Dynamic Duos: Meet 4 Madison powerful pairs

We met with 4 cool couples for Valentine's Day
Dynamic Duos: Meet 4 Madison powerful pairs
Photo by Nikki Hansen
Tory and Kristine Miller

Delicious Dish
Tory & Kristine Miller

Crafting the perfect meal is a careful dance of not too much of one ingredient, and not too little of another. And Tory and Kristine Miller complement each other in all the best ways–like a wonderful dessert to cap off a fabulous meal–and it’s obvious when you meet them, because they even finish each other’s thoughts.

Tory is the owner of L’Etoile, Graze, Sujeo and Estrellón, and Kristine owns Dough Baby Bakery. The two met when Cafe Soleil was still around. Kristine was doing the bakery and pastries there and Tory was the executive and pastry chef at L’Etoile (which were both located in the same building and co-owned by Tory).

Kristine says while out with coworkers in 2011, Tory pulled her aside and “He said, and I quote, ‘Every time I see you, I melt.'”

“That’s a fact,” nods Tory.

“And that was the beginning of the rest of our lives,” deadpans Kristine.Dynamic Duos: Meet 4 Madison powerful pairs

The couple married in 2013 and have two children–Remy, 6, is from Tory’s previous relationship, and Miles, 2, was born in June 2014. The boys get along wonderfully, and favorite family activities include making spaghetti and meatballs with Tory, baking cookies with Kristine and going to the zoo or children’s museum.

Although the couple acknowledges time together can sometimes be a challenge because they own so many demanding businesses (Tory’s Deja Food restaurant group employs 200), they set aside time on Sundays and part of Monday to hang out.

“Because I have great staff and chefs that work in the kitchens, I put the trust in these guys to do what they need to do, and we’re in constant communication with everyone,” says Tory.

It’s clear each highly values the other’s opinion when it comes to their businesses. After being with Miles at home for two years, Kristine decided to open Dough Baby* in 2016–a decision Tory thoroughly supported. (“I worked a few dishwashing shifts there,” he jokes.)

“[Tory] has definitely shaped how I view ingredients. And we got lucky we have a similar palate for food that is yummy and good. So it’s cool to learn from someone similar,” says Kristine.

For now the couple’s plate is mostly full–Tory is concentrating on his four restaurants–and Kristine hopes to open another Dough Baby location in Madison or Milwaukee in the future.

“When you’re both doing something that you love so much, it’s nice to see each other doing that, so you want that to happen,” says Kristine.

The Right Blend
Judy Davidoff & Rhonda Lanford

Although they’re different in so many ways, Rhonda Lanford and Judy Davidoff are a perfect match. Lanford is from humble beginnings in northern Wisconsin, was the first of her family to go to college and law school and was elected a Dane County judge in 2013. Davidoff, the editor of the stalwart Isthmus newsweekly, is a Long Island native who moved here for grad school to study politics and public policy. They both tackle serious issues on a daily basis–custody hearings and civil cases for Lanford, and reporting on social justice issues for Davidoff–and yet both don’t take themselves too seriously. You’d want to have a glass of wine with this pair.

They’ve been together almost 10 years and legally are domestic partners. They met through mutual friend Leanne Cordisco, owner of Chocolaterian Cafe, and had their first date at the “original” Muramoto at 106 King Street. Every year on their anniversary, they go back and sit at a table in that exact spot, even though the restaurant has since become RED Sushi and now Morris Ramen.

They both acknowledge that out of the two, Lanford is more laid-back and Davidoff is more thoughtful–which works in their favor. Lanford has made Davidoff acknowledge that sometimes things aren’t as dire as they might seem–like when they don’t buy movie tickets ahead of time. And Davidoff inspires Lanford to realize when she’s not taking something as seriously as she should.Dynamic Duos: Meet 4 Madison powerful pairs

“We complement each other’s strengths, and my very few deficiencies,” jokes Lanford. “We balance that way. I feel grounded with Judy, and I have a sense of home and stability that I hadn’t had before. We keep each other motivated in the right ways.”

Lanford credits Davidoff with encouraging her to re-establish a relationship with her mother before she passed away. “My mother loved her Judy,” says Lanford.

They share a love of good food (a favorite is Tornado Steak House), travel (a return trip to Belize is on the docket), their dog Ursa and cat Max and the TV show “Antiques Roadshow.” Davidoff likes to tease Lanford about her unabashed love of pop culture–like Stephen King books, “The Walking Dead” and “Dexter.” “You won’t catch me reading Hemingway,” says Lanford, laughing.

