Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Barry Frankel
The huge tent glows with soft white light as guests from Delaware to Hawai‘i gather to celebrate the wedding of Kaili Lickle and Jeff Scheer. A moment later, laughter erupts as the bride describes how she was “introduced” to her groom.
“My roommate played matchmaker without even knowing Jeff,” Kaili says, then explains that, on her twenty-ninth birthday, she woke to find a photo of Jeff, shirtless, on the cover of a huge, handmade card that read: “Happy Birthday, Babe.” Her roommate, Krista Newman, had cut the photo out of a 2015 issue of Edible Hawaiian Islands that also featured a close-up of Jeff’s tattooed bicep and pecs on its cover.
“It started as a harmless Instagram crush that I worked up the courage to act on one day . . . with the help of a couple margaritas,” the blushing bride continues. “I messaged him to see if he wanted to get a drink, and the rest is history.”
Standing beside her on the raised dance floor, Jeff flashes his shy smile. He reminds me of a young Robert de Niro (no wonder those muscles made the cover), and a handsome match for Kaili, the Ha‘ikū girl who founded Olympia Activewear, a clothing line that has been featured in Vogue, Elle, Self, Shape, Yoga, Women’s Health and Harper’s Bazaar.
Jeff, too, has had more than a mere taste of success. Raised in Athens, Ohio, he enrolled in Maui Culinary Academy in 2006, while working full-time as a cook at Tommy Bahama. (Who needs sleep?) A few months into the program, he started his own business, Maui Executive Catering, and today is the much-lauded executive chef of The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapū. In 2015, his peers voted Jeff the ‘Aipono Restaurant Awards’ Chef of the Year. Many of them are here tonight to help celebrate his marriage to Kaili. As we gather for the ceremony, friends and colleagues from Beast & Spoon, Smoke and Spice, Outrigger Pizza Company and The Mill House busily prep and plate dishes at their various food stations.
Kahu Carlos Popata, Jeff’s longtime friend from New Zealand, conducts the ceremony, opening with a Maori chant to welcome ancestral spirits.
After the exchange of rings, the kiss and a blessing, we move to the reception area, sampling from a table laden with Jeff’s favorite cheeses, charcuterie and accompaniments: Castelvetrano olives, roasted almonds and walnuts, lychee, mangos, local summer honey, and liliko‘i (passion fruit) preserves. Kaili says, “We wanted the food to reflect how we would normally entertain at home. Food cooked outdoors, or in the wood-fired oven . . . enjoying friends, family, good wine and music . . . you can’t go wrong with that recipe.” (Note to self: Attend more chefs’ weddings!)