James Beard nominee Deborah VanTrece closes Serenidad after fewer than 5 months

We find out why and what she has planned next

Chef Deborah VanTrece

Chef Deborah VanTrece, founder of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours and Oreatha’s at the Point, built her career on Latin and soul food. She recently earned a “Best Chef: Southeast” James Beard Award nomination for her work. But that doesn’t stop her from facing the challenges of the restaurant industry. After fewer than five months in Cascade Heights, Serenidad has shuttered.

She attributes the closure to both plumbing issues and two new, similarly themed restaurants coming to the neighborhood. However, she promises to reinvent the space for a new concept in the spring.

“When Shea [Embry] and I first started discussing creating a food destination in a historic neighborhood that had been neglected over the years, we had a blank slate. We were able to be selective about what we wanted to do,” VanTrece says. “With Oreatha’s, we chose to focus on comfort food dishes from moms around the world. For the second restaurant, we were torn between two directions: Latin and European, and we thought that a Latin soul cuisine concept was a better fit. We found a niche that was missing from the neighborhood.”


With both Barrio ATL and a new restaurant from the Old Lady Gang team opening as Latin/Mexican restaurants nearby, VanTrece decided a change was in order. “I am thrilled that this neighborhood is attracting new businesses. That was our goal. But I also believe that building a ‘dining destination’ will take all of us working together and providing the diversity that today’s diners are looking for. So rather than compete with our neighbors, I’ve decided to close Serenidad and replace it with a new and unique restaurant inspired by my earlier life abroad,” she explains.

VanTrece insists that her decision is about opportunity as much as competition—opportunity to pivot to a concept she’s always wanted to create. “We saw an opportunity to zig when others are zagging. Ultimately, my instincts led me to answer one question: What can we do to bring value to the neighborhood? What would be a great fit here?” she says.

As a flight attendant for three decades, VanTrece traveled the world for work, as well as leisure. She intends to use these experiences—particularly in Europe—as inspiration for her new restaurant. “It is something that I have thought about for a long time, but now I get to make it a reality. I am so excited to bring it to life,” she says.

Fans of Oreatha’s need not worry, as VanTrece says the restaurant is “doing very well.”

“I think that in eight to 10 years, Cascade Heights could be the next Summerhill. There will be growing pains, but it is personally and professionally fulfilling to help lead that effort,” she says.

Duck fat tamales at Serenaded