Whenever an episode of Hustle & Soul airs, The Pink Teacup’s phones start ringing off the hook. After seeing the fried chicken and macaroni and cheese on TV, many want to book a reservation — but even more want to discuss what they just saw. Or get into a fight with the show’s stars, Chef LP — Lawrence Page — and Pink Teacup general manager, Ana Lavender.
“People say, ‘I’m going to kick your ass. I’ll be there in five minutes.’ It’s bad! I don’t answer the phone anymore,” Page says, wringing his hands.
Lavender takes a different approach.
“I personally troll them back,” she explains, miming like she’s on the phone. “I’m like, ‘Really? You’re on your way? Let me get my boxing gloves, hold on.’ And she’ll be like, ‘Stop being stupid! I’m going to beat your ass!’ I’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh. Should I get my boots? Should I get my boots on?’ So they hang up on me.”
It’s surprising to think that a docu-series about a chef’s quest to earn a Michelin star could get people so fired up, but that’s because this isn’t your cut-and-dry cooking show. The arguments — and straight-up brawls — among the WE tv show’s stars almost overshadows the food, as the stars air their dirty laundry on-camera for the world to see. (There’s no shortage of fights between staffers, as well as romantic drama between Page and his on-again, off-again — but currently on-again — girlfriend, Lavender.)
Page has even gotten plenty of calls from women trying to convince him to leave Lavender for them. “They say, ‘She ain’t the wife for you, she don’t know how to run that business, but I could do that for you. I graduated with a degree,’” he says.
Meanwhile, other women often pull Lavender aside at the Brooklyn restaurant, reassuring her that they’re “keeping an eye on him” and making sure that Page treats her right.
“Nobody told us it’d be like this,” Page says about fans’ investment. “Then you start hating the network, hating your staff, hating your mama, everybody. But then you start to get used to it, and you love everybody again. It’s hard. The first year is tough.”
The couple saw their restaurant’s Yelp reviews take a nosedive after the first season of the show aired, but Page says it didn’t have anything to do with the food.
“I called Yelp and I’m like, ‘Guys, they haven’t been to the restaurant. They’re Yelping me based on the show.’ So everybody’s like, ‘I hate that show,’ and ‘I hate that he did this to her,’ and ‘I hate that she did this to him.’ They try to get to you, and they don’t know how to get to you,” he says.
So why, given the drama they’ve experienced, would Page and Lavender agree to a second season of the show (which premieres Thursday, March 22 at 10 p.m. EST on WE tv)?
“We knew that if we didn’t put our lives up for everybody to see, we’d still be in the rat race. We don’t like the rat race, so we knew that if we do this, it’s going to bring more money, more income, more restaurants,” Page explains. “We knew that it’s going to destroy our lives, our family. We’re probably not going to like each other by season four or five, probably be hatin’ each other, you know what I mean? We knew the risks we’re taking when it comes to that.”
Page’s latest move underscores that: He and Lavender are in the process of opening a second Pink Teacup in Miami — one that seats 10 times as many people as the original Brooklyn restaurant and has a Dominican flare that nods to Lavender’s heritage. The second season follows the highs and lows of reimagining their soul food restaurant in South Florida, though they’re hoping this one will bring less drama. (“I’m reformed, I’m rehabilitated,” Page assures fans.)
The duo knows they’re taking a big risk, exposing their lives for the world to see (and judge), but without that risk, they couldn’t reap the reward.
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