Heirloom is a family business, run by a father and daughter team, but we don’t stop there. At Heirloom, we want our staff to be like a family, as well. We encourage them to challenge themselves and one another to take ownership of our business, and work together to make our guests feel like family as well. So you can know us like your family, here are some stories and facts about some of our key people.
EMPLOYEES OF THE YEAR
Each December, we ask our non-management employees to vote anonymously for who they feel embodies the qualities that make someone a good employee, a good coworker, and a good co-friend. This peer given title is announced at our holiday party.
2018: Neil Hancock
Sweet Neil is our first front of the house winner. Full of sass and side eye, but also the most eager to help and the coolest under pressure, Neil makes any busy shift a pleasure to work. He is never flustered and always good for a quiet joke or a quick story, all the while providing excellent service to his tables and helping his fellow servers bus tables and run food. Neil studied studio art at UGA and his larger than life portraits have graced our walls, bringing a hip Basquiat influenced look to our restaurant. He can’t be missed with his David Bowie meets Mick Jagger a la Dancing In the Street look. He will always take the time to get to know his guests and remember their stories no matter how busy the day is.
2017: Chris Shaw
Chris Shaw began working with us while going to school for a biology degree and working at the State Botanical Gardens. He began his time with us as a dishwasher, and continues to create a zen space in our dish area that rubs off on anyone passing through it. He is always positive and calm, and keeps everyone else in line by setting a positive example. While other dishwashers usually listen to hip hop or hard rock while working, Chris can be found listening to Native American flutes or sounds of nature over the bluetooth speakers. He has begun picking up biscuit and scone making shifts and is pushing himself to learn more about baking every day. His work ethic is strong. He never balks at being asked to do something and he does it with a smiling face.
2016: Seth Martin
Seth Martin came to work at Heirloom after a summer spent working in the wilds of Alaska. Long hair in a pony tail, and Southern drawl telling you stories and jokes while you work, Seth is the embodiment of cool. With hopes of pursuing a career in music, Seth began the band The Georgia Dish Boys. You can find them playing at breweries and bars around downtown on any given week. As you may imagine, the band is composed of several former or current dishwashers at some of Athens’ finest establishments. Seth’s most notable accomplishment while working at Heirloom was the concept of FOOD PHONE. If you want to know more, I’m told you must ask him directly.
2015: Greg & Eric Zock
The Zock brothers, Greg and Eric, came to us almost a year ago through our sous chef at the time, Matt Needle. Greg and Matt have lived together for several years, and Matt knew that he would be a great addition to our team. He started out washing dishes and quickly grew to be one of our strongest cooks. He shows up early and stays as late as he is needed every day, never once complaining. When times get tough, he puts his head down and works through the rush, never missing anything, but when the day gets a little easier, he is right there ready to get everyone pumped up and happy. When Matt left us in December to move to Atlanta, Greg was there to fill the gap, and he has just become our new sous chef.
Greg’s younger brother, Eric, came to work with us a few months after Greg came on board. While he had never worked in a commercial kitchen before, Eric caught on very quickly to how a kitchen should be run. He has pushed himself and pushed himself to be the very best at every task we offer him. He has a passion for cooking, and spends his down time experimenting with food. No matter what, he keeps a smile on his face, and does his best to help others do the same.
These two guys are a light in our kitchen. We are very lucky to have them on board and hope to keep them with us for a very long time. Here’s to you, Brothers Zock.
2014: Amie Reavis
Amie is a support network, sometimes silently helping her fellow cooks get out of the weeds when they don’t even know she is there beside them making everything fall together, sometimes being a shoulder to cry on and the one that tells you how it is and how it is going to be when you need it most. Amie has loads of experience and zero pretension. She often floats by under the radar because we never have to ask her to do anything. She just does it without us even knowing that it needs to be done. We are lucky to have her as a part of our team, and wish she could be replicated many times over.
