BY KAYE WARR
PHOTOS BY KATHRYN BRASS
Michael Pleas met Coral Dunfee 12 years ago over espresso martinis at Fred’s, which has since become Libby’s, and Miss Dunfee has since become Mrs. Pleas. Michael was the charming bartender with the killer smile, Coral the independent businesswoman with the perfectly coiffed hair. The couple share a passion for food and fun, tending to “eat and drink our vacation budget,” laughs Coral.
Coral owns the wildly successful Cutting Loose hair salon, which recently opened a new location on Main Street, while Michael serves drinks and good humor as a bartender at the Ritz-Carlton. They adore travel but decry ‘touristy’ areas, preferring to stray from the beaten path and immerse themselves in the tastes of the region.
Both Coral and Michael are actively involved in the community, with Coral hosting such philanthropic events as the ‘Cuts Against Cancer Cut-A-Thon’ held on October 28th and Michael showcasing his culinary prowess at Sarasota’s annual ‘Men Who Cook’ event. Sarasota has a reputation as a foodie’s haven and Mr. and Mrs. Pleas like to step out downtown occasionally and frequent tasty locally owned bistros like Eat Here and Pomona, relying on the advice of local celebrity chef Jeremy Hammond-Chambers, owner of the boutique catering business Innovative Dining. Coral refers to him as “our go-to dining guide.”
I wonder aloud about when they could possibly find time to cook together and Coral assures me that they make the time. They enjoy entertaining at home and throw monthly dinner parties for the salon staff to celebrate various birthdays and anniversaries. Their home is filled with cookbooks, but Coral admits that these are mostly decorative souvenirs and she and Michael draw inspiration from epicurious.com and improvise the rest.
Neither of them is of Italian descent, but both are enchanted by the intensely flavorful cuisine of Tuscany (Coral attended cooking school there), and the couple lists their favorite ingredients as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, truffles and, of course, garlic! We’re wrapping up our interview and Coral smiles warmly and invites me to dinner at the Pleas residence: Michael is making short ribs and Coral is planning to entice our Edible photographer into an impromptu dinner party. Though she has been on her feet since early this morning, Coral appears unruffled by her day, and energized at the thought of going home to relax in the kitchen with her ‘man who cooks,’ a glass of wine, and a few good friends.