Geoff Rhyne Leaving The Ordinary for Leon’s; Mike Lata to Step In UPDATED

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Larry Hoffman

Geoff Rhyne, who’s served as The Ordinary’s chef de cuisine since the seafood hall’s opening, is leaving the restaurant to become sous chef of Leon’s Oyster Shop.

The eagerly-awaited restaurant from tonic man (and former FIG general manager) Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink is scheduled to open later this month. Although the pair hasn’t yet released a menu, Reitz has previously hinted raw oysters, fried chicken and fried fish would form the core of the offerings.

“I worked closely with Geoff opening The Ordinary, and was consistently wowed with his creativity, leadership and team building abilities,” Reitz says. “When the opportunity to work together again arose, I considered myself very lucky, and was honored to have him be a part of our team.”

Ari Kolender, another alum of The Ordinary, will serve as head chef. Kolender was chef de cuisine at Los Angeles’ Red Medicine before returning to his hometown of Charleston.

Shifting to a sous chef role will allow Rhyne to tilt his work-life balance back in favor of his family, which is set to grow in the next few weeks. Rhyne’s wife is due to deliver their first child on June 23.

“Growing up, I didn’t really have a father, so I always said when I had this opportunity, I would be the best father I could be,” Rhyne says. “It’s not about me. It’s about my son-to-be. I can’t wait for this little guy to come along.”

Although Rhyne says he’ll miss working directly with fishermen and other purveyors, he says the daytime schedule means he’ll be able to “have dinner at home with my wife every night.”

“I don’t know how other chefs do it,” he continues. “The chef’s life requires a lot of sacrifices. I can go back to a job. I can’t go back to see my son walk for the first time.”

A former college baseball player, Rhyne began his kitchen career at FIG, according to his biography on starchefs.com. After working under Lata for two years, Rhyne accepted a chef de cuisine job in Traveler’s Rest, where he became active in the nascent farm-to-table movement and was a founder of Slow Food’s Upstate chapter.  In 2008, he was named executive chef of SugarToad in Naperville, Ill. Rhyne returned to FIG in 2011.

In deference to his respect for Lata and his co-workers — as well as what they’ve accomplished since the opening of The Ordinary, which was named to numerous best new restaurant lists in its first year — Rhyne is angling to make his departure as painless as possible. “My goal is to put the restaurant in position to take another step forward,” he says.

Rhyne will remain at The Ordinary through the Spoleto Festival, which is an extremely busy stretch.

“There’s not a tremendous rush,” Lata says of plans to replace Rhyne. He’s received applications from across the country, but is confident he and the current staff can handle cooking duties until the right candidate emerges.

“My summer schedule is pretty light, so I’m going to re-immerse myself in the kitchen on a daily basis,” Lata says.

A recent search for a FIG pastry chef culminated with the hiring of Melanie Durant, who’s scheduled to start work next month. As first reported by Atlanta Magazine, the Empire State South executive pastry chef was drawn to FIG’s “simplified and focused” approach.

Another round of renovations planned for FIG this summer include the creation of a small pastry area, from which Lata suspects award-winning work is likely to emerge. Food & Wine magazine named Durant one of 2013’s best new pastry chefs on the strength of her Greek yogurt cheesecake with hazelnut caraway milk crumb, rum raisins, poached pineapple and rye bread ice cream.

“She’s a superstar,” Lata says. “I hate to put the cart before the horse, but maybe we can get her national recognition.”

2 thoughts on “Geoff Rhyne Leaving The Ordinary for Leon’s; Mike Lata to Step In UPDATED

  1. The article says Geoff Rhyne has been with Mike Lata since The Ordinary opened. We all know the Chef de Cuisine does most of the heavy lifting. It seems like Mike Lata owes Geoff Rhyne a huge bit of gratitude for the success of The Ordinary and yet does not say anything about him or how he will be missed. If this is any indication on how Mike Lata treats his employees then it was a good choice for Geoff Rhyne to leave The Ordinary.

  2. You said exactly what I was thinking when I read this article. Well said.