February 12

Soup to Nuts: How local chefs show their love

Generally crazy busy on Valentine’s Day, the members of this exclusive couples club still always figure out a way to say, ‘I heart you.’

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

For restaurants, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year.

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Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez, shown at their Portland restaurant Piccolo, always prepare a special dinner for themselves on Valentine’s Day, regardless of how late they have to work that night.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Michelle and Steve Corry, owners of Five Fifty-Five and Petite Jacqueline in Portland, have traveled the world, but on or around Valentine’s Day, their romantic getaways often take place just down the road from home.

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

For chefs, planning a romantic dinner for two on Feb. 14 usually means cooking for strangers, not their own partners. If both of the better halves are in the restaurant industry, finagling a little time for romance on this most important day for lovers may be downright impossible.

There are lots of restaurants in Maine that are owned or managed by couples. What do they do to make their loved ones feel special on Valentine’s Day – or do they celebrate the holiday at all? I decided to ask a few how they handle the Valentine’s Day pressure, and how they romance each other with food at home. Here are their responses:



Five Fifty-Five and Petite Jacqueline (Portland)


Michelle Corry, co-owner with her chef husband of two of Portland’s most popular restaurants, says a lot of people who work in restaurants are somewhat jaded by Valentine’s Day.

But the Corrys, who have been married for 13 years and have two sons, always make a point of celebrating the day, even though it never actually happens on Feb. 14. (This year marks the 11th Valentine’s Day in a row the couple will be working on the holiday.)

“We do try to make it special,” Michelle Corry said. “A lot of people get jaded, but I think it’s important. We’ve been together 20 years, so we have to do some work to have some special nights.”

The fact that Michelle’s birthday falls a week before the holiday provides added incentive to celebrate. The chef, apparently, always buys his wife flowers. (Say it together, now: Awww.) But the romance doesn’t stop there. The couple always find a day near the 14th when they can leave the kids with their nanny and get away together for one night.

Even if it’s just down the street.

The Corrys live about a mile down the road from the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth. Last year, the oceanfront inn became their little hideaway.

“We stayed in one of their suites, and Steve got some oysters because all of their suites have little kitchens,” Michelle Corry, 41, said. “He shucked some oysters, and we had room service martinis with the oysters. We walked to the restaurant for a light dinner, and then came back to our room and had a nice bottle of wine and cheese.”

The year before, they bought an ice skating package at the Liberty Hotel in Boston. They went skating, then drank hot toddies before heading off for a romantic dinner.

If they just can’t get away, they’ll at least put the kids to bed and pick out a nice bottle of wine.

This year, Michelle said, Valentine’s has kind of sneaked up on them, so they’ll probably just repeat last year’s visit to the inn. Or break out the caviar and champagne one night after the kids go to bed. (They both love caviar.)

The romance in the Corry household doesn’t just happen one day a year, either.

“Even though we do work together all day, every day, the big thing for us is, no matter what time we get home – 10, 11 or 12 – we always sit down and eat together,” Michelle said. “We have a bottle of wine and make dinner, pretty much every night. I know it’s a little strange to think about eating at midnight.”

If they have three nights off in a week, they’ll spend two having dinner with the kids, then save the third night as a date night for themselves.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Michelle and Steve Corry, owners of Five Fifty-Five and Petite Jacqueline in Portland, have traveled the world, but on or around Valentine’s Day, their romantic getaways often take place just down the road from home.

Courtesy photo

click image to enlarge

Mark Gaier and Clarke Frasier say they’ll try to celebrate Valentine’s Day in March this year because they’re too busy at the helm of their new restaurant in Boston, MC Spiedo. They also own MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.

2010 Press Herald file


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