Meet Our Team

At Caffé REL, our staff is more than just a group of employees; they’re a passionate and dedicated family committed to providing you with an exceptional dining experience. Get to know two of our key team members, husband and wife duo Tracy and Katie, who bring their unique backgrounds and enthusiasm to our restaurant.

Bringing Over Three Decades of Culinary Expertise

Tracy Passmore

With a culinary journey spanning 34 years, Tracy has been an integral part of the Highlands dining scene. His impressive career includes working at renowned establishments such as Ristorante Paoletti, Madison’s at Old Edwards, Wolfgang’s, On the Veranda, and a remarkable 16 years at Wild Thyme. His wealth of experience and commitment to fine dining make him an invaluable asset to the Caffé REL team.

When Tracy was ready to take over the reins of the restaurant, Katie was hesitant at first, but the two put their faith in God and took the leap of faith. Tracy has fully immersed himself in learning the unique skills perfected by Chef Richard and wanted to ensure that the tradition of excellence is continued under Tracy and Katie’s new ownership.

A Dedicated Mom Ready to Shine

Katie Passmore

Katie, a devoted mother of five wonderful daughters, was dedicated to being a stay-at-home mom for the last five years. As her youngest daughter transitioned to school, Katie eagerly embraced the opportunity to return to work, making the venture into Caffé REL a perfect fit for their family and their shared passion for culinary excellence.

Katie’s culinary journey began at the age of 12 when she started working at Louie Michaud’s Fine Dining and later at Nick’s Restaurant in Highlands, where she had the pleasure of working alongside Tracy in 1990. Over the years, she continued to explore her love for food and hospitality, including a notable stint at Chadwick’s Restaurant at South Seas Plantation in 1993.

After her experiences in the culinary world, Katie transitioned back to the mountains, commencing a fulfilling 32-year career as a licensed Nail Tech in Highlands. However, the love for fine dining and cherished family moments beckoned her to take a pause and spend valuable years staying at home with her youngest daughters.

In a poignant turn of events, Katie’s late brother, a cherished member of the Caffé REL family, passed away unexpectedly in 2016. The compassionate support Chef Richard provided during this difficult time left a lasting impression on Katie, deepening her admiration for Chef Richard and fostering a deeper connection with Caffé REL.

A Dream Fulfilled

Why Caffé REL?

Tracy and Katie’s journey to Caffé REL was a dream come true. “We have always admired Chef Richard and the restaurant he created,” said Tracy. “In fact, I had a conversation with Chef Richard a few years back about the possibility of him selling the restaurant, but Katie was quick to say no. However, in February of 2023, we took the plunge.”

Chef Richard and Rebecca were willing to sell, but under one condition, Tracy had to spend ample time training alongside Chef Richard to learn the secrets that make Caffe REL great. So Tracy initiated the process of acquiring the restaurant and began his three-month-long culinary training. He honed his skills under the guidance of Chef Richard, as did the restaurant’s Head Chef, Blake Belbac, Sous Chef Bryan Abercrombie, and Assistant Sous Chef, Nate Lewis. The time spent training alongside Chef Richard was integral in ensuring the standard of culinary excellence customers have grown to expect since the restaurant first opened in 2004 remained consistent through the transition in ownership.

Savor the Delights

Favorite Menu Items

“We can’t resist sharing some of our favorite dishes at Caffé REL,” said Tracy and Katie. “For appetizers, we adore the Snails and Tails and the Calamari, which offer a tantalizing start to your meal. When it comes to dinner, the Shrimp and Grits, French Pot Roast, and Pork Osso Bucco are standouts that showcase the Chef’s culinary mastery. And for dessert, the Triple Layer Belgian Chocolate Cake steals our hearts.”

Join us at Caffé REL, where our passion for fine cuisine and dedication to exceptional service come together to create memorable dining experiences for you, our cherished guests. We look forward to welcoming you into our restaurant family!

What Our Customers Are Saying

Based on 1268 reviews
Arctic Ghost
Arctic Ghost
September 17, 2023
I would give them 10 stars if I could. I admin a local foodie group here in Franklin and today was our day to go to Caffe Rel and all I've gotta say is OMG everything that I had or saw come out was amazing. Everyone in the group loved what they had. Big thanks again to everyone at Caffe Rel. If you're coming to visit Franklin I highly recommend you stop in.
Jackie Simms
Jackie Simms
September 13, 2023
I haven't been in several years but I love this restaurant and I'm planning to go again soon!
Christina Sancken
Christina Sancken
September 7, 2023
Delicious food, attentive staff. Will return and recommend to anyone traveling through Franklin!
Mixed up Outdoor Adventures
Mixed up Outdoor Adventures
September 5, 2023
This is by far the best good in Franklin. Well planned and prepared. Delicious.

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Get IN touch

(828) 369-9446

459 East Main Street
Franklin, NC 28734

Visit Us

Great Food in a Gas Station
We are located next to the Hot Spot Gas Station


Tuesday Dinner 4pm-8pm




OPEN Wednesday-Saturday 11am-8pm