Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Oui Chef

Posted: November 27, 2013 in Food, Lifestyle, Personal, Uncategorized

I remember working as a young cook in Chicago. I really didn’t know much and  just wanted to learn more about food. And I knew I wanted to work for the best.
Everyone talked about this one restaurant. (Mostly the older chefs) a French restaurant in a suburbs, with a French Chef named Banchet

They talked about how that restaurant changed the way Chicago thought about dining and food. I made it my goal to work under him at  Le Francais….but
they told me I couldn’t. Because Banchet no longer had the restaurant and was retired, my hopes and dreams were crushed. 

But then one day in 1999 the news broke that Chef Jean Banchet was coming back to Chicago to take over Le Francais again. This was my chance. A once in a life time opportunity to work for a chef with such linage that ties to Chefs like Fernand Point and Paul Bocuse. 

A friend help me set up an interview with Banchet. I put on my best JC penny suit and told my mom I was going on an interview in Wheeling, and also asked her where wheeling was. 

And next thing I knew… a legend was sitting across from me telling me all about the restaurant .

He said; “I like you Reon”. ( His broken English on how to pronounce Ryan)
“If you want the job it’s yours. It pays 6.25 and you will work 6 days a week, and I want you to stay for more then a year.”  

I said “Yes!!” before he could even finish. I was now a cook for Jean Banchet at Le Francais.

I still to this day remember the smells of walking into the kitchen, the flavors of the sauces we used to make. The roasting of meats and the classic presentations, letting the flavor of the food speak for itself.

He was a master of French food and this was like my bachelor degree in Classic French cooking. The things I learned in that kitchen behind those walls would shape me to be the cook I am today.  I could not have worked at the French Laundry with out going through the gauntlet of Jean Banchet first. He whipped me into shape, taught me the classics, and showed us all what it takes to be a great cook.

I remember later in life after I left when I was traveling, I would call him just to chat and ask advice. He was always happy to talk. Even though our conversations were short, he always said a lot to make me think.

When I opened Butter, my first chef job, he randomly stopped in one day to check the place out ( that’s what he said)…but I knew was there to make sure I was ok. 

He told me he was so proud of the cook I had become. I will never forget that day. He walked in the dining room with a smile ear to ear and just said; “Hello Reon”.

I only hope I learned enough from him, I wish I could have asked more questions during our time together, but one thing I will never forget is how he put me on the proper road to become successful by teaching us how to cook things the right way.

You will be missed Chef, but what you left behind is enough for 100 lifetimes.



My Next Steps

Posted: October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

I remember my first day in a kitchen, there was so much work to do and the day flew by. And at that moment I knew that I wanted to be a cook.

 I can still remember walking into The French Laundry in the mornings and inhaling the smell of veal stock, tasting sauces with Jean Banchet, and making ice cream with the pastry team at Can Roca.

 These memories make up what it means to me to be a cook, and at the end of the day that’s what I aspire to be…just a solid cook that will help other young chefs make memories on their journeys.

 It’s true that life can pass you by and you can get lost in the shuffle if you don’t stop and enjoy it once in a while.

 Thats where i feel like now, like I’m getting lost. Lost in this race of who can have the most restaurants, or how many can we open in one year.

 What’s wrong with just having one restaurant and making it great?! Facebook and twitter clouds my memories of why I became a cook in the first place which was to learn and provide joy thru food.


 Now it’s time to work on getting back to that place and I’ll do that by spending time with a group of my peers whom inspire me.

 So I’m hitting the road, traveling and staging in innovative kitchens across the country and world.  


I have never been more prepared in my life and I am ready for journey and when I come back to Chicago I hope to inspire my favorite city with all I’ve learned.


After three years of attending the Aspen Food and Wine Fest, I’ve learned to love the fact that you never know who you may bump into.

It almost feels like summer camp, but instead of team sports- we compete with how much pork we can consume at one sitting. (This actually happened between Me Jason Vincent and  Michael Votaggio). My tight jeans are telling me I won.)

This year was a little different. My guy Jason Vincent was named 2013’s Best New Chef and I could not have been happier for the fellow phish fan.

Jason knew I would be at the event, so he asked me if I would help with his tasting on Saturday morning. No brainer. So I joined Danny Grant (best new chef last year) , and Jason Hammel ( LuLa Café)  and it felt more like a party than work.

Food and Wine friends Dana Cowin and Kate Krader stopped by to say hello and Kate marveled at the fact that Chicago was so well represented and that we’d help out our friend at his table.

Team Chicago w/Dana

Team Chicago w/Dana

After the Grand Tasting I high tailed it over to the Jerome hotel to start prepping for my event with Jamie Bissonnette from Toro Restaurant in Boston. The two of us were working a pop-up tapas bar at the Jet Set store hosted by Brady from Cochon 555.

