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EXCLUSIVE: The romantic story behind celebrity chef Miguel Maestre's first meeting with his amazing wife Sascha

He calls himself The Crazy Bull, but his passion for food and family has made him a TV favourite. Tiffany Dunk meets Miguel Maestre and Sascha, the woman who tamed him.

By Tiffany Dunk
Some 20 years ago, Sascha Newport was arriving for work at an upscale cocktail bar in Edinburgh, Scotland, when the new Spanish doorman – whose swarthy good looks had already caused excited commentary among the female staff – swung into action.
"Beautiful eyes, beautiful," he murmured to the 21-year-old Australian waitress in his heavily accented English, gallantly holding the door as a blushing Sascha scurried inside.
Thrilled, Sasha told a workmate about the encounter.
"Oh the bouncer?" her friend scoffed. "He told me I had beautiful eyes too!"
That bouncer was Miguel Maestre who, at 20 years old, had recently arrived in the city without a lick of English to his name.
His roommate had given him pointers to communicate in a rudimentary fashion with the staff and clientele of the bar, which he hoped would lead to a job in the kitchen.
"It was a really cool place, like the Ivy in London, really exclusive," he tells The Australian Women's Weekly today.
"When I first met Sascha I couldn't speak one word of English but we clicked."
At the time, Sasha had hit pause on a round-the-world trip in order to work and save money for the last leg.
Miguel, meanwhile, had just arrived from his hometown of Murcia, Spain, to chase his dreams of working in the world's best restaurants.
His love of cooking had come young watching his parents side by side preparing meals for their huge extended family.
"You would see them at the sink together, my dad cleaning calamari, my mother cooking," he says.
"Some of the best memories I have in my life are those beautiful ones. I think the kitchen is the only place that I belong."
Both transplanted from homes far away, the pair quickly gravitated towards each other. And despite the language barrier a whirlwind romance blossomed.
"We laugh because on our first date I must have been just talking, talking and he would have had no idea what I was saying," Sascha, now 41, says of the unlikely start of their relationship.
"I can't remember how we really made sense. But we used to have so much fun and oh, his gorgeous smile. He'd turn up to my house and would cook for me, little dates."
Miguel and Sascha clicked right away... and if our photo shoot is anything to go by, are still clicking strong. Photo: Alana Landsberry, Styling: Jamela Duncan
"I used to have an English book," Miguel, 40, admits.
"So it would say in English, 'what is your favourite drink?' And then I would ask it."
"Then the next thing will be, 'Tell me about your mum and dad?' So we would sit down and have these very broken conversations.
"Sascha was really outgoing, and even if I couldn't understand what she was saying and she couldn't understand what I was saying, we had fun."
It was, quips Sascha, "the language of love" and it's the tongue they still speak in today, two decades and two children later, albeit with Miguel far more fluent in English.
And it's this language which he credits with all of his success and good fortune in life.
Most recently, it saw him crowned King of the Jungle on I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!
In January, Miguel's emotional declarations of devotion to his wife and kids (Claudia, eight, and Morgan, five) from the set of I'm a Celeb won him a legion of fans and the title to boot.
"People say, 'Behind every great man is a great woman' and I think that's wrong," Miguel says of the strength he draws from his wife.
"I think that in front of every great man is a great woman, leading the way."
Miguel and Sascha looking more in love than ever, along with their two adorable children. Photo: Alana Landsberry, Styling: Jamela Duncan

Taming the bull

It's a relationship that could have ended swiftly.
After initially dating for three months, Sascha was ready to leave Edinburgh and travel to America.
"Miguel said, 'I am moving to Australia and I said, 'no you're not, we're just having fun, that's it!'," she laughs of her horrified reaction.
But upon her departure Sascha found she didn't stop thinking about Miguel, who had himself returned home to Spain.
The pair talked regularly on the phone, making plans to meet back in Edinburgh in four months.
On that agreed date he turned up on Sasha's doorstep and, she says, "basically never left. We lived together pretty much from day dot".
Certainly, it could have gone either way. Miguel had been, he admits, "a very wild young man", much to his parents' despair.
WATCH BELOW: Miguel is finally reunited with his kids after living in the jungle for I'm A Celeb. Story continues after video.
"I was hyperactive, my attention was for three seconds," he says.
"My mum and dad tried so hard to send me to all the best schools, expensive schools, thinking this will be a good fit but it never worked out."
While he won't go into details, there's a clear implication from his expressive winks and shrugs that he'd run with a fast crowd, gotten himself into a fair share of trouble.
And, you can't help but suspect, been a less than stellar boyfriend.
That all changed once Sascha entered his life.
"She made me a good person," he says, beaming.
"Sasha was very good at taming. I was wild, difficult, but it was like, 'boom!' I come from a lot of love – my parents have been together since they were 16."
"I always had the same values of family so when I found Sasha it was a very good thing."
Two and a half-years later, when Sascha was ready to leave Edinburgh to return to her hometown of Sydney, Miguel wasn't taking no for an answer.
"He arrived in his European Speedos and I was like, 'Oh God, we need to get rid of those," Sascha recalls with a laugh.
"But both my mum and dad were very welcoming, my grandma loved him and for my sister, Miguel is the brother she never had."
There was some culture shock, admits Miguel, but he credits a thick skin, created in cutthroat European kitchens, with his ability to adapt to his immigrant status in their new home.
"Intolerance is one of the things you face all over the world but you just have to smile," the eternally sunny chef says.
"We came here with nothing, we've been through challenges from the beginning and a thick skin is good to have.
"Australia's a very tolerant country, but sometimes people will tell you that because you are different maybe you won't achieve something. But I see everything as a challenge – I'm all or nothing!"
All or nothing certainly sums up Miguel – both on TV screens and in person.
It could be exhausting for many people, but it's a trait that Sascha takes in her very calm and grounded stride.
"He's a big personality," she says of her husband who throughout our shoot often seems unable to sit still, his booming laugh the most commonly heard sound.
"But it's beautiful. He's very romantic, very loving and caring and you are never bored, he's very exciting. And when I'm not in the mood for it I just switch off and tell him to be quiet."
That all or nothing quality has also helped him succeed both at work and, more importantly, as a devoted father.
Miguel's love for his kids is palpable every minute he is with them. Photo: Alana Landsberry, Styling: Jamela Duncan

