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A Perfect Partnership: The Cook & the Cork Delivers Creative Comfort Fare in Coral Springs

Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They live happily ever after.

At the Cook & the Cork in Coral Springs, the tale goes a little differently. Chef meets event planner. They build a successful catering empire. They open a restaurant.

Parkland Catering owners Keith Blauschild and Dena Lowell are now partners in life as well as business. While managing staff, shuffling dishes, and filing invoices seven days a week might ruin the magic for some couples, for these two, the food business only seems to fuel their passion. They stare madly into each others' eyes as they inventory crates of tomatoes and stack boxes of noodles. Both agree that their businesses -- and the food they create -- wouldn't exist without their union.

See also: Closer Look: Cook & the Cork in Coral Springs

"It was bashert, like we say in Yiddish. Destiny," says Lowell, a native New Yorker. "I never thought in a million years I'd be doing catering. And in Florida, nonetheless."

The story begins with Lowell, who moved to Coral Springs to be closer to family nearly 15 years ago. She accepted an event planning job at a temple that was looking for someone to launch an in-house catering business. Small world: The chef they'd already chosen to do the catering for the first gig was Blauschild, a childhood friend she'd known growing up in Manhattan. Their fathers had worked together at Madison Square Garden.

While Lowell had pursued a career in New York's fashion world, Blauschild was busy graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. His first job out of school brought him to Miami at 25. A series of jobs then sent him across South Florida's private hotel and country-club industry, running kitchens at institutions like PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens and the Lauderdale Yacht Club. In between positions, Blauschild said yes to a catering gig that would change the course of his career.

"It was only supposed to be a one-time thing," says Lowell. "Catering wasn't even something he needed to do. But he kept taking jobs [with me] because we were an incredible team."

In just over 12 months, the pair took the temple's small catering production from zero to $1.5 million in sales. By the time they realized they were in love, the situation had become a cause for concern. The temple's administrators were worried about the potential for drama; one of them had to go.

Lowell stayed on, while Blauschild accepted a job as sous chef for the Polo Club in Boca Raton.

"But nothing worked without him," said Lowell. "I started taking small jobs on the side, because clients wanted both Keith and I. When we were booking two years out, we knew it was time to start our own company."

In 2006, the duo founded Parkland Catering. Nearly a decade later, they took the next step and opened the Cook & the Cork off Sample Road in June. The name is a reference to Blauschild's other two loves: cooking and wine. Operating Wednesday though Saturday for dinner only, the space doubles as the commissary space for their catering operation.

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna

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