2013: Ben Salie
Ben Salie is a ray of light. He is sweet and kind, thoughtful and thought provoking, and most of all, Ben is calm. Always calm. Washing away day after day, dealing with piles of yucky dishes, and bringing an organization to the chaos that can be dishwashing during a busy brunch–these are the ways in which Ben works hard for us. Beyond that, however, Ben keeps us sane. Each day is filled with several questions for the whole staff to ponder while they work. What would the flag of your country look like? What would you like to thank that you are not able to? What are you proud of? If you had a mutation, what would it be? Beyond the questions, there is the singing. Ben is quite musical, and you may hear him wailing in the back on occasion when his work gets really hard. Some of his favorites? Bill Callahan and the every lovable Bonnie Raitt. Let’s give ’em something to talk about.
2012: Ronnie Hilburn
How Ronnie has grown since he started working with us. If only you knew. He began working with us as a dishwasher, recommended by one of our servers when we were in a bind. He quickly became the king of the dishpit and began easing his way onto the hot line, one burger at a time. He takes great pride in his work, even the smallest joyless tasks. He works efficiently and quickly, keeping a smile on his face as a Boomhaueresque monologue narrates his moves, and we all sing along to the Alanis Morissette Pandora station he picked out. He keeps our morale up and keeps the food coming out. What else could you ask for?
2011: Marquita Maddox
Marquita began working with us very soon after we opened. We had a dishwasher call out for the second shift in a row, and we had no one to cover him so I put it out there on facebook that we needed some help that night. Marquita was our first responder. She showed up with a smile on her face and dove into the stack of dirty pots and dishes without complaining once. We hired her right away. She has moved out of the dishpit to the line for most of her shifts, and I must say that this girl makes a mean salad. To this day, the smile stays on her face even when she is exhausted, and she works through till the end as hard as she can. A single mother of three, she takes care of her kids and then comes here and takes care of all of us. Pretty soon, you will be seeing her smiling face more often, as she is going to start waiting tables any day now. If you do, stop her, and tell her how awesome she is.
Jessica Rothacker grew up going to company picnics for her father’s family business, barbecues at her grandparents’ house and grand holiday meals. Her mother had an extensive family garden that taught her how to eat the best the season had to offer. She went to college at UGA, where she studied English. After college, she went to the Art Institute of Atlanta where she studied Culinary Arts. She learned a great respect for high quality food and service working at Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, which prides itself on serving the highest quality food with the highest quality service in a casual atmosphere. In 2007, she followed chef David Sturgis when he moved to Athens to work at Farm 255, where she developed a love for seasonal and sustainable cooking. After a stint as sous chef at Farm 255, she left to focus on vamping up her pastry skills at Ike & Jane, where she loved working for such a community focused business. Jessica was on the board of the non-profit PLACE, whose mission is to promote a strong, accessible local food culture in the Athens area for 4 years, and served as secretary for 2 of those years. She was the food editor for the now defunct online magazine, Broad Collective, she serves on the board of directors for the Georgia Restaurant Association, she is one of the Georgia Grown Executive Chefs for 2020 and 2021, and in 2020, she was invited to join Les Dames d’Escoffier International. When she isn’t at Heirloom, Jessica spends most of her time with her family: her husband, Jordan, her sons, Fox and Soren, her dogs, Lily & Levi, and her cat, Whiskey, a stray she adopted out of the trash area here at Heirloom.
Heirloom brings together all of the values that Jessica finds most important—great food, service, and community. She likes to say that her favorite part of her job is the relationships she gets to form with the farmers, the guests and the employees. Oh, and her other favorite part is putting all the delicious local ingredients together to make food that makes the guests happy. Oh, and her other favorite part….
Successful family businesses can also be heirlooms, passed from generation to generation. Travis Burch grew up in a family business, Burch-Lowe, Inc., founded by his father, Bill Burch, in Atlanta in 1952. When Bill Burch passed away in 1990, Travis and his brother assumed leadership of the business and with the help and commitment of a dedicated group of co-workers, grew the business in new directions and to new levels of sales and income. When not at work, Travis was at home behind the tiller, shovel and hoe as his wife, Susie, created a vegetable garden that fed the family and the neighborhood and planted the seed of a passion for fresh, seasonal food in their daughter, Jessica.