 The turnout was amazing and it would have been a perfect event- except for the fact that the Hawks lost to the Bruins and Jamie wouldn’t let me forget about it.

Sunday kicked off with judging the Cochon 555 event. I got to hang with Jason again and Andrew Zimmern was chatting with us while we all tasted 30 different pork dishes from some of the best Chefs in the country. Yes 30- I disgust even myself sometimes.

The competition was solid and my friend Cosmos from Publican Quality Meats and Missy Robbins were stand-outs for me. (Missy I need that recipe for those meatballs!)

Missy's Dish

Missy’s Dish

Cosmo's dishes

Cosmo’s dishes

 But it was Adam Sobel from Rn74 in San Fran who was crowned The Prince of Pork, and it was a well-deserved win.
adam's dish

adam’s dish

After three days of non stop eating, laughing and having feeling like an old man due to the crazy altitude…I couldn’t wait to come back to Chicago. Cheers Aspen, until next year.

There is a lot of talk right and hot air being blown around Washington about people’s liberty, woman’s rights , guns and marriage.

You can have your opinion and are free to express what you think and believe- after all it’s a free country. BUT SO CAN I!! Muahaha.

But I wanted to show my support for my gay friends more than just by changing my Facebook profile pic to the red and pink equality sign…and we decided brunch was the perfect way to do it.

So I called up some gay friends, and set a date for brunch. Luckily,DJ Megan Taylor agreed to spin brunch tunes and Bacon & H.A.M. brunch at Tavernita was born.

Along with the Hosts & Tavernita Mangers , we came up with the menu and the vibe we wanted to create- which was a fun, and relaxed party with good brunch food.

But we weren’t expecting the turn out to be so incredible. It was INSANE. The place was packed and rockin. Since Nicole from Yacht Club Vodka was the sponsor, Kelli & her passed out sailor hats and everyone they invited and were hopping from table to table saying hello to everyone .

We’re going to do one of these once a month- our goal is to just create a fun and laid back big gay brunch party that anyone feels comfortable attending.








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Django Django

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Lifestyle, Music, Personal, Uncategorized

I think everyone knows that I’m super into music. If I wasn’t a chef, I think I would have been a roadie or bass player or maybe just a groupie somewhere.

So when my friend Graham, who is also into the music scene asked me to check out a new band Django Django with him, I jumped at the chance.

They were playing at one of my favorite places to see a show in Chicago- The Metro and thanks to Graham… we had seats on the balcony next to the stage

They took the stage and after the first song I was hooked.  The band describes their music as; ” Neo-psychedelic, Electronic and Art Rock”-  and in Poli speak- I’d say it’s full of awesome funky dance beats. They sound very similar to Beta Band and Graham said the drummer’s brother founded Beta Band. So looks like he took some tips from his older sibling.

Default, Hail Bop and Waveforms were my favorite songs.  The band all plays different instruments and I think that lends to the unique sound.

Keep your eye in these guys… I think they will be huge really soon. I’m already applying to be a groupie.

Chef Language 101

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Every kitchen has its own tone, and every chef has their own language to communicate with their staff.
here are some funny quotes I’ve picked up over the years, and a decoder to help translate what we actually mean

Oui = Yes chef.


Heard = Understood.


What’s your day look like? = I have extra work for you to do.


Be there in 5 min = More like 45 min.


On my way, you need anything? =I just woke up. Sorry I’m late, I will

buy Starbucks.


Plating beef dish now= It’s still on the grill cooking.


Your pay increase will be in your next check = I forgot to tell the accountant we gave you a raise.


We’re in the shits= Things are almost out of control.


Lobsters were not available today because of bad weather on the east coast = I forgot to order lobsters last night


That’s fine = Get out of my face with that bull shit mis en place.


That’s fine = Go do it again it’s wrong.


That’s fine = I will do it myself the right way.


That’s fine = Sometimes it means just that…fine.


Lets push guys  = Better start moving or I’m going to lose it


Black Bottom Sundea

If you try one dessert at Little Market this has to be it.

It’s a warm brownie with two brandied cherries, soft serve ice cream, salted caramel, candied peanuts & two more brandy cherries on the top.

I didn’t find inspiration for this creation while traveling and trying restaurants, and it’s not a play on a childhood favorite- I actually have no idea how I came up with this dish. But I love it. It’s one of my favorite desserts, and the simplicity probably has a lot to do with it.

we started with the ice cream, who dosent love soft serve, Grace added the peanuts and caramel, but the kicker is the cheries, makes it kind of an adult sundea!

