Finding romance on campus isn’t just for students. Sal Cruz, personal chef to Delta Delta Delta (Tri Delt), and Fabi Cruz, personal chef to Pi Beta Phi (Pi Phi), have a love story of their own that started here at Stanford nine years ago. The story of how Sal and Fabi Cruz met is not exactly a tale of love at first sight, but it did make them the dynamic “chef couple” duo in the eyes of many of their residents.
“He just came into the kitchen with a janitor asking for Judy, who used to be the hasher,” said Fabi, recounting the first time she met Sal. “At the time, there were posters all over Stanford saying to keep an eye out because there were a few creepers. Usually I see students come in, but seeing older gentlemen I was like, ‘Who are you? Bye, you don’t have any business here!’ I was just taking care of my girls in the house.”
But after some time, Sal and Fabi started chatting and actually getting to know each other. At first, the chef couple kept it on the “down low,” especially from their boss.
“We didn’t know if we were allowed to date!” Fabi said.
However, Fabi and Sal agree that their relationship has only enhanced their creativity in the kitchen. Students at Pi Phi and Tri Delta often see Sal or Fabi borrowing ingredients from each other’s kitchens or overhear them bouncing ideas off of each other. They keep up with the trends — kale last year, cauliflower everything this year — swap recipes and even collaborate to prepare the “Special D” dinner traditionally enjoyed by different sorority and fraternity houses.
Beyond enjoying Sal and Fabi’s homey meals, the girls living in Pi Phi and Tri Delt also have the chance to witness bits and pieces of their personal life, like the quiet lunches they spend together over break, hand-in-hand walks around Lake Lag and the photos of their two-year-old daughter Sophia that decorate the kitchen. In addition, students said they were inspired by their personal stories about their careers when they took the time to listen.
“I got here from Mexico in 1995 and to be honest, I didn’t know anything about cooking. I started working at a restaurant as a dishwasher. So, I started to learn little by little in the kitchen,” Sal recounts.
Fabi originally earned a degree in restaurant management, but she has always had a passion for cooking food. Eventually, she abandoned the management side of cuisine and trained at the Culinary Institute of America, sharpening her proverbial kitchen knife of skill. But despite having formal training, Fabi insists that Sal’s the better cook; according to his wife, Sal has “innate talent,” and all the makings of a natural chef.
“I’m very old-fashioned because I don’t like to read recipes,” Sal admitted.
“But it’s funny because whatever he makes comes out good!” Fabi said. ”If I screw up a recipe … ah, forget it!”
But according to Rebecca Rose ’18, kitchen manager of Pi Phi, Fabi does not give herself enough credit.
“Fabi is great at making sure that girls, including those with dietary restrictions, have not only food that they can eat, but food that they really like,” Rose commented. “It’s not just that someone prepares food, and then it ends there. It feels like a family meal.”
Fabi said that at the end of the day, their goal is to make sure the girls they serve are happy. And based on the responses from girls at both sorority houses, Sal and Fabi go above and beyond.
“[Fabi] knows I love mango and jicama, so she made this fruit bowl and gave it to me for my birthday,” Andrea Villarreal ’17, member of Pi Phi said. “She gets to know girls on such a deep level.”
Villarreal has known Fabi and Sal since her sophomore year, and said she appreciates the intimate relationships that sororities’ personal chefs are able to cultivate with the residents. Other community members agreed that Sal and Fabi’s close relationship makes the sorority houses they serve feel familial.
“I think having a chef who you can tell really loves her family, her daughter and Sal … that makes the kitchen feel more like home,” said Katelyn Jones ’17, another member of Pi Phi. “I’ll see pictures of their daughter Sophia on Instagram over summer, or she’ll post something she’s cooking, and it makes me so excited to come back here for the school year. It’s a home away from home.”
Contact Melissa Santos at santosmm at’ stanford.edu.