Mixing business with pleasure in the industry

Words: Jess Spiro

They say that all lasting business is built on friendship, which must mean that a business built on love is set for life. Some of Cape Town’s (and the surrounds’) best hot spots are run by couples and if business and pleasure should never mix, then these pairs know something that the rest of us don’t. In light of warm fuzzy feelings floating around for Valentine’s Day, we caught up with some of the coolest couples in town.

Aegir Rory and Carey
Rory Lancell and Carey Scagell of Aegir Project Brewery have been shacking up for 8 years after meeting at, where else, but a bar. They’ve done a full 360º and are back working together in their fledgling craft beer business. Rory takes care of nearly everything from the brewing to cleaning and deliveries, while Carey slots in and picks up the slack.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved? Trust.

What is the worst thing about it? We never really escape the business, working together, living together we always end up taking things home with us.

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? Rory admits he is wrong and we do it the way I suggested in the beginning… no, we generally try take a breather and talk things out.

Rory on Carey:

What ingredient does Carey love that you’re not wild on? Being that I am a vegetarian and she’s not I’d probably say meat, just because it’s the one thing I don’t eat.

Most unique quality about Carey that you love? Her ability to keep me sane.

Carey on Rory:

The thing I do that annoys Rory most… I tend to argue with him (only when he’s wrong) all the time.

Rory would save Aegir (the dog not the brewery) in a fire.


Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants
Andy and Nicole Fenner, owners of Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, met 9 years ago and have been married for 6. Andy is the butchery’s meat slinger, and Nicole, as a graphic designer, handles the visual side of things as well as all admin.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved? It’s easy to discuss dinner plans. Seriously though, we get to experience our work days together. If we’ve have a bad day at work it means we’ve both had a bad day so its easy to support each other at the end of the day. When its a good day, we get to celebrate together.

What is the worst thing about it? Sometimes its tough to keep the business partnership separate from the marriage, it’s hard not to take any disagreements at work personally. Sharing the successes, as well as the knocks and being in it every day, side by side, really does mean that you feel it together.

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? It’s tough but we are trying to keep work at work and not talk about it when we get home. It’s important for us that we have a separate life to our work life. Our marriage is our priority. It always will be. If work is affecting that then you have to look at some changes.

Nicole on Andy: 

Most unique quality that I love… so many, but especially his sense of humour. In interviews Andy is always portrayed as this very serious guy, but he isn’t that serious guy at all. We laugh a lot together and I think it’s so important in a marriage to always have fun.

What ingredient does Andy love that you’re not wild on? Capers, I don’t mind them on occasion but I think he would put them in everything if he could.

Andy on Nicole:

The thing I do that annoys her most… I think I sometimes don’t communicate what’s going on in my head. I will come up with an idea and act on it straight away. Then I mention it in conversation and she’s like “what are you talking about?” And I’m like “didn’t I mention that?”. That happens a lot.

Would save her picture of Elvis in a fire.  Elvis was our bulldog and we lost him recently. A good friend of ours did an illustration of him years ago as a gift and it has taken on a lot of meaning now.


culture club Luke and Jess
Jess and Luke Williams, owners of the Culture Club on Bree Street, met three and a half years ago at a dinner party in London, where Luke was living at the time, and Jess was passing through on her way back from Bangladesh. Since then they’ve had two kids (their youngest was born a month after they opened the shop!), moved countries and started a successful business. Jess, with her law background takes care of the business side of things and Luke is the ‘big cheese’, with 8 years experience making, and mongering cheese, in the UK.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved? We’ll never notice each other ageing because we see each other all day.

What is the worst thing about it? We BOTH come home stinking of cheese

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? We’re both so tired when we get home, we’ve forgotten them!

Jess on Luke: 

Most unique quality about Luke that I love… his ability to remember a flavour from 10 years ago.

Would save his micro clay cheese figures in a fire. 

Luke on Jess:

The thing I do that annoys her most…. that I refuse to do any paperwork whatsoever.

