Ryan: Taking the High Road
The self-professed non-tailgater answers our questions about getting eliminated in the tailgating challenge.
Bravotv.com: First for the Quickfire - what do you think the most important part was to be successful in the beer challenge?
I think it was actually using beer in the challenge. Some people weren't using it and my main component was [the beer.] I think using beer was the biggest thing.
Bravotv.com: Wine pairing is obviously very traditional. Is beer pairing becoming more important?
I think it's key especially with ... beers are beginning to be, not [complex], but they're really balanced, and they really have a lot of things going on. ... For instance you can do fish and chips and put beer in your batter. I think it's great to pair it with the same beer. I think pairing beer is not even up and coming, it's probably out there full force. It's just that we don't see it.
Bravotv.com: How familiar were you with Koren Grieveson, the guest judge?
I actually was. When I was in Chicago I staged all around, which means I basically interned for free at about five or six restaurants and Avec and Blackbird, and her restaurant, which is Avec. I had the opportunity to stop by and actually -- I spent most of my time at Blackbird -- but I did have the opportunity to know who she was. Anyone in Chicago who doesn't know who she is, is crazy. That woman is so talented. As soon as I walked in, I saw beer and I saw her, I thought "Blackbird." Sweetheart too by the way, really nice.
Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination Challenge -- what was your inspiration or thought process for creating your dish?
Apparently it was California tailgate .... I think the emphasis, if I can remember what I said well enough, was I wanted to take aspects of a burger and do different dishes with that. There's the bun and the protein and so on. So I wanted to actually take the bread aspect and do a salad out of it. And then I wanted to take the meat alone instead and have it stand alone as a protein. So, I think that was my emphasis -- not deconstructing -- [actually,] deconstructing what a burger was and do it in two different forms -- a salad and a protein. As funny as it sounds, people were going apes*** over it, and apparently they weren't.
Bravotv.com: California tailgate -- do you go often? No. No I don't go often. I'm the least sport fan you're ever going to meet. Honestly, it's really funny, a lot of my friends they'll ask me, "Who are 'Refrigerator Perry' or 'Lenny Dykstra?'" I mean I know I know a lot about sports -- you're not going to find me on a Sunday sitting down going to a tailgate. I got Giants tickets last Thursday and I gave them away .... Unless there's a lot of beer, you're not going to get me there. I am a sports fan -- I find it great what they do. I think it's phenomenal .... I just wanted to do my flair. And I think what Top Chef is about is putting your own interpretation and your own spin on the food. But apparently my own interpretation which was bringing a different aspect and trying to, I think what I tried to do was give them a whole meal at my station, which was a protein, a starch, which was my salad, and a dessert. And to top it off, I tried to give a drink. And it was going big. Sometimes going big will shoot you in the ass. All in all, I was extremely happy with it. I think what I remember well enough was, what they were saying was it wasn't tailgate food. They weren't killing the food .... I didn't go tailgate -- I went high-end tailgate.
Bravotv.com: What was the experience like of having so many fans coming to try your food? You seemed to try to want to entertain them -- is that part of being a chef to you?
I think so. A key ingredient of my restaurant that now has closed was the fact that people did eat at my restaurant for the food, but if they can say "Hi" or you can come out and shake a hand with somebody, that's part of the game. Especially being out in the open like that, it's part of the deal. Chefs are rock stars these days and people want to say "Hi" to them and want to meet them. And if you can bring somebody over and tantalize them by saying "Hi," ... then that's quite the deal. I'm all about front of the house, back of the house and a chef that works a restaurant, I love. And I love going to a place -- I still remember when I was a kid the chef used to come out and said "Hi" to the table, and I still remember that years and years and years later. And that was a huge impact on my life. I think that's great. I think that's definitely a part of being a chef these days is working the dining room.
Bravotv.com: Did you ever consider using the charcoal grill like Mark did? There's no way in hell I was using that charcoal grill. Mark was just like, "I'm gonna do it, mate." I was three-quarters done with my mise en place and having everything ready and he was just getting his flame up. It was completely ballsy and I respect and adore Mark and I think he's a great chef. There's no way Mark could've gone home just for that. I think that was great. I'm all about gas. I'm all about what can turn up really quick, turn over with, and have a nice day. I'm not lazy -- I'm just not going to sit there and light charcoal. That's just not my thing. I live in San Francisco, so gas is easy.
