Alumni John Clark and Gayle Pirie: From Making Bulk Mayo to Owning Iconic Restaurant Foreign Cinema

Thursday, October 03, 2019
Photo of Gayle Pirie and John Clark standing in their restaurant, Foreign Cinema
Foreign Cinema owners Gayle Pirie (left) and John Clark

EATER SAN FRANCISCO -- Clark and Pirie met while working at Vicolo Pizza near Civic Center in 1984. Pirie, who’s a native San Franciscan, had been riding the bus to restaurant jobs since high school, and had no particular aspirations in food — making bulk mayo was a job to support painting classes at San Francisco State. Clark was finishing up his degree there, and thinking about architecture school. He made pizza, she made salad, and they both had different boyfriends and girlfriends.

“John was a punk, going to underground music shows all over the city,” Pirie says. “And I was a quiet art kid. But we had the same artistic proclivities, and were drawn to the same music, books and films.” Clearly, there was an attraction: They walked to work together and found other after shifts, continually trying and failing to be friends. Until one day, they got into a fight on the line, which seemed to charge things in the right way. Clark turned up apologetic on the sidewalk outside of Pirie’s cheap apartment in Western Addition, and that was the catalyst for a romantic relationship. “I stuck my head out the window,” Pirie says. “Then I let him up, and that was it.” Those other relationships dissolved, they moved in together, and they have been partners ever since, for more than 30 years.