A second course

Miguel proposed to Sascha eight years after they met, a week shy of her 30th birthday.
By then, he had worked in Sydney's top kitchens and made his first TV appearance on Network Ten's Boy's Weekend – a cooking and travel series co-hosted by fellow TV chefs and close friends Manu Feildel, Gary Mehigan and Adrian Richardson.
"I used my first big TV pay check to buy Sascha's ring," he says now.
"I'd wanted to buy a Harley Davidson but [being married] was my dream too."
At the time, they were living with Sascha's mum, so he kept his plan quiet, waiting until they had the apartment to themselves.
Fittingly, it was in the kitchen that he dropped to one knee to pose the question.
"I was like, 'What are you doing?'" Sascha laughs. "Not in the kitchen!"
As a child of parents who had divorced when she was 12 years old, Sascha had once been hesitant about marrying someone who hadn't been through that same experience themselves.
Sascha credits Miguel with working hard to keep their marriage alive, a trait she believes he got from his parents. Photo: Alana Landsberry, Styling: Jamela Duncan
"I used to always think that I'd never marry a man who hadn't been through parents separating because they'd never understand how terrible it is," she explains.
"How much effort you should put in so it doesn't get to that point. But Miguel is amazing when it comes to our relationship. He gets it from his mum and dad. They are still very much in love so hopefully that will be us at the end."
"I'm an old school guy and for me the day you say yes is the day it's till death do you part," Miguel insists.
"That's the only way I know. Just love your wife, love your family, protect them, be a good dad and be a good husband."
The pair married on January 10, 2010.
Five days later they opened El Toro Loco, a 300-seat, rambunctious restaurant in Manly that would see Miguel working 18-hour days while also maintaining a burgeoning TV career.
"The chaos that was in my head was in that restaurant," he says now of his long-held dream becoming a reality.
"I made my kitchen the happiest, funniest place."
However, it wouldn't be easy on his marriage.
Both Sascha and Miguel admit the gruelling hours made them effectively live separate lives.
While Sascha worked business hours as an executive assistant for a leading CEO, Miguel was starting at 5am to go to the fish markets and finishing work at midnight when the kitchen finally closed. It was a huge success, but it came at a cost.
WATCH BELOW: Miguel's Living Room co-star Dr Chris Brown goes head-to-head with Sam Pang on Have You Been Paying Attention?. Story continues after video.
"It was an expensive price to pay for my passion," Miguel says, uncharacteristically serious for a moment.
"I didn't see my family. I had to be in the restaurant."
Buoyed by the success, he opened a second eatery, Aperitif, with his Boy's Weekend co-host Manu in April 2011.
But when Claudia was born in October that year Miguel made a shock announcement: He was getting out of the restaurant business for good.
"I couldn't miss seeing my kids grow up," he says with a good-natured shrug, in spite of the shockwaves his decision caused in the industry.
He moved into personal chef jobs and then, in 2012, The Living Room arrived.
The show would introduce the Spanish chef to a whole new audience and make him – along with co-stars Amanda Keller, Dr Chris Brown and Barry Du Bois – a household name.
"People think my biggest break was The Living Room but it wasn't," Miguel insists.
"My biggest break was my daughter being born. That was what made me strong enough to leave the restaurant business."
"I came to war with this feeling I was a father and I needed to survive and that made me invincible. When Claudia was born our lives became more successful and happier."
Miguel, says Sascha, is a hands-on father, happily taking on nappy duties and night feeds in the earliest years, dominating school runs and kitchen duties in the later ones.
And the arrival of their children has taken their love one step further.
"It's a really special bond you get when you become parents and I think it makes you stronger," she says.
Certainly that bond is present at our shoot. The kids are excited about the coming Easter holidays. Sascha takes pride in decorating their garden with rabbits and bunting and hiding eggs.
Miguel bakes a traditional Spanish hot cross bun, a sweet bread with a whole egg baked in the middle. The kids will join him in the kitchen.
"They fight for jobs," he laughs. "They are very keen apprentices."
"Miguel often gets them making fresh pasta and other things," adds Sascha.
"He believes if the kids cook something, they'll eat it – it's the best way to get them eating something they don't like."
Have either Claudia or Morgan, we ask, showed an interest in following their father into the restaurant business?
Sascha widens her eyes in mock fear while the kids shake their heads vigorously.
"I don't care what they do so long as they find something they love and are nice people like my wife, not naughty like me," says Miguel with a smile. "If Claudia and Morgan turn out like me I don't know what I'll do!"
The Living Room returns later in the year to Network 10.
Miguel also stars in our Easter With The Australian Women's Weekly TV show, coming to Channel 10 soon.
See our full photo shoot and many others in the April issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now.
The April issue of The Australian Women's Weekly is on sale now. Image: AWW

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