Salty, sweet, warm, crunchy, liquor- it appeals to every sense of taste. (Ok so I added the liquor part)

And as I sat enjoying one of these bad boys post friends and family service….I realized that most of Little Market’s menu has this same theme- be simple and be awesome

I dont want you to like this post on FB, I don’t want you to respond, i dont want you to tweet or retweet – I just want you to think.

Yesterday on my walk to work I saw a homeless man eating out of a garbage can, and at first it didn’t really register.
I’ve almost become immune to all the homeless people begging around Chicago. But this man was different, he was minding his own business, not asking for anything. Just looking for food.

My second reaction was reaching in my pocket and pulling out all the money I had on my at the time -only six dollars- because I don’t really carry cash on me. I walked over and said; “Excuse me sir, please take this and get something to eat.”
That was it.

He said thank you twice and I put my head phones back on and walked to work like I do every morning, trying not to have contact with anyone and oblivious to things around me.That’s my way of telling people I don’t want to be bothered, or I don’t have change or don’t have time for your long story about hard times. I ignore the world by listening to my music. I am sure I am not alone, and I’m not saying its a bad thing. We all get into our zones and want to get from point A to B as fast and efficiently as possible. I went on with the daily rat race of life, doing what I do every day at work. But today was different, today I could not stop thinking about the homeless man eating out of the garbage can. Was six dollars enough? How much food can someone buy with 6 dollars? Someone was so hungry, that their hunger forces them to eat out of the garbage? I am sure this was not the first time I have seen a homeless person, or the first time i have seen someone digging through the garbage, but something was different. Maybe it was my view of life changing, or the fact I am getting older, or maybe this day on my walk, i just stopped and looked around. I don’t know?

We all use the terms; “I’m starving” or I’m so hungry I can eat anything “. But today I saw those phrases come to life. I saw a man so hungry he was eating anything, so starving his animal instinct came out and he was just looking for food.

I can’t stop thinking of him and how I could have helped more.  He was not begging for money or bothering people for change, not trying to run a scam. He was just hungry…maybe I should have walked him over to the restaurant and got him a hot meal and maybe something for him to take with him for later? Why didn’t I?

I take a lot for granted, I have a great family, a good job, and friends I lean on for help and advice. We all do, and I don’t want to get all preachy or make you think I am patting myself on the back for helping a homeless man, thats not my intent. I just don’t think I helped enough, I could have done so much more.

Here is a safe, easy and delicious side dish for all you who are procrastinators (like me) during the holidays.

Don’t be daunted by the ingredients- it’s actually pretty simple to make.

Chef Ryan’s Veggie Cheesy Gratin

 1 cup diced celery root
1/2 cup diced parsley root
1 cup diced parsnips
1 cup diced Yukon potato
1 cup cooked and shelled chestnuts
1 cup diced honey crips apples
1 cup diced butternut squash

Par cook all vegetables in a large pot of salted water separately

 They should be al dente. The potatoes will take longer to cook and the
squash will cook fast. This is the hardest part if the recipe. After the vegetables are cooked is smooth sailing.

Keep warm until needed.

 The cheese sauce:

4 TBSP Flour
5TBSP Butter
4 Cups Milk
2 cups clothbound Chedder Cheese or any strong chedder cheese
Salt fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Melt the butter when hot and bubbly add the flour and make a roux.
Cook the flour butter mixture until is if fully incorporated and
starts to brown. Slowly whisk in the the milk, trying not to make an lumps.

Cook at med heat, stir constantly until thick. Add cheese and bring
back to a boil.  Season with slat and pepper to taste and add nutmeg.

Reserve until needed.

2 1/2 TBSP chopped fresh sage
1 TBSP rosemary chopped
2 TBSP chopped thyme
1 cup Chestnuts diced
1 cup or more Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup diced bacon rendered (optional)

In a large mixing bowl mix all the root vegetable together. Add 3 cups
of the cheese sauce the herbs , nuts and bacon.  Mix well and season with salt and black pepper. Add more sauce if you want it to be creamier.

 Place mixture into a casserole pan and sprinkle bread crumbs over the
top in a even layer.  Place in a broiler on med heat and let brown.

By this time it can be served if its hot. If its not – place in
a 350 oven for 20 min until bubbly and hot in the center.


Total Fakeout

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

I watched “I’m Still Here” over the Thanksgiving weekend and had no idea it was fake.

KZ and I picked it up since she has a small part in the film (and by small I mean .5 seconds) and wanted to check it out.

The breaking down of Joaquin Phoenix was so horrible and depressing- and the use of hard drugs so shocking- that I was blown away.

Turns out I was late to the party- and the thing was totally staged.

Still it made me think differently about actors and Hollywood…it’s a good one to see.