What ingredient does Jess love that you’re not wild on?  Nothing. Weirdly we both really love a wide range of different flavours.


La Mouette
Henry and Mari Vigar of La Mouette in Sea Point have had a relationship based around the kitchen – they met at Kensington Place restaurant where Henry was head chef and Mari the PA to the GM of the restaurant group. Now, 8 years and one baby girl later, Henry heads up the kitchen and Mari is in charge of HR, PR, event management, bookings and everything in-between.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved?  I would say because I work mainly downstairs in the kitchen and she is upstairs in the office; it helps to not be literally in each other’s faces but we do see each other throughout the day for nice things like lunch, menu tastings, wine pairings and general conversation – we also have a lot in common in terms of our business so when I work the long hours we don’t feel disconnected

What is the worst thing about it? I cannot think of a negative thing as we have been working together for so long, that’s how we met and it’s all we know, but I think as you have a child and your priorities change. I do sometimes wish I could be home in the evenings a bit more before she goes to sleep, but then I love food and my business so it is always a juggling act. So worst thing… I would say sometimes it would be time and the lack thereof.

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? We have a glass of wine and talk about the wonder that is our child together then all resistance crumbles. I have to be honest we don’t have many disagreements now she is not on the floor anymore. It used to be a classic back of house vs front of house scenario in the heat of service where we end with a stare-off, then laugh about it afterwards, which is why we fell in love in the first place.

Mari on Henry:

What ingredient does Henry love that you’re not wild on? Henry is a very adventurous eater so he likes trying everything including pig’s trotters, ears, sweetbreads – these are not my favourites and while I will try anything – I do have to really close my eyes and try hard with anything offal.

Most unique quality that I love… I love Henry’s lust for life. He is the most enthusiastic person I know, in food, in life, in being a husband and father and in working in his restaurant. Our staff are always amazed at the sheer pace he works at and his energy is infectious. He is by far the best person I know. 

Henry on Mari:
The thing I do that annoys her most.., a classic – leaving the toilet seat up.

Would save her  baby photos in a fire.


Rewind to Grahamstown, a very long time ago.  Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk, of Hope on Hopkins Distillery, met when she was studying and he had just opted out of it to open a pub, The Rat & Parrot.  Lucy was keen on a bar job and free drinks, so it worked perfectly.  They’ve been together for 21 years now and married for nearly 10 of those. Lucy designs the gins, and does the taste testing, as well as admin and customer side; Leigh does all the hard work in the distillery, overseeing operations, all the heavy lifting and maintenance and both run the tastings.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved? Getting to spend time together, especially since it’s doing what we love. It’s great because we can often dictate our own schedule and can fit in time to escape together for a coffee or some exercise too.

What is the worst thing about it? We do drive each other crazy sometimes and when we’re doing that it feels like there is no escaping each other (particularly since we live on-site as well!).

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? Luckily we tend to shout at each other and then move on. We can both be quite stubborn, but helpfully have a shared vision so disagreements don’t last too long.

Lucy on Leigh:

The thing I do that annoys him most… multi-tasking, which inevitably leads to me losing track of what I first set out to do, though I get a multitude of other things done along the way. It drives Leigh completely mad.

Who would play Leigh in a movie adaptation of his life? That’s a no brainer: Jason Statham

Leigh on Lucy:

Most unique quality that I love: Tolerance: she married me and has stuck with me (so far!)

Would save our two cats in a fire. They would never get left behind.


Kirby Auret and Wynand van Rooyen proprietors of The Flying Boar pop-up and of Ultimate Braai Master fame, met when both working at The Mount Nelson Hotel and have been together for 4 years. Wynand was junior sous chef at the time whilst Kirby was a student. They had to be separated in the kitchen, as there was way more chatting than cooking happening. In 2015 they bought their own restaurant where both of them will be working in the kitchen.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved? Dating someone in this industry is pretty tough, because you always work ridiculous hours. So we would have to say the best thing is being able to see each other more often than not. Also being able to bounce ideas off one another all the time and sharing knowledge on the same interest.

