It’s a few minutes before 5 on a Sunday afternoon, and chef Andy Brooks is sitting at the bar of the Ventura restaurant that shares his last name.
Working without notes, he describes the evening’s specials — “soy-braised pork belly, stir-fry vegetables …” — for the assembled staff members. They ask questions and scribble details into their order pads.
Then they join him in tasting a recent addition to the wine list, a New Zealand pinot noir made using grapes grown on 100-year-old vines. Brooks wants them to experience it so they can better describe the wine to customers when dinner service begins.
Standing less than 10 feet away, Jayme Brooks answers the quiet burbling of the telephone.
“Good afternoon, restaurant Brooks,” she says cheerfully. “Yes, we are. Last name, please? And phone number? OK, perfect.”
When she hangs up, Jayme hooks a thumb in her husband’s direction.
“Andy has the fun job; I answer the phone and he gets to taste wines all day,” she says with a laugh.
But is as true for many married couples who own restaurants together, the division of labor is also a labor of love — perhaps even more so when one half of the couple has a full time job in the “real” world and long ago gave up celebrating Valentine’s Day with a night off.
At Brooks, Jayme is that half. On weekdays, she drives to Chatsworth for her job as vice president of financial planning and analysis for Capstone Turbine Corp. On Saturdays and Sundays, she trades the cubicles and muted hues of her office for the rustic-modern design and earth tones of her restaurant, where she “does whatever needs doing.”
Sometimes, that involves answering the phone. Others, it means stepping into the kitchen to make cinnamon roll bread pudding. Jayme, who earned her Master of Business Administration degree at Duke University in Durham, N.C., also
serves as the restaurant’s bookkeeper and business manager.
Or, as Andy put it, “If not for her, we wouldn’t be here. I could never do what she does.
“All I know is this,” he added, pointing to his chef’s jacket.
That makes the whole partnership thing that much more romantic, when you think about it.