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Getting Wild With Chef Ryan!

Tell us a bit about your life pre-@chefryan85?

Before I decided to become a Chef I had my intentions set in becoming an Architect! All through high school I did my design classes and that was my focus. My careers councillor gave me the wrong advice for year 12 subjects and it turned out I would have been at Uni for 10 years to get where I wanted to be. I did childcare for 2 years out of high school, and cooked dinner for my family every night as they finished work late! Decided to give cheffing a go and havent looked back! I worked for 5 years as Sous Chef at CANVAS restaurant in Hawthorn, where we were awarded a chefs hat for 3 years running, serving amazing Moroccan / Middle Eastern food. I learnt my craft off Pierre Khodja, an incredible French/Algerian Chef!

What made you decide to become a chef? Did you ever think you would make it this far? 

My parents both had late finishing jobs so I was in charge of cooking family dinners every night so I began experimenting with flavours and ingredients and fell in love with hearing and seeing their reactions, so I decided to give it a go as a career!

Three biggest challenges of running your own kitchen?

- Having a product that's consistent is the biggest challenge. If a customer loves a dish when they visit, it should taste and look the same each and every time they return!

- Keeping your staff motivated and on top of their game 7 days a week. Understanding that every chef you are in charge of gets motivation in different ways; some need nurturing and others need to be told sternly - you have to get to know your chefs individually and let them into your “kitchen family”. When chefs are comfortable they are your greatest asset.

Trust in others to produce your product. In my early days as head chef I wanted to do EVERYTHING! But you can't... You will just burn out! You have to learn to trust and train your chefs to help you. Behind every great chef is an amazing team.

Three highlight moments of your journey so far?

Earning the 3 chefs hats at Canvas and being in charge of the kitchen for 2 of them! So much pressure but so much satisfaction at the same time.

 Discovering healthy food and self educating myself in the field. This basically was the moment I saw myself as a chef and discovered my niche and passion was teaching people that healthy food can still taste incredible.

 Deciding to take the Tall Timber head chef position. After 3 years at TT I was able to earn the trust and respect of the owners to have them allow me join their group and move into ownership - something I will always be grateful for! 

What does a typical day in the kitchen/office look like for you?

5:30am alarm... I generally wake up after the 3rd or 4th alarm, haha! Then head to work, have a coffee and setup for service. Catch up with the other chefs, put some music on, have a laugh and get ready to please the customers! Then I wrap up service at 3pm, clean up, sit down and chat to the chefs, organise the next days prep and ordering, then do the business side of things before heading home at 6pm. Relax and unwind, spend time with family/ the girlfriend, do my emails and social media then head to bed at 10:30pm!

Your day on a plate? 

Starts with a coconut Latte, some Wild Muesli and fruit, then it generally consists of picking through service, as I don’t get time for a proper lunch. I like to cook my chefs a nice lunch as a thankyou for their work and effort. Then black iced coffee at the end of service and generally loads of veggies for dinner!

Favourite form of exercise?

I really love the bootcamps at Premium Performance Studio in South Yarra by former Winter Olympian Steph Prem! And I love taking the dog for a walk at night time... quiet streets, perfect thinking time!

A Piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without?

I love the Mortar and Pestle. The BEST piece of equipment and underused in most kitchens. Instead of putting marinades and sauces in a blender, use the mortar and pestle to grind the flavours and fragrances into each other!

Favourite wild blend/recipe?

The cacao and berry Granola, looks incredible on a plate and tastes amazing! Add it to a bircher dish with some poached fruit and let the “wild” textures bring the dish to life!

Favourite way to relax and combat stress?

Spending time with family, friends and loved ones.. as a chef you generally miss out on all the big family events etc due to work, so you gotta make the most of the opportunities with your loved ones when you get them! 

Three people who inspire you?

Pierre Khodja, my chef at Canvas, has a way of producing “love on a plate” which is what I'm constantly trying to achieve.

The customers are the ones who should inspire every chef. They are the people you work your ass off to please and they are the ones who chose you to spend their hard earned wages to cook for them; so that makes them your everything. Without them, as a chef, you are nothing.

Myself. It might sound strange, but I'm a solid believer in the fact that you need to inspire yourself from within if you are ever going to achieve your dreams. I'm all for people seeking inspiration to find their place in life, but once you have found that, it's up to you to inspire yourself to be the best you can be.

We know you have just started Left Field and that’s taking up all of your time and head space right now, but, what's next for you? 

 We plan on having another couple of cafes opened up in the next few years, so that’s exciting. I plan on taking a step back from head cheffing and becoming an Executive Chef, whilst training younger chefs to take the next step in their careers and building their self belief.

I also want to release a book in that time, dedicated to my grandmother who passed away last year. She was an inspiration to me in my career and so she would have been so proud to have read my story in a book I wrote.

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