Chef Ryan Skeen has earned a reputation as a master of all things pig. And we mean all things pig. Skeen has brought his offal and porcine-heavy flair to Resto and Irving Mill, and is now behind the stove at Allen & Delancey, the Lower East Side hot spot. He took a few moments to answer our questions about his new gig, his influences, and, of course, swine.
Name: Ryan Skeen
Location: Lower East Side
Occupation: Chef, Allen & Delancey
What was your first job in the culinary world? Washing dishes and doing prep at Riccardo's in Portland, Oregon.
Did you ever consider other career paths? If so, what? I thought I wanted to be a writer when I was young--too much reading Kerouac & Bukowski--but by age fifteen or sixteen, I knew I wanted to be a chef.
Who have been your strongest influences over the course of your career so far? Ron Boyd and Daniel Patterson, without a doubt--the way they pushed me and taught me to think about food at Elisabeth. Daniel was eye-opening, and of course Andrew Carmellini, you really learn what being a chef is about working with him.
You just took over the reins in the kitchen at Allen & Delancey. What changes are you bringing to the menu? NO PORK!!! Just kidding. We are going to do a few more pastas, only a couple of pork dishes--but things are going to be a little more refined, and a little more personal than my other menus.
You're known for your love of pork and head-to-tail cooking. Do you work with particular farmers or have a preference for certain breeds of pig? I really like the black pigs from Four Story Hill Farms. The meat is just beautiful, and the fat is incredible.
For those who may be a tad squeamish about eating the more uncommonly presented parts of a pig, what dish do you make that is sure to convert them? A Pork Toast with Caviar & Deviled Egg.
Tell us about your perfect day off in New York. Sleeping in till two in the afternoon, then catching the Cubs game and drinking Mai Tais. That's a close second to taking the train to New Jersey and chasing my son around the park.
Describe your dream New York meal. I would go to Chadwick's Steakhouse in Bay Ridge and have the bone-in shell steak with my girlfriend, Julie Farrias, Nick Morgenstern, and Kenny Addington. It's always an interesting time when you put these people together--especially in public.
Favorite bagel? I don't really eat bagels, so I can't really give you a good response.
Best late-night eats? I used to love this place Yuet Lee in San Francisco, followed up with freshly fried doughnuts from Bob's on Polk St. As far as New York goes, Great NY Noodle Town is always great, except late at night-- they are always out of the BBQ baby pig.
Undiscovered gem? Chadwick's Steakhouse in Bay Ridge. In my opinion, it's the best all-around steakhouse in the city. Great people, and great steaks. I don't know if it's undiscovered, but I think all of Jack Lamb's restaurants deserve a lot more attention. I have always been a fan of Degustation, but I ate at Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar the other night and had a great meal, great service and wines, and it's in my neighborhood.
What's in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? There's really not much in my fridge, except maybe Bud Light. My girlfriend makes me drink it. I think it's a hint that I have been putting on a little too much weight.
Food you won't eat? Rocky Mountain Oyster, Pizzle, etc.; I've tried cooking a lot of strange things, but these are pretty much inedible, in my opinion.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? Nick Morgenstern, or Julie Farrias.
What's the best recommendation he/she has given you? Gilt under Paul Liebrandt. One of the best meals I have ever had. Pretty much made everything else in New York look like child's play.
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