One of Travis’s proudest moments at Burch-Lowe, was when the company was named Georgia Family Business of the Year in 1996 in recognition for its efforts to create an environment where co-workers could be fully engaged in the mission of the company and be recognized for the results they created. The family business was sold over 10 years ago and, since then, Travis has been a serial entrepreneur, with successful projects in consulting, residential and commercial real estate. Now Travis is joining with Jessica Burch Rothacker to create Heirloom Café & Fresh Market in the Historic Boulevard Neighborhood in Athens.
Ben Breaux-General Manager
Ben began his career in the restaurant industry as a teenager in the corporate underbelly of the Florida Panhandle at … an Outback Steakhouse. Always ambitious and never settling for less than the prize, Ben worked his way through every single position until he became a corporate training manager and began opening Bonefish Grill’s across Florida. (All of this was happening while Ben was still in high school, remember?) While systems and checklists may have been Ben’s first love, education made his heart grow big. Ben moved to Boston to study theater education, focusing on technical theater. In short, Ben felt most comfortable behind the scenes, making sure every little detail of a production ran perfectly and helping others achieve their best selves possible to present to the world. It’s no wonder that he ended up conducting restaurant symphonies on the side, dabbling in the fine dining establishments of Barbara Lynch and Ken Oringer.
After college, Ben found himself in Athens, partially under the recommendation of his dear friend, Rose Harris (who happens to have previously been general manager here at Heirloom). While here, Ben held management positions in such beloved now defunct restaurants as The Branded Butcher and Farm 255, and got to stretch his technical theater muscles pulling strings at the Georgia Theater. A not to be missed opportunity took him to China for five years, where he worked with corporate businesses to perfect their Western communications, and he dabbled in consulting and opening restaurants, you know, for fun.
An opportunity running food and beverage operations for the Graduate hotels brought him back state-side in 2019, just in time to amp things up for … the pandemic. As many have had a great deal of time for self-reflection during the past few months, Ben realized that Athens was to be his forever home and he wanted to shift into a position that allowed him to use his corporate wherewithal to help build community and growth in smaller, independent businesses. That is when we scooped him up and gave him a home here at Heirloom. Even in his short tenure here, Ben has already begun innovating and proactively shifting us into our best selves. While these times are uncertain, we feel that he is the leader to keep us steady and bring us through the storm alive.
In pre-pandemic times, Ben spent much of his downtime at Homewood Social. He loves how many different moving parts it has–that you can drink at the bar on your own, or play a multitude of games with your friends, but either way you never feel alone there. When I asked him what made him happiest, he said he loves watching a seed germinate (in a very literal sense) and that he most enjoys seeing a person experience a revelation/have a sudden realization/finally get a concept (here’s the figurative version of that seed thing). I think we couldn’t find a more perfect person to help spark these moments in our work family.
Daniel Ray-Shift Manager
Although he has an entrepreneurial spirit at heart (and is constantly working on several business plans at a time), Daniel joined our team in the summer of 2019 after taking some time working part time with Epting Events so he could spend all of his free time with his beloved daughter Harriett (“Bean”). Now that she has started preschool a few days a week, he has found time to get back into the service industry full time. You may have met Daniel as a founding owner and bartender at The Old Pal in Normaltown or may remember him fondly from his time at Farm 255 or one of the many other serving/bartending jobs he has had in town since he came here in the late 1990’s. My first experience with Daniel, or D-Ray as he is affectionately called by his friends, was as a member of Exit 86 back in his punk days and later as a part of Timber (Adam was also in Timber) when I returned back to Athens in 2007. Although he isn’t playing as often as he once was, you can still find Daniel drumming in a few acts around town, here and there, or you may glimpse him out for a run, jogging stroller in his path, air drumming at a light while waiting for a crosswalk. Drumming and childrearing aside, Daniel is a great leader, avid lifelong learner, wine and cocktail enthusiast, asker of solid, thoughtful questions, and change maker. Stop in for a chat, and if you are lucky you may get to experience his signature belly laugh. Cheers to you if you do.
