Inside the kitchen of Steve Allery, head chef at Maple Leaf Tavern, and Tabitha Cranney, head chef at the Wood Owl

Inside the kitchen of Steve Allery, head chef at Maple Leaf Tavern, and Tabitha Cranney, head chef at the Wood Owl

Stocked with British biscuits, anchovies and fancy Parisian mustard

Steve and Tabitha standing together in their home kitchen

Steve Allery, the head chef at Maple Leaf Tavern, and Tabitha Cranney, the head chef at the Wood Owl, were duped into dating each other back in 2017. Both chefs were working on Danforth (Allery as a butcher and cook at Stock-in-Trade; Cranney as a chef at the Wren) when a scheming mutual friend invited them both to what she described as a group hang. Allery and Cranney were the only two who showed.

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“It was 100 per cent intentional,” says Cranney of what turned into their first date. The two shared a few dishes at the now-closed Taste of Tandooree on Gerrard before walking over to Dolce Gelato for ice cream—only to find it closed. After that night, they started seeing more of each other and bonded over noteworthy home-cooked meals. “The first dish Tabitha ever cooked for me was braised beef cheek with coffee,” says Allery. “It was ambitious—and fantastic.”

Allery and Cranney's home kitchen, with whit cabinets and dark metal appliances

Six years later, the couple, now engaged, share a cat named Babes and an apartment near Withrow Park. Their current gigs involve cooking five nights a week, so they’re strategic about how they spend time in their home kitchen. On Sundays, Allery will whip up a roast using a Beretta Farm’s antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken from Pape Market, which is conveniently open until 10 p.m. “We usually go grocery shopping after work,” says Cranney. The roast, with added fixings including produce from Danforth’s Dragon Supermarket, will typically feed them throughout the week.

Allery and Cranney's fridge, which had eggs, pre-portioner left overs and a shelf full of mustard

Despite the common base, the couple is able to stave off boredom with their kitchen workhorse: the condiment collection. Highlights include Tata Jerk sauce (a must for their roast chicken wet rub), Shanghai braising soy sauce and incredibly versatile (and addictive) chili crisp. “Condiments change your leftovers,” says Cranney. “Meat from a roast chicken can become a stir fry or a ginger chicken soup. We always keep backup jars of our favourite condiments on hand.”

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Allery, who was born and raised in Pinner, a suburb northwest of London, England, is particular about his HP sauce—it absolutely has to be the stuff made in the UK. He says it’s sweeter and less vinegary than the North American version. He and Cranney usually cook up a classic English breakfast on Sunday mornings: eggs, bacon, beans and toast topped with a dollop of HP. “Breakfast is the one meal where we actually get to sit with each other,” says Cranney.

A close up of the couple's jerk sauce and chili flakes

Allery and Cranney's pantry, which houses condiments and pasta

When the two first started dating, Allery didn’t have a single jar of mustard in his fridge—but Cannery puts mustard on everything. “It was a bit of an adjustment,” says Allery. Now, their fridge is well-stocked with the yellow stuff. Cranney’s prized jars were purchased at the Maille store in Paris. “They serve mustard on tap,” she says.

Cranney's mustard collection, which takes up two shelves in their fridge door

“Costco carries really great Castelvetrano olives,” says Cranney. “I call them ‘gateway olives.’ When people tell me they don’t like olives, these are what I make them try.” She’s managed to convert a few skeptics using the meaty and moderately salty gems.

A jar of Castelvetrano olives

For charcuterie-board-style dinners, Cranney and Allery will hit up Good Cheese in East Chinatown. “We love that place,” says Allery. “We go there almost every week to restock.” Their favourite find is the Comté, a semi-hard unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France. When aged, it’s nutty, smoky and easy to eat too much of.

Allery and Cranney's cheese drawer

Good Cheese is also their go-to spot for Casa Mariol’s vermut negre (a vermouth they use in americanos and negronis), smoked mussels and canned fish. “We always have anchovies,” says Cranney. “They’re so versatile.”

The couple's collection of anchovies and other tinned fish

Other dinner options include freezer fries or wontons (with a side of Real Housewives) and, for those really late work nights, pasta. The couple says Maselli’s Supermarket has a large selection of reasonably priced dry pasta imported from Italy. “We keep pecorino and parmigiano on hand at all times, because when you get home late, pasta is the easiest option,” says Cranney.

The couple's freezer, which houses wantons and frozen meats

The two chefs prefer shopping in the east end to keep things local, but they’ll travel for spices. “We love a good Keg Spice seasoning from Costco,” says Cranney. Most of the contents of their immaculately organized spice drawer were purchased at Carlos’ House of Spice in Kensington Market. “It’s definitely the best place in the city to buy spices,” says Cranney.

Allery and Cranney's spic drawer, which has identical glass bottles lined up side by side

“I’m a biscuit fiend,” says Allery. “They’re my little taste of home.” Whenever the couple travels to England, they return with suitcases weighed down by cookie boxes. If forced to pick one, Allery says Jaffa Cakes are what he’d go with—although the layered, chocolatey biscuits slathered with sweet orange jelly don’t last long in his kitchen. “I could crush a million,” he says. An honourable mention goes to the crunchy Custard Creams, a shortbread cookie sandwich with a soft buttercream centre.

The couple's collection of British baking ingredients and snacks

The two do a little baking at home, when they have the time, and take turns making dessert when they host friends. To that end, they have a container of Bird’s Custard Powder (“It’s way better than the lumpy stuff you find over here,” says Allery) and several jars of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. It’s similar to corn syrup but sweeter and, importantly, British. “Oh man, it’s so good,” says Allery, who pours it on crêpes and uses it in his homemade treacle tarts. “They’re like butter tarts but better.”

The couple's other pantry shelves which hold their baking ingredients

Allery and Cranney share a collection of over 100 cookbooks. Some are still securely wrapped in plastic covers, but their favourites are dog-eared and creased. Among the most used are Ginger Pig (a tome on UK comfort food) and Sabor (Allery’s dad bought it for Cranney after they had lunch together at the Sabor Restaurant in London). “We had to buy a second shelf to fit all of our books,” says Cranney. “This is what happens when you live with someone who has the same job as you.”

Allery and Cranney's most-used cookbooks spread out on a table

Allery and Cranney's two side-by-side cookbook shelves