Work is play for busy couple

Charmain Z. Brackett/Correspondent
Cheryl Grace and Philippe Chin sit in the chef's booth at CuiZine in Aiken. The couple has opened three businesses over the past three years in Aiken and Augusta.

This fall ends a trend for Philippe Chin and Cheryl Grace.


"We have opened three businesses in three years. We both quit well-paying day jobs," Ms. Grace said. "This is not for the faint of heart, but it makes for pretty interesting dinner conversation - when we have time for dinner."

Ms. Grace, a former fundraiser for the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center, and Mr. Chin, a master chef from France who came to Augusta to work as the executive chef at the Partridge Inn, decided to build businesses doing what they loved most.

Each fall for three years, the couple opened a different business. Two Pastel art cafes and one CuiZine restaurant are the result.

"I taught my children the definition of happiness is truly following your heart. Money is not the measure of success," Ms. Grace said. "My children and Philippe all said to me, 'It's time for you to follow your dream.'"

Ms. Grace, an art enthusiast, always wanted to have an art gallery, but with Pastel on Central in Augusta and Pastel on Richland in Aiken, there's a twist.

"I have a nontraditional art gallery by design," she said.

At both locations, there is an unfinished edge to the buildings, with splatters of paint on the floor.

The two Pastels represent more than 50 artists in the Augusta-Aiken area. Each shop has a collection of accessories for the home and for the individual. Ms. Grace sells handmade jewelry and clothing. Home and garden accessories include embroidered pillows of the states, glasses, candles and handcrafted items by area artists.

Pastel on Central was the first of the three businesses to open, in October 2004. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Pastel on Central serves a light lunch menu in addition to coffees, smoothies and other beverages.

Mr. Chin makes some of the soups and other lunch items.

Pastel on Richland will celebrate its first anniversary Nov. 9. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Pastel on Richland does not serve lunch. Instead, there is a selection of the beverages in addition to some pastries.

Some of the desserts are Mr. Chin's creations.

Ms. Grace opened Pastel on Richland across from Mr. Chin's CuiZine restaurant on the corner of Richland Avenue and Laurens Street.

CuiZine opened two years ago this month. Mr. Chin said his menu is best described as eclectic.

A native of France whose grandfather was Chinese, Mr. Chin creates food that reflects his cultures, but he also makes his own unique dishes.

"He cooks at home. He experiments at home," Ms. Grace said. "He tests things out on me. He loves to cook. He's always cooking. It amazes me that he wants to cook at home, but he loves being in the kitchen."

Parts of the menu change every few days. There are some items, such as the calamari and crab cakes, that remain on the menu; however, other items depend on the availability of ingredients.

In the summer, desserts will feature berries; in the fall and winter, apples and pears might dominate. Pumpkin and cranberry will soon make their way onto the menu.

CuiZine open at 5 p.m. nightly. It can be booked for private parties.

There is live music beginning at 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

For more information on Pastel on Central, call (706) 731-9094; Pastel on Richland, (803) 648-5555; and CuiZine, (803) 644-1234.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at