Ashley Hobbs-Night Manager
Ashley comes to Heirloom with extensive hospitality experience, including time spent serving tourists and locals alike in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado. She has worked in small, family run cafes, beer bars, and even high end resorts. Ashley has a clear love for beer and enjoys sharing her knowledge with her fellow employees and her guests. She even worked as a Brewery Ambassador at Terrapin for some time. Ashley values a close relationship with her family. Her mom and her sister are regulars at the bar when Ashley is working, and it is clear that she loves them dearly. When she isn’t running our evening shifts behind the bar, she can be found slinging mimosas at brunch on Sundays. Really, she loves Heirloom so much that you can often find her here on her day off or before a shift, enjoying some lunch or an ice cream sandwich. She does live right around the corner after all. Really Ashley has a tender soul, a sparkling and friendly smile, and an infectious energy. Outside of work, those who know her well know Ashley is an avid music lover and that Ween, Widespread Panic, and The Grateful Dead hold a special place in her great big, tie dyed heart.
John Swint-Day Manager
John Swint is Heirloom’s longest running employee. He came on after our first summer with zero previous restaurant experience, but he has stuck it out over the years, improving every step of the way. He is kind, and thoughtful, and easy to talk to. He is an excellent drummer (you may have seen him rock it out with his band(s) Luxury Vehicle, Easter Island, and Yip Deceiver. He is also an excellent DJ, known as DJ Quincy to those in the know, and has entertained the Heirloom staff with his skills and his air horn function at many the holiday party. While not on tour, he keeps our lunch staff in line, keeps our in house music up and happy, keeps the drinks flowing from behind the bar, and keeps everyone who comes in contact with him happy. In his previous lives, Swint has owned a pet sitting business, toured with national acts as drummer to the now defunct band Modern Skirts, and worked with special needs children while studying Psychology at UGA. His prized possession is a solid gold ring that he found while bussing a table one day. (If you see him wearing it and it’s yours he will give it back, although reluctantly. He loves that thing so darn much.)
Curtis Jester-Evening Kitchen Manager
Curtis Jester is one solid individual–you know, the kind that can be completely relied upon to get the job done without complaining, will always be on time, is always looking out for the greater good, always wants everything to be in its place and ready to go, is creative, and just generally is a pleasure to be around. To say we are lucky to have him on our team is an understatement. Curtis started with us as a line cook while he was finishing his computer science degree at UGA. While he has worked with us, he has also worked part time as a farm hand with Front Field Farm and took a sabbatical to work at 5 & 10. We were lucky enough to convince him to come back into this manager role, and now he keeps the day to day operations of our kitchen running smoothly. In his free time, he gardens, plays video games, does yoga, daydreams that he isn’t too tall to drive a Mini Cooper, and reads thoughtful and poignant fiction & nonfiction. He is also an avid jazz fan, stemming from his high school days playing bass trombone in jazz band. One day he will leave us to go into cyber security, but for now, we get to have him cooking and calling the shots with us.
Adam Onstott-Daytime Kitchen Manager
Adam has worked in Athens kitchens for years. You may have seen him behind the counter at Gyro Wrap downtown manning the grill at Last Resort Grill back in the day. He landed with us a few years ago and worked his way through the stations until he began happily running our lunch and brunch services. Adam makes a mean egg and grills a mean burger. He is vegetarian, but can still cook meat like a champ, and he keeps his cool like no other. At the end of a killer shift, you know he is stressed because he asks for a shot of Jameson with his daily PBR, but otherwise, you would never know. He moonlights as an umpire for varsity baseball at local high schools, and while he used to spend his free time playing with local punk bands, now he prefers chillin’ with his pet goats to pretty much anything. His most redeeming quality, however, is his never ending supply of dad jokes.