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This duo, who brought authentic Thai food to Toronto’s culinary landscape, may never have ended up together if it weren’t for a fateful travel tip and one extremely slippery elephant.
Who: Nuit Regular, 43, chef. Jeff Regular, 41, restaurateur.
Relationship status: Married since 2004.
Of all the elephants in all the world
Jeff: I was doing the backpacking thing and when I got to Thailand this other backpacker I met said you have to go to Pai, it will change your life.
Nuit: I was working as a nurse at the Pai hospital. I had a day off and I decided that I was finally going to try riding an elephant. It was something tourists do, but I never had. I was scared. Elephants are so tall.
Jeff: We ended up sitting one in front of the other on this elephant – on the neck, where there weren’t even seats. We kept slipping into each other.
Nuit: He put his arms down in front of me, so I could hold on. I remember thinking, this is a nice, respectful guy because he’s not trying to grab me.
Jeff: She grabbed me! And then afterwards, she offered to show me around to say thank you. That’s how it started.
She had me at soup
Jeff: I ended up staying in Thailand for a lot longer than I had planned. I remember the first time Nuit ever cooked for me. We were home on her lunch break, and she made this soup using just the things she had in her garden. It was incredible.
Nuit: I grew up cooking with my mom and my aunts. My family was selling food and I would help out. Nursing was going to be something that would get me out of cooking, but then when I was leaving Thailand I wanted to give my younger brother some financial security, so I opened the Curry Shack with the idea that he would run it.
Jeff: I took it upon myself to decorate and give it a vibe that would entice backpackers. We were packed every night from the get-go. I definitely had the thought that maybe we could do this in Toronto some day, but it was more like a pipe dream.
Passion in the kitchen
Jeff: Our first restaurant in Toronto was Sukhothai, and it wasn’t a success at first. There was a lot of frustration and stress. Opening a restaurant can be a trying thing for a couple – there are a lot of breakups in our industry.
Nuit: There were definitely some heated conversations, but we would always end by saying “I love you.” And there was also a lot of fun in those early days where Jeff was working with me in the kitchen.
Jeff: You could call me chef Nuit’s slave. Really though, she has taught me patience. There were times when I would be out with the customers who are staring at me because their food isn’t there yet, but she won’t be rushed.
Nuit: And Jeff has taught me to be flexible. In my work – nursing and cooking – there is no room for mistakes, but in life, it’s okay if everything isn’t perfect.