The Butcher & The Baker
Words and Photographs by Lyric Lewin
She’s in the bakery. Hair tied up with a checked scarf keeping it out of her face. Flour all over her hands and apron. She’s finished pressing grapes and basil leaves into the face of the focaccia bread as she heads to put the sheet of dough into the oven.
He’s in the kitchen. Cutting meats for the charcuterie board, whipping up pâté and confit and prepping his station on the line for dinner service.
Shae Rehmel and Ryan Sims didn’t know what lay ahead of them when they met and fell in love in the kitchen of a restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Rehmel had started working in the bakery at Hugh Acheson’s acclaimed restaurant, Five & Ten when she was only 19 years old. “The bakery appealed to me primarily because of the thoughtfulness and the quietness of the experience. You pace yourself, think ahead and plan ahead. I liked that there was science and art behind it,” Rehmel explains. Sims on the other hand was drawn to the fast-paced, excitement of work in the kitchen. Sims’ hard work and eagerness to learn helped him climb the ranks from bussing tables to working as line cook and then sous-chef.
Sims explains how in his early days at the restaurant, being surrounded by beautiful produce, new flavors and spices he had never worked with before was stimulating to him creatively. He said, the “challenge of learning something completely new was exciting to me.” As their relationship grew, so did their passion for expressing themselves through this culinary medium. Always eager to learn and push themselves out of their comfort-zones, Rehmel and Sims decided the best next thing for their growth, lay outside of Athens - in a bold and courageous move, they packed up and headed to New York. Both landed jobs in prestigious restaurants in the city – but they admit that it was not without growing pains. During the difficulties of the transition they were able to clearly articulate what they did and did not like. After so many years spent training, they were ready to establish their own style and aesthetic in the kitchen. They were bursting at the seams with dreams of starting their own restaurant. Sims says he wanted “to cook food for people professionally, that I’m creating rather than a chef telling me what to do… to put myself out there with no one to hide behind.”
From Athens to New York City, and several restaurants later, they would come home with a new set of skills and a clear vision for what they wanted to execute. With the help of some dear friends, Rehmel and Sims have started a pop-up supper club out of their home. Ryan says, “I’ve learned in the last year –if you can get a group together of like-minded people you can do so many more things than with one singular vision.”
On a corner street in Athens, you’ll find a yellow house with a deep porch, green paint chipping away under the shoes of welcomed guests. Walk into the cozy home and you’ll find bookshelves bending under the weight of beautifully bound books. Wide-hewn wooden tables, hand made by Rehmel’s grandfather. In the kitchen Rehmel and Sims will be chopping and stirring, and the house will smell of ginger and spices. The team is not complete without Eric Moore, creating cocktails - clinking glass with a long stemmed spoon as he stirs jasmine infused dry vermouth into fernet branca; and Sarah Sorvas hand-lettering every menu and setting the aesthetic of the table in the dappled window light. Rehmel said, “One of my favorite parts is at the end after all the guests leave, we have all the wonderful people who are helping us put this together each time, and we sit down and have a beer together and we laugh…a lot. And it’s such a happy feeling. A lot of people got together and worked really hard and pulled something off.”