Anyone who has worked in a restaurant here in Akron knows how special the relationships that develop among the employees are. Akron’s service industry workforce is a collection of people who have crossed paths in every direction, forming lifelong friendships and professional connections. It seems like all the bartenders, servers and chefs in Akron know each other, and they’re always ready to support one another however they can.
It’s out of this network that Renee Kintz, Aric Frank and Ernie Cornelius came to know each other. Like many people who work in the industry, they spent their careers working their way across Akron, dreaming of all the things they’d do if they ran their own restaurant.
Now, after what Kintz calls “20 years of manifesting,” their dreams have been realized.
Partners Kintz and Frank, along with Cornelius as the Head Chef, opened Divine Food, Spirits, Wine in December. It’s located in the freshly renovated original Rockne’s building on Hudson Drive in Cuyahoga Falls.
Cornelius has been working his way up in Akron kitchens since he needed a job for concert money as a teenager. He’s passionate about classic European culinary techniques, but it’s local ingredients and traditions that inspire his menus.
During my conversation with Cornelius, one classic culinary phrase kept coming up – mise en place. In professional kitchens, the act of setting up for service is referred to as mise en place. It’s French for “put in place”, and it doesn’t only describe perfectly chopped vegetables and thoughtful organization — it’s also a state of mind.
With everything in its place, there are no surprises or improvisations. The staff is united and prepared for a great shift. It’s total zen, and it’s the perfect way to describe what’s going on at Divine FSW.
After years of working for other people, Kintz, Frank and Cornelius are taking mise en place to a new level. They know exactly how they want each guest’s experience to go, and it shows. As soon as you walk into Divine FSW, it’s apparent that the staff has great attention to detail. Everything is in order. Each course is thoughtfully delivered. You won’t ever be looking around for service or disappointed in the presentation of your dish. They make everyone feel really cared for, and they do it in an easy, relaxing way.
Divine FSW has a minimalistic, upscale-casual vibe with high ceilings and lots of textures – white gallery walls, fabric, brick and wood all add to the aesthetic. All of the artwork is meaningful and personal to the team. Kintz’s late father’s paintings are on display, surrounded by a stunning collection of Don Drumm originals. Photos of rockstars by local photographer Nate Burrell cover one whole wall, and the purple water vases were custom made by local glassblower Mark Wentz.
Cornelius’s food menu is all made from scratch and features some refreshing takes on Akron’s favorites. The most popular items are their signature Shrimp Divine and a 16-ounce ribeye steak. The burgers are served with freshly baked challah buns, housemade pickles and sides of truffle fries. Other dishes include smoked kielbasa-stuffed “sauerkraut bombs,” crispy brussels sprouts and daily specials.
My personal favorite was the pappardelle bolognese, which is made with fresh pasta from Ohio City Pasta. The sauce was amazing, and it came with a bright, fresh salad.
Kintz and Frank decided on the name Divine because “the right place came around at the right time — it was like divine intervention.”
It was perfect timing two years ago when they began plans, and despite setbacks from stay-at-home orders and curfews, everything still fell into place.
While it’s harder now than ever to see into the future, the team at Divine FSW is still looking forward to it. For now, they’re settling into their management positions and building up a small, tight-knit staff. They’re excited to fill the space in the neighborhood that Rockne’s left, and hope to become a new local favorite.
Judging by the way things are going so far, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
Emily Anderson has proudly been working in Akron restaurants for the last 14 years.