why I, myself, love being Married to a Chef.
I’m talking about non other than Amy Malik, pastry chef and wife to Executive Chef turned Author John Malik.
Amy Stafford Malik is a native of Memphis, TN. She received her culinary training in New Orleans, LA at Delgado Community College after receiving a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of the South at Sewanee, TN. Amy trained in the pastry shop of Le Meridien Hotel in New Orleans and later at Henri, Marc Haberlins restaurant at Le Meridien. Amy created desserts for Christian’s Restaurant in New Orleans, The Guilds Inn of Charleston, SC and the Augusta Grill in Greenville, SC. Her desserts have been featured nationally in Bon Appetit, Bon Appetits Best Desserts, Chocolatier Magazine and Country Inns Magazine as well The Today Show. Amy and her husband John were Guest Chefs at the 2002 Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend in Charlotte, NC, as well as guest chefs at Epcot Food & Wine Festival from 2005-2009. In 2007 Amy was honored to be a guest demo presenter at the New York Chocolate Show. Amy & John have been married 25 years in May and have 2 beautiful and challenging teens- a boy and a girl.
What were your first impressions when you first realized that by being with your restaurant man/woman, that you have become a part of the restaurant world?
A. John and I met in the restaurant world. After we each graduated from our respective colleges we each decided to enter culinary school in New Orleans. We were in the same class together and because we had similar academic backgrounds we became friends. We both ended up apprenticing at the same restaurant and the rest is history. When we graduated from culinary school we left New Orleans for greener pastures. We ended up the chefs of a historic Bed & Breakfast near Charleston, SC. Because John was trained on the line and I was trained in pastry, we were the perfect compliment. We didn’t plan originally to work together, but it just worked out that way. We when opened our restaurant together many years later, we again complimented each other, I with my managerial skills and background and he with his Executive Chef skills.
When did you know that you had what it took, within the parameters of his/her career, to find success in your relationship?
A. We had the same hours (except when we came back from our honeymoon and I found out that my Executive Chef had rudely scheduled me for the 7 am- 3pm shift while John was still working 3-11). Mostly, however, we were respectful of each others careers and interests and we supported one anothers endeavors. We had similar interests and our friends were in the restaurant industry. I think it took our families a lot longer to adjust to our careers. I used to get upset even after we had been married for 10 or more years when someone would call on a Friday and say, “What are you two doing tonight?” Well, that would be working.
What is the BEST part of being married to someone in the restaurant industry?
A. Most definitely the perks. On our honeymoon we went to the San Francisco and the wine country and we were treated like a queen and king, it was perhaps our first taste of true hospitality in the restaurant world. The restaurant industry really does take care of its own. We have sent people to restaurants all over the world and they’ve gotten stellar treatment. It’s all about making someone happy and satisfied in the end. Often people will say “Oh, we went to so & so restaurant and were ignored or didn’t really get anything we liked. Do you ever get mistreated there?” My gut response is “Well, we’re often treated “specially” when we go out so I don’t have a subjective opinion. My viewpoint is swayed. That’s not to say when we don’t get “special” treatment, it’s less of an experience. Sometimes that non-recognition almost makes it all the more special if it’s a really fabulous meal and experience.
Some of the best perks have been guest chefs at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival for several consecutive years. Our kids were invited to go as well and the Disney folks were so wonderful to our family and all for our talents for a couple of hours here and there around the parks! We also done guest spots at Lake Austin Spa in Texas- a beautiful, lush and relaxing paradise in the heart of Texas. Another particularly rewarding trip was to Los Angeles as the guests of Bon Appetit in 2003 for a benefit for Cancer Research. We cooked with some world renowned chefs at a California dream estate for the benefit of helping a meaningful cause.
How do you handle the holidays knowing he/she is going to be busy at work?
Most recently John was the Executive Chef of a Continuing Care Retirement Facility for 3 years. We discussed before he took the position that holidays would be hard for our children then 9 & 10. John was responsible for several different levels of food service on the campus 365 days of the year. We made compromises and explained to the children and would do things like, open presents before he had to leave for work. We often spent Thanksgiving with my family when he worked and he was okay with that. We would celebrate as a family as soon as we could get together after or before the holiday. It was however very different from when we owned our own restaurant and all the kids knew was our restaurant and our schedule. With our restaurant we set our hours and were mostly closed on Sundays as our family day. We would serve a Mother’s Day Brunch making it very special (because we weren’t open for lunch or breakfast routinely) and allowing the kids to “help” which involved them and made the day just as special for them.
Thinking on Kerilyn’s Valentine’s Day story, we often celebrate Valentine’s a week after the day. We’ve done different things like get away to a bed & breakfast for a night. The thing is, even if he happened to be off on Valentines, we would NEVER go out to dinner – it would be too much of a zoo.
How has achieving acclaim and success, within the restaurant industry, changed your relationship?
John says I got more protective of him! We were always very supportive of each other because we were not in competing areas of food service, we complimented each others efforts. I was not as comfortable in front of crowds and TV cameras as John so he would give me pointers and tips to make our appearances better. He always has been a good mentor for me. He likes to say we met over a hot stove. He was already an experienced cook before culinary school and I was not. One day before we were dating (just friends!) in class we were practicing flipping the sauce pan on the burner and I was having difficulty. He came over and grabbed my hand and guided me through the motions. I still like for him to hold my hand. I have happily stood on the side lines of many a TV appearance as he prattled on because I was just relieved it wasn’t me in front of the camera. It’s still a little awkward however when people recognize us and most recently when people say “Oh! You’re THE Amy of “Doughnuts for Amy” John’s novel. I was flattered of course to have it dedicated to me, but it’s still a little disconcerting. I try, however, to uphold and support him in all of his endeavors. They haven’t always been successful or pleasant but then again wasn’t that what the marriage vows were for? To remind us that we are to be faithful to one another through thick and thin.
Even people not in the restaurant industry have their ups and downs, we just get to celebrate all of it together.