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Married couple Philip Lago and Mystique Mattai are co-creators of the Chef Sous Chef blog.

Svetlana Kolotyrkina/Svetlana Kolotyrkina

Who: Philip Lago, 36, real estate agent, blog creator and cookbook author; Mystique Mattai, 32, digital marketer, blog creator and cookbook author.

Location: Toronto

Relationship Status: Together 12 years, married for five. Parents to a five-month-old girl.

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Retail shenanigans

Mystique: I was a cashier at Guess, and Phil was transferred to my store. He started writing me little notes on used retail receipts and passing them to me throughout the day. I found him a little bit odd – maybe eccentric is the better word – but he piqued my interest.

Philip: I was enamoured as soon as I saw her. She definitely played hard-to-get, but she still would leave me little gifts and trinkets around the store so I was encouraged. I finally got up the courage to ask her out, but she turned me down.

Mystique: I did say no, but I honestly didn’t think he was that serious.

Philip: I changed my tactics. Instead of asking her out for dinner, I told her we were going out for dinner after work. We went to a Moxie’s that was in the mall. It was about 11:30 at night, but it was a start.

Nerves galore

Philip: For me to show I really care about someone, I cook for them. My family was in the restaurant business. I’ve always loved to cook, so food was my way to take the relationship to the next level.

Mystique: On our first “kitchen” date, he made me an asparagus risotto. I loved hanging out with him as he worked, and I learned from him. I soon became his sous chef.

Philip: Through the years, the kitchen grew to be our safe place. It was the place where we connected and where we unplugged.

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Mystique: We were opposites. Phil is from a small town, and I’m a city girl. We had different interests, but food, and our love of it, was mutual ground for us to get to know each other.

Philip: After five years of dating, I bought the ring. I had this wonderful meal planned of homemade ravioli, a beautifully set table, candlelight, and I’d pop the question.

Mystique: We went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. We went to three. At the last store, I followed him in and watched him walk through the store and walk right back out again.

Philip: I was so flustered. I couldn’t think straight. The ring was like this huge weight. I ended up asking her to marry me in the parking lot. It wasn’t very romantic.

Mystique and Philip have been married for five years.

Svetlana Kolotyrkina/Svetlana Kolotyrkina

Sweet and savoury

Mystique: After the wedding, we needed another project to work on together, so we started a blog, Chef Sous Chef, which was really just us expressing what we enjoy to eat. Phil created the recipes, and I did the writing and took photographs.

Philip: We saw too many of our friends ordering dinner with the click of a button. It seemed to us that people had lost their affection for the kitchen. So we used the blog – and now our cookbook [Eat With Us] to inspire people. … What makes this relationship work is that we’re each other’s cheerleaders.

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Mystique: He’s my best friend. We know we’re not perfect, and we might not always do things the right way, but we always show up for each other. Relationships aren’t meant to be easy. They take constant work. Food, for us anyway, just seems to make everything better.

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