Ryan Kirby is the executive chef of Nitty Gritty. A dedicated member of the Chef’s Roll community, Chef Ryan recently took home top honors in our “Everyday Spiceology” contest. In this interview, he gives us a bit of insight into his journey and passion for cooking.
Tell us about your background – How did you get started in culinary?
I am the Culinary Director/Executive Chef for The Nitty Gritty Restaurant Group and Cluck in Madison Wisconsin.
I got my start in the culinary industry as a dishwasher. The Chef and owner of the restaurant really sparked my interest and my desire to be a Chef. He enjoyed cooking. It wasn’t a job to him and it showed through his food and the atmosphere of the restaurant. I have worked in supper clubs, fine dining, sports bar and grill, and high volume fast casual.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have encountered in your career?
Moving my family to a new city for a job was definitely one of the biggest challenges. Of course, most recently, dealing with all the challenges in the industry over the past few years has been incredibly tough. A pandemic, the shutdown of our entire industry, supply chain shortages, government/state/local mandates. It has really taught me how to think on the fly and to constantly adapt and evolve with the changes.
How do you describe your relationship with cooking? What are your goals?
Cooking is my passion. I love being in the kitchen at work and at home. It is nice to do something you love for a living! As for the future, I just want to continue to grow.
You have been a part of the Chef’s Roll community for a while. What do you like about Chef’s Roll?
I love everything about it. The recipe competitions keep my creative juices flowing; the new products, all the content from Chef Mikel; it all provides tons of inspiration! Following Chef’s Roll has also helped me make a lot of connections with chefs across the country.
How long have you been a Spiceology customer? What spices do you use every day?
Since September 2017. I actually just looked back on my social media feed and the quote was “Peace out @mccormickspice there’s a new spice in town”. I use their products in everything all the spices I use in the kitchen come from Spiceology.
Some of my favorites are: Oh Canada, Maui Wowee, SPG, Nashville Hot, Black and Bleu, Greek Freak, Poulet Epices, Maple Bourbon, and Honey Habanero.
What advice do you have for chefs who feel like they’re in a rut in their career?
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Think outside the box.