Interview with 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chef Ryan Smith

June 2012

Katherine Sacks: What inspired you to get into the kitchen?

Ryan Smith: I was 15 and I needed a job. I started washing dishes. I was always kind of intrigued by the chaos of the kitchen; I wanted to get my hands in food. I got a job in Penn State Catering during college and [I] loved learning.

KS: What goes into creating a dish?

RS: A lot of it’s talking with farms and working down a produce list. There is a difference in spending a lot of time on conceptualizing and needing to make a change on day to day availabilities. We try to talk with farmers and ask what they can't get rid [of]. At the end of market on Saturdays the farmers come here and we buy pretty much everything from them.

KS: What else are you doing to run a more sustainable kitchen?

RS: Anything and everything we can do to support the local community. It’s more than terminology; the community is what’s important. Instead of it being a selling point, it should be assumed that’s what we do. We're very active in reaching out to new farms, and we try to give a little to everybody. Farms call us all the time that have 50 pounds and we buy it all to pickle. We also try to take field trips as a staff, to see who is on the other side.

KS: What is the toughest thing you’ve done in your career?

RS: Opening this restaurant. I started here after it was six weeks old; I inherited an open restaurant rather than opening it. It was hard to make it mine at first.

KS: What trends do you see emerging?

RS: I hope it’s independent good food and drink. There are a lot of corporate restaurant groups here. We are a little guy who likes to support the little guys.

KS: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

RS: Wood working. It’s kind of a hobby of mine.