3 local couples who share their lives together, as well as their love of feeding Orlando 

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  • Photo courtesy of Hari and Jennifer Pulapaka

The restaurant: Cress Restaurant
The couple: Hari & Jenneffer Pulapaka

Appropriately, James Beard Foundation award nominees Hari and Jenneffer Pulapaka met over a glass of wine in 2005 at the Elusive Grape, also known as DeLand's "living room." Just months later, they married on Yarnet Glacier in Alaska in the summer of 2006.

"The decision to open Cress in 2008 was an exciting addition to our already-busy lives," says Jenneffer. "I loved the idea of a global kitchen that showcased our regional bounty." With dishes that call attention to freshness and respect for ingredients as well as sustainability and local sourcing, Cress' success has been largely due to the Pulapakas' global savvy and love of travel.

Jenneffer works as the general manager of the restaurant and is a certified wine director and member of the Wine Scholar guild. "My main goal is to maintain a dynamic and elegant wine menu that showcases Hari's food," says Jenneffer. From menu development, sourcing, ordering, preparation and running the line with his sous-chef, Hari is the maestro of the kitchen. "When I'm not traveling, I'm in the kitchen prepping food, overseeing and managing some of the financial aspects," says Hari.

"Initially, since Cress is open Tuesday through Saturday, we had little time together, but as our concept and hours have evolved, we now enjoy spending time together and with friends and family doing what we do best: hosting dinner parties at our home," says Jenneffer. "The fact of the matter is," says Hari, "our love and respect for each other has contributed more to Cress' success than anything else."

Jenneffer is most proud of Hari's involvement with the Chef's Action Network, which has led to Cress championing the sustainability movement and anti-food-waste programs. Cress has real relationships with those who supply their ingredients: the farmers, the fishermen, the foragers and cattlemen. Hari adds, "I admire Jenneffer's relentless and passionate approach to the blue-collar fabric of the restaurant. She seamlessly accepts and elevates the grunge and unglamorous aspects of running a restaurant day in and day out. She has a tremendous palate, which despite her vegetarian lifestyle facilitates some of the best food and wine pairings around."

Cress Restaurant, 103 W. Indiana Ave., DeLand, 386-734-3740, cressrestaurant.com

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