MANATEE COUNTY — A typical day at the Collins household is reminiscent of an episode of the Food Network’s “Iron Chef.”
Although the stirring to become top chef is largely non-existent, there are still plenty of kitchen utensils, a plethora of foodstuffs, a passion for all things culinary and, perhaps, the most important ingredient — two chefs.
Cory and Lorraine Collins may choose to work more as a team on the cutting board or over the stovetop, but the East County couple has added a pinch of excitement to their culinary story by working as chefs at competing restaurants on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
Cory works at MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, while Lorraine has found her niche at Ed’s Tavern, just a stone’s throw away.
“It’s a very fun, competitive nature,” Lorraine said of the dynamic. “It’s more like banter at each other. Who was busier (at work)? Who sold more of what?”
Cory started his career in the restaurant industry at the Lazy Lobster off Lockwood Ridge Road, first as a bus boy.
“I just moved my way up from there,” he said.
He found a job at MacAllisters, starting as a cook when it opened on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. Today, he’s a line cook there.
His wife started in high school at the Linger Lodge Restaurant, where she washed dishes. She also worked her way up and eventually took a job cooking full time at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. After two years, Lorraine was ready for a change.
“Lorraine was really good at calling up the tickets,” Cory said. “We needed that kind of person here (at MacAllisters). I talked to chef. She worked part-time and then went full-time about six months later.”
Lorraine added: “I liked it because I like the nitty-gritty of it. I liked the camaraderie.”
The change also helped both Cory and Lorraine, who were dating at the time, synchronize their schedules.
“We had to learn to leave the work stuff at work and the home stuff at home,” Lorraine said.
Lorraine took a position at Ed’s Tavern, where she now serves as a line cook, about two years ago — about a month after she married Cory.
Although the work schedule of a cook can prove strenuous, working mostly nights and weekends hasn’t been a problem for the Tara residents.
They say there’s not much better than preparing a quality meal and helping to make an evening special for another couple.
“I enjoy the fast pace and knowing I’m going to put out a good meal,” Cory said. “Everybody for the most part loves food. I like knowing (that what I’m making) is part of people (having a good night out together).”
Both love the excitement of the kitchen, particularly when the restaurant is extremely busy such as during the monthly Music on Main events.
“My grandma always says, ‘Getting old isn’t for sissies,’” Cory said. “It’s definitely the same in the kitchen. It teaches you stress management.”
“We both strive on the stress a little bit,” she said.
At home, however, the scenario is much more low-key.
Cory and Lorraine both love breakfast food and make a point to eat together in the mornings because dinners together rarely happen. They also love to try out recipes from each other’s restaurants and sometimes cook up their own modified versions of recipes they find online. They even try to recreate tasty dishes they’ve sampled from other eateries, when the occasion arises.
“He’s the toughest critic,” Lorraine said of cooking for her spouse. “If I can leave him speechless, I’ve accomplished what I wanted to.”
Cory echoed his wife’s sentiments.
“I like cooking for her because it’s a challenge,” he said. “Again, it’s about pleasing people.”
Their biggest arguments aren’t over who gets to cook or how a dish turns out, but over the aftermath.
“We only fight over who does the dishes,” Lorraine said, smiling. “I’ll never get tired of cooking if I don’t have to (clean up).”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].