Text by Mary-Kate Sherer
Blending the flavors of two cultures into a unified dish—it’s a skill that takes many chefs years to develop while others are born with the natural ability. Chef Ryan Andre falls into the latter category. “My earliest memory is playing with my toys in my room and my mom calling me to the kitchen to taste if the seasoning needed to be changed in the sauce,” he recalls. It may be a softer start than you’d expect from a guy who tattooed “chef” on his arm before he even was one, but growing up with a part-Sicilian mother and a French father is why a gumbo of flavors runs through the veins of this Gonzalez, Louisiana, native. Never underestimate the influence of a mom armed with a Dutch oven and a flavorful recipe for deer meat sauce piquant or a father with a skillet full of court bouillon. “I adapted my taste for flavors from both of them because they were both great cooks,” Ryan explains. “What I enjoyed eating growing up is what I enjoy cooking now.”
The food he enjoys cooking now is what Baton Rouge locals enjoy eating. Ryan’s “traditional Southern fare with a progressive international flare” garners high praise and return customers—good luck finding a parking spot at City Pork Brasserie & Bar during lunch or dinner. He was named a 2012 Chef to Watch by our sister magazine Louisiana Cookin’, and has been featured on multiple TV shows. From childhood afternoons watching his mother stand over a skillet of chicken spaghetti to busy days at City Pork, Ryan has paid his dues all over Baton Rouge to New Orleans and back. After picking up pocket change working at fast food joints in high school, he started work at J. Alexander’s to help pay for college. “After my first semester, I dropped out because I knew I wanted to work in restaurants.”
While blazing through the Louisiana Culinary Institute (he graduated valedictorian) Ryan was recruited to work at Commander’s Palace, an elite restaurant in New Orleans that has been the springboard for chefs like Emeril Lagasse. By the time he graduated, Ryan was fielding calls from multiple Baton Rouge restaurants asking him to run their kitchens. After stints at Mandina’s Restaurant, Stroubes, and Capitol City Grill, a return to Commander’s Palace,
and acting as the opening executive chef at Le Creole, Ryan was approached by restaurateur Stephen Hightower to launch City Pork Brasserie & Bar.