Chef Geoff Rhyne’s childhood was a patchwork of sunny memories, sewn together with crab nets in the saltwater marshes of Low Country South Carolina and fishing lines dropped into the languid rivers of Georgia’s red dirt fields. Rhyne learned at a young age to respect his catch and keep only what could be eaten. His food philosophy was further shaped by picking blackberries and accompanying his great-grandparents on assignments, as editors and photographers for farm magazines.
During a break in his college baseball career at the University of Tampa, Rhyne took his first restaurant job in Charleston, South Carolina. In Charleston, Rhyne met Chef Jimmy Sneed of Frog and Redneck, who introduced him to Chef Mike Lata at FIG. For two years Lata mentored Rhyne, instilling in him an even greater respect for product and purveyor. After FIG, Rhyne moved to Upcountry South Carolina, and became chef de cuisine at La Bastide, where he hand picked the ingredients from its 10-acre organic farm for each night’s dinner service. But he wasn’t just picking produce; Rhyne worked with farm manager Craig Weiner in determining crops for the menus and starting the inoculation of hundreds of logs for a mushroom farm.
It’s no surprise Rhyne’s menu at SugarToad in Naperville, Illinois, where was executive chef since 2008 and earned a 2011 StarChefs.com Rising Star Sustainability Award, was ingredient driven and farm focused, showcasing the best of the Midwest and American cuisine. The garden that Rhyne planted steps away from the restaurant providedfresh heirloom tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and herbs.
Rhyne takes his sustainability message beyond the kitchen. He was a founding member of Slow Food in Greenville, South Carolina; he spoke on sustainability at Furman University; and in 2010, he was a featured speaker at a TEDx event, where he addressed sustainability in agriculture to an audience of forward thinkers like himself.
In mid 2011, Rhyne returned South to work under his mentor, Mike Lata, at Fig in Charleston, South Carolina.