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The Love Issue

The Love Portfolio: Elise Kornack + Anna Hieronimus

The Love Portfolio: Elise Kornack + Anna Hieronimus

How a night in a Cubby Hole led to a Michelin-winning partnership.

Photography byRoger Erickson. Elise Kornack (left) and Anna Hieronimus.

Elise Kornack, Chef and Co-Owner, Take Root
I was finishing my shift at La Bottega at New York's Maritime Hotel very late one night, and my best gay friend, David, wanted to get a drink, so we went to the Cubby Hole. There was no one in the bar except a few people at the back, and one of them happened to be Anna. David grew up with her in Baltimore, so he recognized her, and she and I went back to my apartment that night. And that was it -- never a moment apart since.

Anna is beautiful and also very relaxed. I don't like being around bubbly female energy. I don't find it attractive. She was just very chill and confident, and that was just a nice change from the usual. Part of what is so special about our relationship is that I felt immediately accepted, idiosyncrasies included, by her and her family. She's very caring and nurturing. She has two dogs, and I was really blown away by that -- it takes a lot of effort to take care of anybody or anything other than yourself, so for me it was a testament to this person's ability to juggle a lot and still remain calm. That was something I needed in my life, because I'm not very calm.

I asked Anna to marry me twice. The first time, I was semi-drunk -- it was in the rain in the West Village, and it was really amazing. I used a straw wrapper to propose, as I didn't have money for a ring, and she said yes, but the next morning we woke up and said, "Maybe that's too soon." But we actually only waited three more months. I was working at Aquavit in midtown Manhattan, and I kept the ring in the safe there because I didn't trust myself. Then one night I was like, This is the person I want to marry, so I biked over from midtown and brought her some flowers on the way. When I arrived, she was like, "Why are you acting weird?" We kind of have this way about us -- it's like we were meant to be together, almost to our detriment sometimes. Because there's not a lot of spontaneity to these things. We already know they will happen.

Anna Hieronimus, Co-Owner, Take Root
Elise is very intense -- she is an artist and a workaholic, and I think I was one of the first people to bring a sense of calm to her life. When we met, I didn't really have a job -- I was in this place of doing a lot of relaxing, basically. So I think I taught her that it's OK to take a day off, and I think that's why we ended up with the model of restaurant we have with Take Root [a few tables, a set menu]. Ours is a very taxing business, typically.

The first time we went away together was to Nantucket, where Elise's family has a small house. It's where she spent a good portion of her childhood summers. I picked her up, and we drove through the night, straight to the beach to meet her family. I'm actually a good swimmer, but there was a strong riptide and I almost drowned. Her brothers had to come and rescue me on a boogie board, and it was all very dramatic. The whole beach got to its feet, and Elise was standing on the shoreline with a close family friend, who said, "Well, this is it: Either this seals the deal, or Anna is going to leave you tomorrow."

I was pretty serious right from the get-go. It was funny because I hadn't had any serious relationships with women, but as soon as I got together with Elise there was really no question. Within the second week I told her to cancel all her future dates or say goodbye to me. We met right before Pride weekend -- and it was kind of a blur because the first few weeks of a relationship are always fun and exciting -- but I realized that this was going to be a change in my lifestyle. Elise is a pillar of strength. Unbelievably strong. I have a hard time making decisions and feeling confident about those decisions, and one of the things I love in Elise is that if I'm unsure about something, I feel I can trust her to make the right choice. We're very much on the same page about things, but she's very brave, and that makes me feel safe.

The first time she proposed to me, I'd had a few too many beers. We were back at the Cubby Hole, and eventually she was down on one knee in the West Village, with this little paper ring, and people were cheering and clapping. The next morning I said, "Maybe we need to take another month or two," and then about a month later she bought a ring. She wanted to find a perfect time to propose, but instead, she got so excited that she proposed to me at our apartment a few days later. Of course, being Elise, she proposed to me on April Fools' Day, not realizing it. When we told our parents they didn't believe us.

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