And each claims to be the funny one.

“She has a good sense of humor, though I’m much funnier than she is,” says Lanford. “But [Judy] makes me laugh a lot.”

“She’s very funny, though I’m the funnier one,” retorts Davidoff, smiling.

Creative Connection
Greg St. Fort & Heidi Calderon

Creativity and fun are at the heart of Greg St. Fort and Heidi Calderon’s relationship, and it played into how they connected. The New York City natives met there in 2009 when St. Fort was producing a photo shoot for a fashion client, and someone recommended that Calderon shoot the outfits. They were best friends, then decided to give dating a shot–and they’ve been together ever since.

The couple moved to Madison in 2014 for Calderon’s job at American Girl. (Currently she’s a toy designer for their WellieWishers doll line.) Calderon says her gig is perfect because she found her calling in kids’ toy illustration and design after dabbling in freelance photography and illustration.

St. Fort is the executive director of 100state and CEO of Let’s Keep Building, a marketing company. St. Fort describes 100state as a place “where people can develop their ideas, whether you want to start a tech startup or nonprofit organization or freelance. It’s a place for [people] to start their idea, build it and work in a collaborative space and utilize shared resources.”Dynamic Duos: Meet 4 Madison powerful pairs

The two thrive on bouncing ideas off of each other because of their imaginative worldviews.
“We definitely talk about the work I do in terms of including the creative balance, and a lot of what inspires people is creativity,” says St. Fort.

“I like the fact that Greg is philosophical and I’m very detail oriented, so even with brainstorming, that comes as a great ‘sauce.’ And we find inspiration in everyday life too,” adds Calderon. “We love observing how things move and the images they produce. Inspiration is a big thing for us.”

They also have a shared passion for collecting toys, with “shelves full at home,” says St. Fort, smiling. Calderon collects all kinds of toys, while St. Fort specifically collects Marvel figurines.

Madison is certainly a change from the “hustle and bustle” of New York City, says Calderon, but it’s something that the couple wholeheartedly embraces.

“Here, it’s more laid back. We love to … pick up a good book and read by the lake,” she says. “In New York, you can’t be by the lake. So I really enjoy the nature that Madison brings, and the greenery.”

The Law of Love
John Davenport & Karie Cattanach

For John Davenport and Karie Cattanach, a desire to help others and uphold the law launched the trajectory of their long careers in public service. It also lent them a personal connection when their paths eventually crossed.

Davenport, a third-generation Madison police officer who served as assistant police chief, recently retired from the Madison Police Department after more than 41 years of service. Cattanach is a University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School graduate who worked as a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office and the Dane County District Attorney’s office before stepping into her current role as court commissioner. The two met when they served together on a few city committees. They hit it off and had their first date at Tornado Steak House. In 2007, they got married in Riviera Maya in Mexico and they have two children together: Sierra, 8, and Jackson, 6. Davenport also has three children from a previous marriage: Michael, 32 (who’s also a Madison police officer), Daniel, 30, and Lindsay, 26.

When you meet the statuesque couple (Cattanach played basketball at UW-Madison) it’s immediately obvious that they hold each other in high regard. And it’s inevitable that work is a frequent topic of conversation at home for the pair.Dynamic Duos: Meet 4 Madison powerful pairs

“We do bounce things off one another as kind of a sounding board. I really respect Karie’s opinion, and she has a lot of experience from her prosecutor background,” says Davenport.

“I love John’s strength. He’s upstanding in his beliefs and whether or not we can agree on things, we can voice that with each other and be open,” says Cattanach. “We have our different views, but his strength and his belief in justice and the rights of people is good.”

Indeed both admit they’ve seen their fair share of crime and injustice in their professions, so being a rock for the other is critical.

“We understand what each other is going through. When I was in the AG’s office, my focus was child sexual assault prosecution. So you have bad days and you can’t help but take them home with you. And coming from his world, he understands,” says Cattanach.

Now that Davenport isn’t taking calls 24/7 (which was a critical part of his job, he says), he plans to volunteer at their kids’ school and work on their newly built home.

“I’ve been given the direction that I’m finishing the basement of our new house,” he says, smiling. “That’s priority one.”

*Editor’s Note: Dough Baby Closed in October 2017