What is the worst thing about it? Working the long hours this industry requests, we are often pretty tired. So getting grumpy quite easily and getting on each other’s nerves due to this is often the case.

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? We have both been in the industry long enough by now to know that ‘what happens at work, stays at work’. So we often tend to agree to disagree over a bottle of wine at the end of a service.

Kirby on Wynand:

The thing I do that annoys him most… I really enjoy the term ‘guesstimate’. So my weighing skills aren’t really up to scratch, which drives Wynand crazy because he is a bit of a perfectionist.

Most unique quality that I love… Wynand is weird. If you are someone who knows him well, you will totally understand what I mean! He will eat absolutely anything that most people will second-guess. He is really passionate about food, that he will try anything just in order to learn more.

Wynand on Kirby:

Who would play Kirby in a movie adaptation of her life? I am not really a big movie person, but it would have to be someone that loves wine, people, animals and lots of laughter.

What ingredient does Kirby love that you’re not wild on? There is nothing I don’t eat, I chow everything. Although I am not big on pizza, but Kirby can’t live without it.


Andrea, originally from San Francisco, met Chris briefly in South Africa and after only saying a few words to each other she was convinced Chris was the man she was going to marry, however they didn’t get together until 6 months later where they bumped into each other in Champagne, France. In her own words, she thought: “well, if this is the man I am going to marry, I had better introduce myself”. Now happily married and owners of the famed family-focused Mullineux Wine, Andrea makes the wine and Chris does everything else: general manager, viticulturist, truck driver, you name it.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved?  We are always on the same team. Even work arguments are constructive… and then we get to steal kisses when no one is looking!

What is the worst thing about it? If we are both working late or on a weekend, it means that neither of us is at home, enjoying the children. So we try and balance that. One person will stay and do both jobs. The other spends time with our two little ones.

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? We make sure we resolve work disagreements before the work day is done. It’s best not to bring stress home.

Andrea on Chris:

Who would play Chris in a movie adaptation of his life? Ewan McGregor or Arno Carstens. They are both older than him… but both would work.

Most unique quality that I love… He is SO calm, cool, and collected. Troubles are like water off of a duck’s back. That is very good for me as I tend to over react.

Chris on Andrea:

Most unique quality that I love: I love how intensely and consistently Andrea believes in and cares for the small things that most people are willing to compromise on or let slip. All those little things add up to something significant and it’s what makes her who she is.

Would save her (our) children in a fire! Then I would go back for her jewelry as she has some heirloom items that mean a lot to her and are irreplaceable. Finally, if there was still time, I would get our last bottle of 2000 Chateau Rayas.


Owners of The Table at De Meye, Luke and Jess Shepherd, met when her sister was studying with Luke at Stellenbosch University and it was love at first. Having been together for 10 years and working together for 7, their business thrives with their relationship. Luke runs the front of house for the restaurant, while Jess commands the kitchen and is responsible for the exceptional, seasonal food that it turns out.

What is the best thing about working with your beloved? Luke and I are best friends, which makes working together just easier and enjoyable. It’s reassuring working with someone you trust completely, and having those supportive words or loving gesture when you’re having a bad day.

What is the worst thing about it? Restaurants can be stressful work environments. Tempers flare, we snap at each other. No one’s perfect.

How do you deal with disagreements after the workday is done? It helps that we share common goals, and we have learnt over the years to not simply diss each other’s ideas or opinions as ‘stupid’ but rather build on them together.

Jess on Luke:

Most unique quality that I love? I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily unique, but Luke’s a very kind and thoughtful person. Oh, and his dance moves make me laugh.

Would save our dogs and cat in a fire. 

Luke on Jess:

What ingredient does Jess love that you’re not wild on? Fresh nutmeg. It’s just a flavour that’s never particularly grown on me.

Thing I do that annoys Jess most… not closing cupboard doors.


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