Rathbun’s Watch List Party: An Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Favorite

The fourth-annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (AFWF), one of the city’s biggest and best-known culinary events, rolled in to town at the end of May, and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with many of the chefs—from the Southeast and beyond—at events throughout the weekend.

And what does the AFWF have to do with design? The answer is, quite a bit. Atlantans are actually quite spoiled when it comes to our restaurants. (Name one high-profile, in-town establishment that’s opened in the last two years that hasn’t also been lauded for its interior design.) St. Cecilia’s, The Optimist, King & Duke … okay, those are all Ford Fry establishments, but case in point that we love our restaurants as much as our homes is the fact that Fry recently hired his own in-house interior designer, Elizabeth Ingram, formerly of Bobo Intriguing Objects, to act as design director of his ever-expanding empire. 

But back at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, noted Atlanta designer William Peace of Peace Design, for the third year, was enlisted to design the Connoisseurs Lounge, at the Loews Hotel (home base for AFWF), in partnership with Atlanta-based Ballard DesignsAssociate Editor Sejal Bhima attended the media preview (this VIP-only lounge is super exclusive) on Thursday, and says for this year’s coastal-inspired Connoisseur Lounge, Peace paired furnishings from Ballard Design’s new collections with art, antiques and accessories from Robuck & Co., R Hughes, Keivan Woven Arts and Spalding Nix. Jute, linen and other natural textures along with a fresh color palette played up the breezy theme and gave Connoisseur guests a luxe spot to cool their heels during the festival. 

On Saturday night, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles was a proud media partner of the sold-out Rathbuns’ Watch List event, presented by the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), which paired up-and-coming chefs from across the South with an equally stellar group of soon-to-be design superstars from the Atlanta design community. Held inside an empty, all-white showroom at ADAC, I will officially label this as one of the year’s can’t-miss design events.

Kevin Rathbun and brother Kent Rathbun from Texas were gracious, affable hosts, making the rounds of the event. Interior designer Traci Rhoads partnered with the brothers on their space.

Michel Boyd partnered with chef Kevin Johnson of The Grocery Restaurant in Charleston. The theme of the space was “Southern meets Moroccan.”


Chef Andrew Evans of the BBQ Joint in Maryland gets playful in a space designed by Niki Papadopoulos of Mark Williams Design Associates. With the exception of a Patron tequila-shot wall, this life-sized golden cow definitely stole the show.



This lush, summer-inspired canopied escape created by Clay Snider Interiors for chef Nick Reppond from Lamar Lounge in Misssissippi was a fun departure.


What could be more fitting for Kerry Howard of KMH Interiors than an uber-feminine vignette designed in conjunction with some of his newest leading design ladies for one of the event’s two female chefs.


Dayka Robinson collaborated with Jason Ralls of New Orleans steakhouse La Boca. (There is no relation, but I enjoyed chatting with him.)

Melanie Millner of The Design Atelier partnered with chef Lee Gregory with The Roosevelt Restaurant in Richmond, VA.