Rebel Kitchen Coming to the Old City!

Paul and Franchesca Sellas, Rebel Kitchen, Knoxville, January 2018

Paul and Franchesca Sellas, Rebel Kitchen, Knoxville, January 2018

A new restaurant, Rebel Kitchen, is coming to the Old City as an expansion of the Old City Wine Bar. General Manager Matt Burke said that since accepting the adjacent space last year, the group has been looking for the right fit for an adjacent restaurant. The bar expanded their patio space in the spring, but the best use for the neighboring space seemed elusive.

It turns out that the answer was very nearby in the form of Franchesca Sellas who had worked for the wine bar early on and in her husband, Chef Paul Sellas who was working around the corner at the Crown and Goose. He’d worked there with Jeffery Dealejandro and became Chef on Jeffery’s departure to Oli Bea.

While he enjoyed working under the new management at Crown and Goose after it was sold to Randy Burleson, he longed for a place to express his culinary creativity. For that reason, he started the Rebel Kitchen Pop Up Dinners with Franchesca’s management help. When Thomas Boyd, owner of Old City Wine Bar, mentioned needing a chef, Paul expressed an interest and has recently begun working their small kitchen to produce light foods for pairing with the wine.

Rebel Kitchen Pop Up Dinner with Chef Paul Sellas, Central Collective, Knoxville, January 2018

Rebel Kitchen Pop Up Dinner with Chef Paul Sellas, Central Collective, Knoxville, January 2018

The two have continued popup dinners, primarily at Central Collective, where they found a full kitchen and a comfortable relationship with owners Dale Mackey and Shawn Poynter. Paul said it is all part of a lifestyle that started when he was young and his family ran a restaurant. At the most recent pop up dinner, the couple worked alongside their three children (who got all the tips), echoing his own early years.

Meanwhile, Matt Burke realized he’d found a complete and ready package: A couple with a passion for food and hospitality, a name, a vision and they were ready to go. Matt and Thomas attended one of the popup dinners and were convinced Chef Paul was their answer. They both remembered an amazing amuse-bouche which was set in a planter with edible “dirt.” It was delicious, but it was also fun.

Paul acknowledged that his view of what is possible in a dish or in a restaurant may be a little askew or counter to conventional preparations or presentations of food, hence the name, Rebel Kitchen. He offers his skills and perspective as the product of a learning process that included working with, “the hardest working people in the restaurant business,” his parents. His mother a restaurateur and his father, a chef operated a French restaurant in his formative years.

His dad, originally from Greece, would take the family to his country of origin and they enjoyed great food at someof the finest restaurants there, as well as in other countries in Europe. One meal he still remembers distinctly is when he and his father ate at the Crissier, Switzerland restaurant of Frédy Girardet, who is considered to be one of the greatest chefs of the last century. He wants to bring that level of experience to his own restaurant.

Rebel Kitchen Pop Up Dinner with Chef Paul Sellas, Central Collective, Knoxville, January 2018

Rebel Kitchen Pop Up Dinner with Chef Paul Sellas plying the liquid nitrogen, Central Collective, Knoxville, January 2018

Paul attended the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York and he’s worked with some of the country’s top chefs, including Jean Banchet, David Burke at River Cafe in Brooklyn who taught him to highly value presentation, Ressul Rassallat, Zach Bell and Daniel Boulud.

“I could go to Walmart and buy chicken and it would be good, but that’s not for me.” His goal is a small, rotating menu that will reflect both his background and the excellent fresh food he can source. Saying he grew up with chicken, lamb and fish, he says you’ll find those dishes on the menu. “It won’t be southern cooking, but it will be different and we’ll be doing it well.”

Stressing the importance of fresh ingredients, he noted there may be times items are removed from the menu because the meat or vegetables don’t meet his standards. Extolling the virtues of local tomatoes, for example, he said he won’t eat them unless they are local. This may mean canning tomatoes during the summer for use in the winter, curing peaches or preserving strawberries in syrup. He says if it has to be brought in from elsewhere, he won’t use it.

