The Plate Sale is a family affair

Friday September 1, 2017 05:07 pm EDT

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Husband and wife duo Mike and Shyretha Sheats started their "evolving dinner series," the Plate Sale, back in August of 2016 with a late-night pop-up at Octopus Bar. It was an instant success: an evening of food and drink and love and community that Shyretha says far exceeded their wildest expectations.

Exactly one year and one adorable baby named Luna later, the Plate Sale is going stronger than ever. The Sheats have started bi-monthly pop-ups at Sweet Auburn Curb Market's the Learning Kitchen, and regularly host pop-ups at restaurants around Atlanta and Athens (the next one is this Sunday evening at A Mano). Without so much as a Facebook page (the Sheats spread their news exclusively via Instagram posts), the dinners have become so successful that Mike and Shyretha he a line cook, she a former bartender, both at Staplehouse have decided to take some time off from their full-time jobs to focus all they've got on the Plate Sale and related projects.

Dinners with the Sheats are like eating with family if your family is really, really well-versed in food and drink. Mike works an open kitchen, churning out beautifully crafted small plates and hearty, soulful shared entrees like pan-seared chicken with chanterelle gravy and skillet cornbread. Shyretha does cocktails and wine pairings: a ripe Albarino to complement the salty tang of marinated tomatos with umeboshi, a delicately not-too-sweet Moscato d'Asti to pair with the meringue-blanketed fresh peaches and shortbread crumble Mike serves for dessert. Seven-month-old baby Luna watches the whole affair with wide eyes and a toothless grin. It's impossible to leave without a full heart.

What came first, professional partnership or romantic? Tell me the story of how you guys met.

Shyretha: Well, we met years ago. I'm talking like 17 or 18 years ago. Our best friends are cousins and we just got to know each other over time. I first met Mike at our friend's annual family Christmas party when we were around 16 or so. It was nothing more than a "Hey!" back then. We connected and started dating in 2007. The rest is history. We've pretty much been inseparable since then.

What sparked the Plate Sale concept? Had you guys done anything like it before?

Mike: We hadn't done anything more than entertain some friends at our apartment. But it was those spontaneous weekend gatherings that sparked the idea of hosting plate sales. We had this idea of selling plates and inviting people to hang out, so we started looking into purchasing Weber grills and other tools we would need to host these events. It was going to be your meat and three type of menu. We wanted to pop up on a corner or in a parking lot and cook, sell plates and entertain.

Tell me about your history with Staplehouse. How have you balanced the pop-up with your full-time jobs?

Mike: I am a line cook at Staplehouse. The Staplehouse team has been supportive since day one. I prep around my work schedule, hit up the markets for ingredients. The day before each dinner, I'm prepping all day with the help of some friends that continue to have my back each event.

Shyretha: I was a bartender at Staplehouse before having Luna in January. Cocktails and spirits are more of my background so that was my focus while working with bartenders there. I usually worked around the pop-ups as well. If we had to talk logistics with anyone, see the venue, etc., we usually would do this after hours. Mike and I are night owls, so we work on events on late nights often.

What are your hopes for the new Learning Kitchen partnership?

Shyretha: The opportunity came about when Lyn Deardorff, the owner of the Learning Kitchen, contacted us about hosting a pop-up in her space. Originally, we were thinking of hosting a pop-up after hours and serving an a la carte menu. We quickly took to this idea because of the rich history that the Curb Market has, but also because of Lyn's beliefs and values on food preservation. It goes hand and hand with Mike's thoughtfulness in his approach with ingredients. We like the playfulness of holding dinners in a closed food market and the opportunity to showcase a historic establishment that many people are so oblivious to in the neighborhood. Before the new food halls, there was the Municipal Market.

The a la carte pop-up concept quickly turned in a 16-person tasting menu after we saw little interest in ticket sales initially. Instead of seeing this as a negative, we decided to embrace the smaller setting and now we are holding these dinners on an almost monthly basis. We look at it as a way to meet and entertain 16 new people in Atlanta in a casual setting.

What's it like working with your significant other? Any tips on how not to kill each other in the kitchen? Asking for a friend.

Shyretha: It is great most of the time but it can get stressful because you're juggling a lot and the day of is very fast-paced. At the end, we sit back, analyze our event and continue to encourage each other over a beer. We do find the time to have a little fun. Tips? Get over in the moment and talk about it later.

Mike: We do our best to communicate and implement an order of service so that we are somewhat on the same page. We, however, are still fine-tuning it all. We always have each other's back. Put your egos to the side.

Your baby daughter Luna seems to be a pretty reliable/adorable presence at the events. How has she changed things for you guys? What's it like being able to work with your whole family in the same room?

Shyretha: I'm very lucky to be able to do work that involves my family. Luna has changed things dramatically, yet for the best. She pushes me and I'm becoming a better person each day with her. It's not an inconvenience to have her at the pop-ups. It's a sacrifice, and it our life. Plus, I just love seeing her interact with guests. She's great in these lively environments. She is often the life of the party.

Mike: Luna has definitely been the life of the Plate Sale since being born and any time we can all spend time together is really special. Our Plate Sales are usually on my off days so we are definitely sacrificing time spent as a family, so we often bring Luna to the events, if possible.

What are your plans for the future? Will the Plate Sale ever become a brick-and-mortar?

Shyretha: We are currently taking time off from our full-time positions to focus on the Plate Sale and other related projects. One being creating a sustainable pathway for pop-up ventures and future restaurant. Diving into our family's history and land preservation projects are at the forefront of many projects, and all parts of the bigger picture. We envision a restaurant. The Plate Sale is the stepping stone for us.

The Plate Sale's next pop-up takes place this Sun., Sept. 3 at Old Fourth Ward's A Mano. The event is first come, first serve and dishes will be served a la carte. After that, they head to Eleanor's on Sun., Sept. 10, and Sweet Auburn Curb Market on Mon., Sept. 25. A dinner with artist-run civic engagement platform Argha Noah is tentatively scheduled for Sat., Oct. 7. Follow them on Instagram to stay up-to-date.

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