Actress Gabrielle Anwar and Miami Beach restaurateur Shareef Malnik find romance over food, flamenco and a shared astrological sign

Photography by James Woodley

Shot on location at The Forge, Miami beach

Stylist: Jenna DeBrino, Hot Pink Style

Assistant stylist: Amanda Miller, Hot Pink Style

There was almost no chance Shareef Malnik would have met Gabrielle Anwar, if not for an organic farm and what he calls “the strangest twist of fate.” It was early February 2010. The owner of The Forge, the famous Miami Beach steakhouse, was at Paradise Farms in Homestead, sourcing items for a new menu; the “Burn Notice” actress was there on the same night, celebrating her birthday over a vegan dinner.

“If Gabrielle had met me at The Forge, in that environment, she would have had a different depiction of who I was,” Malnik says. “I’m certain there would have been some prejudgment. Since I was at an organic farm, she probably figured that I was OK.”

Anwar chimes in: “I would have never gone to the steakhouse.”

Malnik completes the round robin: “And I would have never met her at a yoga class in Coconut Grove,” where the couple now live.

There is a vibrant energy around the two, a relationship that puts a capital F in “fun,” an equal partnership that allows each person to maintain his or her own interests. The story of how Malnik captured Anwar’s heart is one of those fly-on-the-wall, Miami nightlife insider stories, complete with food, flamenco and intrigue. The way the pair tells it makes it all the more the stuff of storybook romance.

After being introduced by a mutual friend while walking into Paradise Farms, Malnik says he had to figure out a way to speak with the actress again. He set his sights on approaching her while she was having dinner. “I knew if I didn’t go over to her at that moment that I would never see her again for the rest of my life,” he says. Since he had learned that she was celebrating her birthday, it was a perfect entry point.

“That meant she was an Aquarius, and I am an Aquarius,” he says.

The restaurateur had created an annual tradition at The Forge—an Aquarius party for those born under the same sign—but he had postponed it that year because The Forge was undergoing renovations. Yet, in that moment, the party was on again. “I told Gabrielle that I was thinking of having the Aquarius party anyway. And she said, ‘Great! I’ll throw the party with you.’”

Anwar interrupts the story: “Honey, you are forgetting the most exciting part, which was that I started to argue with you about who gives the best party. Little did I know that this man was known for being a notorious party thrower. And here I am thinking I’ll plan a quick visit to Target”—she pronounces it tar-jay—“to pick up some votive candles.”

Malnik says he called his chef immediately to announce that plans should begin for the Aquarius party. “We were closed and under construction. The chef was new, and he hadn’t even cooked at The Forge yet. But I told the staff, ‘Do whatever you need to do. Build a tent on the construction site.’”

Malnik did his research. He found out that Anwar, who tangoed with Al Pacino in a memorable scene from the 1992 movie “Scent of a Woman,” loved flamenco dancing, so he created the theme around it. “I did everything in red with Spanish-style food and wine,” he says.

There was one hiccup. Anwar was told she could invite whomever she wanted, since the party was to be a joint effort. “She called me the day of the party,” Malnik recalls, “and said, ‘Would you mind if I invited my ex-husband?’ Of course, I held the phone away from my mouth and let out (an expletive). Then I got back on the phone and said, ‘Of course, your ex-husband can come.’ I figured then whatever happens, happens. If worse comes to worse, I will have made a great, new friend in Gabrielle.”

Anwar explains the reason for the invitation: She and her ex, actor John Verea, share the same birthday. “I was trying to think of Aquarians I could invite,” she says.

But all’s well that ends well. In only four days, the party materialized. Malnik hired a flamenco dancer—“an older woman who spoke of love,” he says—and had Anwar’s name printed on the menus, along with other small touches. But, Malnik says, it took a little time for his honored guest to realize that the party had been created just for her.”

“At some point, I think, a light bulb went on,” he says.

She confesses, “It was when the birthday cake came my way with only my name on it.” The cake was red velvet, by the way.

“After that, she kind of looked at me a different way,” Malnik says.

The couple married last September in front of 150 guests in an intimate outdoor ceremony at The Ranch at Rock Creek, a five-star resort in Montana. They had an 1800s-style, Western-themed wedding. “It was truly a magical weekend,” Anwar says.

Since recently moving to Coconut Grove, the two spend what little free time they have together zipping around the Grove on their Vespas and partaking in one of the family’s favorite sports, paddleboarding. Malnik is stepfather to Anwar’s three children: Willow Anwar, 22, who lives in California and is working as a personal assistant to actress Lisa Bonet and her actor husband, Jason Mamoa; Hugo Verea, 15; and Paisley Verea, 12. Malnik has a 30-year-old son, Yaseen, and a 6-year-old grandson, Shams. “The words ‘spare time’ really don’t apply to us, but we spend as much time with the children as we can,” Anwar says.

Malnik says he’s up every day before dawn. “I’m chairman of a finance business and that’s my day job; then I go to The Forge in the evenings. Sundays I don’t work, and Mondays I don’t work at night. Those are sacrosanct and reserved for family.”

The couple also has been working together on a pet project of Anwar’s, a documentary, “Sexology,” and companion website, which she’s created in partnership with actress Catherine Oxenberg. The two had a quest, according to the website, to “bring to light the intricate and infinite world of female sexuality.”

Malnik, who served as executive producer, couldn’t have been happier to be a part of the project.

“Gabrielle had this great idea, but she needed someone who could help her with a business plan and funding,” he says. “That’s where I came in.”

Tariq Anwar, Gabrielle’s father and a two-time Oscar-nominated editor (for “The King’s Speech” and “American Beauty”), edited the film. She says the documentary is finished and is ready to be revealed, although no release date has been announced.

“I think it’s going to serve a lot of women a very delicious meal.” 

©James Woodley Photography www.james-woodley.com

Life After Acting

Anwar shoots straight about celebrity, aging and much more

It’s been almost three years since USA Network’s “Burn Notice” aired its finale after seven seasons of shooting in Miami. That’s when Gabrielle Anwar hung up her weapons as Fiona Glenanne, one of the stars of the series.

“Once the seven-year span of playing a bikini-clad, high-heel-wearing, gun-toting terrorist came to a halt, I was able to have some oxygen and then say, ‘There’s a lot I want to say and a lot of it isn’t involving gun violence and my ass.’ So now I’m in a position, thanks to my extraordinary husband who has been nothing but supportive.”

She’s taken a position behind the camera as director and co-producer for her documentary, “Sexology,” and as writer and co-creator for the website sexology.com. Meeting Malnik, she says, gave her the freedom to step away from acting. Anwar shares some thoughts on the industry with Lifestyle.

On no longer acting: “I don’t have to be on a hamster wheel of employment, and it coincided with middle age. With every wrinkle that sprouted on my face, I didn’t want to hate myself. So it’s just been the most perfect transition into the appreciation of aging, where I wasn’t in such a scrutinous environment that I was going to resent every future moment of my life.”

On celebrity: “The pedestal that celebrities are sort of lifted onto by a crane, being the entertainment industry, is absolutely ludicrous to me. And yet we look up to these characters with such awe and reverence. I question what on earth they have done to earn such worship?”

On aging: “In my 20s, when I could get away with half the outfits that I recently retired from my closet, I would have nothing to say. Now I actually do, but I’m losing respect because of the simplest, most superficial reason of my appearance. I find it appalling. I feel like now I’m being fed this fountain, and it’s not the fountain of youth because that’s not my interest anymore. It’s the fountain of life.”