Much of his ethic with food goes back to his childhood. His parents sourced their food this way because that’s what they had to do. It was what they could afford. He remembers watching his grandmother baking bread in an outdoor oven. His parents also cooked table-side. In a tip of the hat to that, the new restaurant will have six counter seats facing the open kitchen for people who enjoy watching food preparation. An additional forty table seats will be available.

Paul Sellas, Rebel Kitchen, Knoxville, January 2018

Paul Sellas, Rebel Kitchen, Knoxville, January 2018

The Old City Wine Bar and Rebel Kitchen will share a kitchen and the Old City Wine Bar will provide drinks for both sides of the business. The light menu available in the Old City Wine Bar will continue, while the full menu will be available in Rebel Kitchen. For a sample of what Chef Paul is up to, you might check out the current Old City Wine Bar menu.

The two sides will also be connected through the current wall in the front and guests waiting for seating (they will take reservations) in Rebel Kitchen can relax in the Old City Wine Bar. The cellar will still be available for private events or larger parties. Staffing will now be adequate to make seating in the cellar more manageable.

Thomas will be owner of the entire enterprise, Matt Burke will continue his role as sommelier and General Manager. Franchesca will be front-of-house manager. To that task, she brings a lifetime of experience in the hospitality industry. She has a degree in Hospitality Management and a lifetime of making restaurants successful.

The new restaurant will offer vegan-friendly, vegetarian and gluten-free options. The couple noted that they first worked together at the Green Sage in Asheville, which Franchesca helped open before Paul became chef. The restaurant emphasized vegan and vegetarian food and sustainability in every way. Paul prides himself in making dishes to these dietary specifications which are the equivalent in quality and presentation to all of his food.

Paul and Franchesca Sellas, Rebel Kitchen, Knoxville, January 2018

Paul and Franchesca Sellas, Rebel Kitchen, Knoxville, January 2018

Putting the concept into a single pithy phrase proved a perplexing task as the five of us turned over repeated options. Certain words kept cycling around: avant garde, whimsical, approachable fine dining, locally sourced, eclectic. Suffice to say you’ll find a comfortable dining experience with no white table cloths, but Paul hopes you feel you have a fun experience as you enjoy excellent food with a beautiful and sometimes quirky presentation (he promised liquid nitrogen would be used regularly.) He likes showmanship, but he points out that it starts with great food.

The restaurant should be open this spring – they would prefer earlier, rather than later, if possible. Hours will likely start at 5:30 PM for a first seating, with a final seating at 10:00 PM.


  1. I was called a rebel on Facebook recently and found it flattering! All sounds great and how I LOVE Green Sage in Asheville!

  2. http://Larry says

    Well, then….I guess there goes, “Dixie Kitchen.”

  3. Smart to change the name????Do not change the name…These people! Dear lord, when will it stop!?

  4. http://Clay says

    I’m offended for you finding me offensive–haha
    Name and concept sound great, good luck????

  5. http://GabiP says

    Another good restaurant, in the Old City, can only be good. Congratulations, Thomas, to you and your team!

  6. So excited for this to open!

  7. http://Oren%20Drew%20Yarbrough says

    Putting on my wishful thoughts hat for a second; I would LOVE for the parking lot across the street to be filled in at some point in the future. This is such a dense block of buildings and that one big hole is always such a disappointment to look at. Developing the site would be interesting considering the windows on both adjacent buildings to the parking lot. A quick look on Knox GIS Maps shows that the Hewgley Park Building already owns a bit of property in the lot up against their building, no doubt for parking and the windows. Surprisingly, a portion of the parking lot immediately adjacent to the Carhart Building is zoned as light industrial. Even if a creative design was made to fill the middle and leave the sides open I’d imagine it would look better than what it currently is. I know a large number of people that attempt to use this parking lot at various times so I imagine that would be the biggest push back. Perhaps when the Stockyard Apartments off Willow Avenue are completed there will be some internal parking that can be utilized to offset this site being filled.

  8. http://Ceteka says

    Very exciting news! Can’t wait to have dinner with these wonderfully talented folks!

  9. http://Nancy%20Mott says

    In my view, Rebel is an unfortunate name. If we love the United States of America, how can we regard with fondness a name that represents rebellion against our country? And far worse, that this rebellion took place in an attempt to preserve a way of life dependent on holding millions of human beings in slavery? Good food, exciting venue, I imagine. But why such a name? Would you name a restaurant Nazi Nook?

