46204 At a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, the Ingredients for Romance

At a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, the Ingredients for Romance



“There’s something calming about her presence,” Mr. Shah said, that put him at ease.

A month later, in May 2017, he invited her to spend a day with him and a group of their colleagues at a favorite hangout spot on the Russian River. Mr. Shah got to the location early and, to ensure she found it, told Ms. Brown to call him when she arrived.

“I would have found my way down,” she said. “But he came to walk me all the way in.”

In a pit dug by Mr. Shah and a few others on the river bank, the group made cochinita pibil, a Mexican dish from the Yucatán Peninsula that requires marinating pork in citrus juice and spices, then wrapping it in banana leaves and cooking it for hours among hot stones.

As the food cooked, Mr. Shah and Ms. Brown placed two chairs in a shallow part of the river and got to talking about how each had developed an interest in the culinary world.

Mr. Shah, who grew up mostly in Great Falls, Va., and later in San Diego, was raised by immigrant parents. His father came to the United States from Kerala, India, and his mother, who is also Indian, from Nairobi, Kenya. His love of food, he told Ms. Brown, began as a child when he would assist his mother and maternal grandmother in the kitchen.

Ms. Brown, whose ancestors are Dutch, German and French, told him that her family farm in Illinois was also home to relatives and that the group had large communal meals several nights a week. Her immediate family and various relatives lived in separate homes on the property, but no matter who was hosting, she always helped cook, she said.

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