April 16th, 2003 Kim Colton | Featured Stories
 

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Signing up for long-term love.

     
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Claudine Pépin and Rolland Wesen. March 29, 2003
The marriage of Claudine Pépin and Rollie Wesen is not just a lesson in love, but a story about where love can take you.

Back in May '01, Claudine was one busy lady. A native New Yorker, she spent most of her time in posh nosh spots pushing expensive champagnes. While sipping good stuff with foodies, this brand ambassador also practiced another important skill: the art of picking up men.

"What can I say?" she says. "I had a social job."

And a very social family. The 35-year-old daughter of France's culinary monarch, legendary master chef Jacques Pépin, Claudine was good at smooching and schmoozing--so good, in fact, she could easily date up to seven men at a time. That all changed when she met her future hubby at an Upper Eastside eatery.

Working 80-hour weeks as a chef at Jacques' Brasserie, Rollie Wesen spent all his time thinking about food--not women. But that didn't stop Claudine from asking this up-and-comer to clear his plate for a lunch date.

One lunch led to another and it wasn't too long before the couple's relationship really got cooking. Theirs was shaping up to be quite the Big Apple romance and the stuff of Sunday New York Times "Vows" articles (one would eventually appear on March 30).

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Rollie was hatching a plan to move out West--he'd already lived in Seattle and always knew he'd end up back in the Pacific Northwest. He brought up his travel plans to Claudine in early 2002.

Initially, she had reservations.

"I wasn't just going to move out here as his girlfriend," says Claudine, revealing her old-fashioned, French-American values. "Maybe if I was 23 years old...but I wanted to know his intentions." Once she got word from Rollie that he was ready for a serious commitment, she agreed to the move--on two conditions.

She asked, "Do they have Ann Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue?" Rollie quickly assured this city girl that yes, she could still shop like a New Yorker, even all the way out in Oregon.

A month later, Claudine would say yes again when Rollie popped the question on a Long Island beach. And by the fall, the couple packed up their bags and headed for Portland. For two people whose lives were so busy, Claudine and Rollie took their sweet time getting here. Their seven-week road trip included stopovers in Michigan, Colorado and New Mexico. Though Claudine had never pitched a tent before, she learned to love the outdoors, especially cooking. "Because it was Claudine's first time camping, she insisted that we always have a campfire," recalls Rollie. "So we had great grilling opportunities." But they didn't exactly rough it--far from slapping dogs on a stick, the couple cooked such treats as portabella mushrooms and filet mignon.

After they arrived in Portland, both took jobs at Ken's Artisan Bakery. Here, they'd see each other every day as Rollie worked on the dinner menu and Claudine worked the front counter.

Their escape from the fast-paced lifestyle of their former big city was short-lived: Last month, the week after they returned from their East Coast wedding, Rollie started his new job as the head chef at Rivers restaurant. For now, he's back to a hectic work schedule reminiscent of his old, New York days.

They may have already moved 3,000 miles, but this couple still has a long way to go before slowing down.

 
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