Bravotv.com: Are you familiar with Chef Kahan -- what did you think of him as judge for this challenge? It was really cool. One thing I found out coming to Chicago was the people I was expecting was the Trotters and definitely Paul Kahans. So, when I saw him, I was stoked. ... Basically what I did was and what I feel was important in my culinary career is an apprenticeship. When you go to school to be a doctor, you do seven years of internship. I had an opportunity to travel, so what I thought was, "I'm going to go knock on all these chefs' doors whom I've always wanted to work for and spend two or three days to week with them, or however long they'll let me have." There were so many restaurants I got a chance to stop at, even Rick Bayless's, and I also met Paul Kahan. When I met Paul, I'd never met a nicer or more humble chef. He opened my eyes to a whole different genre of culinary artistry. Paul never raises his voice, he's really casual with his chefs, and he tells everybody to call him Paul. He basically set the stage for me to know there are great chefs out there who don't have to have the old school mentality, and I was honored. He took me under his wing, and took me to do a fund-raiser up in Chicago, and was just an all-around great guy. He showed me you don't have to do things the old, classic way. You know, when people think of what chefs are, they think they're all like Gordon Ramsay. He's the anti that, in clothes, and he actually made me want to keep cooking, because he made me realize you can reach success and still stay humble.
Bravotv.com: What did you think of the other dishes? Were you surprised that you went home over say Mark (messy grill) and Nikki (ran out of food)? What that comes down to is that it was definitely their choice. They said Mark was messy with his grill, and I think they said Nikki ran out of stuff, and they chose me, but really, any three of us could have gone home that night. Honestly, I think that was the first time in the show that all the bottom three had a viable possibility of going home. I took a totally different route, Nikki ran out of stuff, and I went home. You know, It happens.
Bravotv.com: Would you have done anything differently? If so, what? I would have done a f*ckin' burger! I would have done what Antonia said! I was cooking next to Antonia, and Tom comes up and says, "Who are you cooking for?" And Antonia says, "I'm cooking for fat guys." If I had known a burger could have slid me through to another episode, well, actually, you know what? That wouldn't have been me. This is me, and America can think of me whatever they want to think of me, but you know what? I'm a California boy. I cook quick, I cook simple, and I cook clean. I don't think it was very off the wall, compared to any other dishes, it just wasn't Chicago tailgate.Bravotv.com: How was your experience? How has life changed since the show has aired? I can't walk down the street in San Francisco, that's for sure. I'm honestly blown away by how many people watch Top Chef. I was at the grocery store the other day because I needed instant coffee to make a dessert, and a lady came up to me and said, "So what's the challenge?" And I mean, I looked horrible. I haven't gotten my hair cute in a while, I've got a beard, and I'm surprised by how many people recognize me. I've taken more photos, and signed so many autographs, and it feels so great. Every time I go anywhere, people know me. I was pumping gas the other day, and a lady stopped and said hi. You know, it's nice! I tried to go to a club the other night just to take some time out and relax a little bit, and it was probably the dumbest thing I could have ever done. It was just photos all over, but I'm so honored, and I'm so glad that people like me. This show didn't show anything other than who I am, so if people want to meet me, what a cool honor! I love it to death...
Bravotv.com: Not sure if you heard, but When Rick Bayless was on the show he had a few choice words about you. Care to respond? When you go into these situations and you go into so many different people's kitchens, what you're wanting to do is not get in somebody's way. You stay out of the way, you try to ask questions, and first of all, it's humbling that these people actually let you come in, and that their cooks will spend time to teach you on their time. I did have an opportunity to work there, and he had a misinterpretation of who I am. I can't do anything about that. I apologize, but that's a huge misinterpretation. It was one of many stops that I had, and I enjoyed it. It was a great meal.
Bravotv.com: Where can your fans see you? What are you up to now? I'm going crazy to try to get my own restaurant open. There's a restaurant in San Francisco I've been developing for the past year and a half, and now that we have people calling us, it's kind of nice. We're putting offers in at places in San Francisco, I'm in the process of trying to finish up my business license for Ryan Scott To Go, which is my own consulting company, which should be active in the next 40 days. There are numerous offers that have come through that I would definitely entertain, like TV offers and whatnot, but I hope, by year's end, that my own restaurant is open. But, offers are still coming in, and I'm looking at anything and everything that's out there. I truly believe that you can't limit yourself.
The restaurant will be California cuisine. California is my home, it's where I was born and raised, and it's not only indicative of who I am as a person, but my cooking style as well. I think California can be many different genres in terms of what you want to call it, but I think it boils down to being simple, clean and fresh. It's just not perplexed. I cook from my heart, and I put it on the plate and you know what? People love it. They're just not tailgaters.
Bravotv.com: Anything else you'd like to add? I had a blast in Chicago. What a huge honor to be there. I looked around and I was like, "If I go home tonight, not only have I come so far, but I'm on the greatest cooking show on TV, and I've made it almost halfway. What a great opportunity." And then I look up, and there's the guy who actually gave me the inspiration to keep cooking, and to get knocked off by him was almost kind of bittersweet. What a great step towards the next step in my career. I would have loved to stay longer, but it happened, and you can't go back.
I'm very happy, and I'm enjoying the hell out of San Francisco. It's an interesting market right now. I don't know what's going on with the economy, but we're definitely not feeling it in California. You know, we'll see. We've been looking at companies a lot, and we actually put offers in for two in the last couple days. If it's not in California, it's just not home.
For more info on Ryan, go to myspace.com/chefryanscott or find him on Facebook.