    • http://Greg says

      I think you’re reading far too much into the word rebel. It doesn’t refer to Confederate soldiers. It generally means resistance to convention.

    • http://Dave says

      Wow. Logical leaps abound there. Rebel is not just associated with the Confederacy. There are rebels in every walk of life–they simply go against conventional thinking. It doesn’t just relate to slavery, indeed, the term predates the civil war by some 350 years. Then the jump to comparing it to Nazism? Seriously, take a deep breath and reevaluate things, because that’s a dark outlook on life when you see racism, slavery, and national socialism within an innocuous and common term.

    • http://KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      The word “rebel” simply means going against convention. This restaurant, owned by a person who grew up in Chicago and with a Greek immigrant father, has nothing to do with the Confederacy. Sometimes we rebel against other things.

      • http://bruce says

        what does his General Lee tattoo stand for?

        • http://KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

          He liked the television show? Fast cars? Daisy Duke?

        • http://Ian says

          Gotta say, that is the single biggest Dukes of Hazzard tattoo I’ve ever seen.

        • http://Dave says

          He likes the show “Dukes of Hazzard”. Any other pointed, but completely off-base, questions to ask? Seriously, the culture of outrage is getting to a boiling point that isn’t sustainable.

      • http://Toby%20Koosman says

        I find the name off-putting as well. They could remove all doubt about that association by choosing a less suggestive name. And unfortunately being the child of immigrants proves nothing in this regard.

        • http://Dave says

          That’s fine. You can not like the name. It does not make your opinion any less wrong about the meaning of the word rebel. What’s next? Will you ask Rebel Wilson to change her name to avoid the connotation? What about the Star Wars films. Will you ask them to change the name of the Rebel Alliance? Should the US cede itself back to the UK? I mean, it came from a rebellion.

      • http://Sally%20Wilcox says

        Yes, but words have connotations, especially in Southern cities. It would be smart to change the name.

        • http://Dave says

          No, it really wouldn’t. It would be a change that appeases only the most touchy of outrage cultists. Hopefully, it’ll mean more availability for people who simply like good food and good people.

    • http://Sean%20Murphy says

      Silly conformist.

  10. http://Sandi says

    Wow! We cannot wait for this new taste experience. The Old City just gets better and better. Congrats to all!

  11. http://Oren%20Drew%20Yarbrough says

    Great write up on Paul Sellas and Rebel Kitchen! My friends were at the Pop-Up at the Central Collective this weekend and even are in one of the photos of the event. This is great news! I love anything that further develops the Old City and pushes pedestrian connections between it and the Central/Depot Quarter. I have wanted to have a small party in the downstairs cellar space since the Wine Bar opened. Now that there will be a full-service kitchen and menu I am definitely going to look into doing that!

  12. http://Chris%20Eaker says

    Maybe Aaron is referring to the last paragraph: “Hours will likely start at 5:30 PM for a first seating, with a final seating at 10:00 PM.”

  13. http://Randy says

    Great news! We have been waiting for this announcement for months now. And now for something really different for Knoxville: delicious yes, but also fun and incredibly creative, based on our prior experiences with Paul and Francesca. Can’t wait for the opening. Congrats to the entire team making this possible.

  14. I am so excited about this!

  15. http://Aaron%20Thompson says

    Seating? Will it be a nightly tasting menu?

    • http://KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      “His goal is a small, rotating menu that will reflect both his background and the excellent fresh food he can source.” It will be dinner service. “His parents also cooked table-side. In a tip of the hat to that, the new restaurant will have six counter seats facing the open kitchen for people who enjoy watching food preparation. An additional forty table seats will be available.” I’m not sure which of us is missing something. Reply if it’s me and I’ll try to be more clear. Thanks.

    • http://Matt%20Burk says

      We may incorporate a tasting menu option in the future, but for now, menu will be a la carte style; but will change often based on availability

      • http://Aaron%20Thompson says

        Thanks for the clarification! Alan, I was confused when you posted two specific times for seatings. That’s how some restaurants who only offer tasting menus work.

        Thanks Matt, looking forward to trying it out!

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