All love stories have a beginning – and some aren’t quite love at first sight. For Jordana Adams and Sandra Seah, it was an encounter at a nightclub that didn’t go so well.

“On one side there’s me – I don’t drink – and then on the other side there was Sandra, who was completely smashed,” Adams recalls. “I ended up going home and telling my friends about this chick who we christened Annoying Sandra – but on the lowdown, I thought she was super cute.”

“It was a terrible first impression on my end, that’s for sure,” Seah agrees.

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Things went much better when the two bumped into one another again a few weeks later – for one reason in particular, Adams says. “I found out she was a chef who loved vegan food and I am a vegan who loves to eat so I was like, ‘Let’s get this girl on lock!’”

That was more than five years ago. The couple now live in Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs with their dog and two cats – and they still love to eat together. “She’s the best chef – I’m not biased!” Adams laughs. “Anything she makes is just delish.”

Food is a big part of their lives, both at home and in business: Seah is the owner of Six-Eyed Scorpion, a small-batch crispy chilli oil business, and Adams takes care of the company branding on top of her full-time job as a graphic designer.

Six-Eyed Scorpion was born almost by accident. Seah – who’s cheffed at Melbourne venues like Smith & Daughters, Green Man’s Arms and Transformer – started making the chilli oil at home during lockdown with no intention of selling it. She realised it was a viable business idea when she put it on the menu at Riso Diner, the restaurant she was working in at the time, and customers and fellow chefs couldn’t get enough. Seah started selling it herself, and business boomed.

“I wanted to segue out of the kitchen, and I’ve always wanted to start my own business, so it made sense to combine my two passions of business and food,” she says. “I have no hope with regards to technicality or graphic design … [Jordana is] really good at what she does, so I let her take the reins with the branding, packaging and website. You can have a really amazing product but if your branding and packaging is crap, no one’s gonna buy it.”

Adams has enjoyed the process of developing the brand’s identity. “I love design work, so it was a really nice project to put all of that passion into taking something from nothing and growing it up all the way to fruition,” she says. She also admits the chilli oil helped her build her spice tolerance up from zero. “I was like, ‘This is a little bit out of my comfort zone but it’s so delicious that I’m just gonna keep pushing through’.”

She’s not the only one. Six-Eyed Scorpion’s signature product is available at stores across the country, with 150 stockists in Victoria alone – plus an online shop. The couple also sell at food and design markets. (“It was absolute pandemonium,” Adams says about one of their recent ventures.) The label has become so popular that Seah has been able to move into a dedicated kitchen facility with her team and is currently recruiting more cooks.

Everything is made and filled by hand in small batches. “We don’t take any shortcuts,” Seah says proudly – so the creation of the oil takes time. “It’s a very labour-intensive process, but the end result is reflective of that because you can taste it,” Seah says. “When you pour the oil over the spice mix, the steam and the sizzle and the smell is just next level,” Adams adds.

Right now Seah is in the early stages of developing new products for the brand, also inspired by the Singaporean flavours of her childhood. It’s a process of trial and error, making tweaks until the taste is just right, as was the case with the original chilli oil recipe. “It’s hard for me to put out something unless I am very, very set on it,” Seah says. Adams laughs and agrees. “You are a very big perfectionist – everything has to be amazing to the nth degree.”

Like any job, work-life balance is essential – even more so when working with your partner, both in terms of asking for help and knowing when to switch off. Adams treats her tasks for the brand like she would any client. “I am very firm in my boundaries. This is the time that I have my full-time job, and if you need anything from me, brief it in,” she says.

“For bigger jobs, sometimes I’ll take time off work to smash that out. It is very important to have those boundaries so that those expectations are there for both of us – she knows when she can rely on me, and I know when I’m allowed to relax, have downtime and do my own thing.”

Separating work and life has been trickier for Seah, given Six-Eyed Scorpion is her full-time gig and passion. “Up until recently when I got quite sick, I was all work, work, work,” she says.

“As soon as she woke up, she would be on her phone doing work to literally going to bed. The entire day would just be pure work and nothing else,” Adams adds.

“It was pretty bad,” Seah admits. “I’m trying to get better, trying to put more time into us and our family and pets, knowing when to clock off. Everything that was on my mind was just business and it’s not really healthy.”

The health scare put things into perspective for the couple. “It really highlighted the importance of taking time out,” Adams says. “We’re really trying to get back into yoga and just sitting outside in the sun with our coffees and having that moment to just be. Before getting back on the train that’s going 120 miles per hour.”

As queer people of colour, both Adams and Seah are passionate about putting a spotlight on these aspects of their identities that may have been previously hidden, and celebrating diversity and difference. “We didn’t always necessarily feel accepted or safe, or that we could comfortably be ourselves,” Adams says. “Having a company that highlights how beautiful the food culture is – that’s such a great way to bring people together.”

“Growing up, I was quite whitewashed – you’d never see role models who look like yourself,” Seah adds. “For me, it’s important to bring a bit of that heritage and those flavours into what I do now. Everything that’s happening now just makes sense.”

Sandra and Jordana's top 10 foods to drizzle with crispy chilli oil:

Eggs: “I make a mean chilli scramble, but it is equally delicious on poached, fried or soft-boiled eggs,” Seah says.

Congee: Drizzle chilli oil on this warming rice porridge for a cold-weather remedy. “Growing up, my mum would make this whenever I was sick,” Adams says. “It’s top-tier comfort food.”

Hummus: Seah recommends mixing crispy chilli oil with hummus, and enjoying it in a sandwich or as a dip. “Try this combo and thank me later.”

Noodles: For an easy meal, mix peanut butter, crispy chilli oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and mirin with your noodle of choice. For something even quicker, try this tip from Adams: “When I absolutely cannot be bothered cooking, I’ll just add chilli oil to instant noodles.”

Pizza: Add to slices of your favourite pizza – Seah recommends margherita – for a bit of a kick. “This is my favourite hangover food,” she says.

Dumplings: Mix with soy sauce and black vinegar, then dunk dumplings in. “I am a very basic cook, but this makes my food taste chef-made,” Adams says.

Bloody Mary: Add a splash for an extra-spicy cocktail. “This is a game changer for me,” Seah reckons.

Smashed cucumber salad: Toss cucumber with crispy chilli oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and black vinegar. “I was hooked on this during the warmer seasons,” Adams says.

Soft cheese: Crispy chilli oil, fresh basil and your favourite soft cheese is as simple as it is scrumptious. As Adams says, “No cooking skills required!”

Crispy chilli butter: Like garlic butter, but even better. Add to bread and pasta for an instant burst of flavour, or take Seah’s advice: “Toss it through hot popcorn for movie nights.”

This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.

Read more in our Creative Couples series.