This past Sunday, my good friend Ryan Stupka stopped by my studio to get some updated photos for social media and to have some stock style photos for online and print publications.
Ryan is currently Executive Chef @ The Tavern Kitchen and Bar in St. Louis' Central West End. The Tavern uses only the highest-quality ingredients, as well as source produce from local farms wherever possible and choose premium cuts of meat and fresh fish from carefully selected suppliers.
I have known Ryan for several years, and although we haven't been in daily, or heck, even monthly contact for a few years, we picked up conversation as if we'd seen each other just a few days ago. Ryan and I met back in 2011 when he was working at Fox's Pizza Den in Ellisville, MO. We actually worked together for just under a year (long story that I won't get into). After Fox's, Ryan really started to explore his culinary future. Below is a summary of Ryan's culinary education and history.
Ryan began his culinary adventure when he was 13 @ Charlotte's rib bbq. Followed shortly after by his start at Fox's pizza den. Ryan's interest for cooking was sparked by bbq competitions like the KC royal and not only the competitiveness behind it but also the different smells and flavors and techniques teams would use for different outcomes on smoked meats. This soon led to his attendance at Forest Park for culinary school which gave him the fundamentals to get to where he currently is in his professional career. During school, Ryan began working at the Tavern Kitchen and Bar West County under Chef Justin Haifley who was his mentor for 3 years.
"He was the one that taught me you can make a living through cooking but also instilled a lot of beliefs I still hold true. Such as, "everyone who eats here is a guest, not a customer, treat them like they are walking into your house and always go the extra mile for them." Also the quoted, "think outside the box."". Ryan said.
After 3 years there Ryan moved on to the Legends Country Club. This club was fairly new and Ryan's mentor there was Chef Carson Burks. Over time, Ryan and Chef Burks pushed each other in the kitchen to get better and the mentor-ship turned into a great friendship. "He was one that always pushed me to achieve my goals and was adamant about knowing my goals. Since day 1 in that kitchen I told him I wanted to work at a Michelin Star restaurant as well as Thomas Keller being my cooking idle.", noted Ryan. Since then, Ryan has worked not only in Michelin star restaurants but one of Thomas Kellers. Ryan was then graced with the opportunity to stage at Alinea in Chicago with Chef Grant Achatz for a short time. When he was there they were put back on top as the number one restaurant in the world. If you need to re-read that last sentence, the important part was "the number one restaurant in the world." The FREAKING WORLD!!!!!
Shortly after, Ryan was flown out to Napa Valley to complete stage shifts at the iconic French Laundry. Even though Chef Thomas Keller was not there because he was up in New York receiving Michelin stars for the sister restaurant Per Se, Ryan still got a wonderful experience out of it. Ryan is currently the Executive Chef of The Tavern Kitchen and Bar CWE with his sights set on striving to be better each day. The next goal would be to achieve a James Beard Award.
From everything I know about Ryan, he will achieve his goal as a James Beard Award Winner. Ryan knows food, he knows how to use food to create not only a full stomach, but an entire experience around what it is that brings us all together. He is clearly on his way with his most recent accolade, 2017 Best Brunch - The Tavern CWE.
Do yourself a favor and go check Ryan out on his socials linked below. But, more importantly, go get yourself a reservation @ The Tavern Kitchen and Bar CWE and experience the food that Ryan and his team perfectly showcase at their open kitchen concept dining room which brings the energy and excitement of an award-winning kitchen front and center. Engage your senses with the sights, sounds, and aromas of artistic food preparation from a spot in their elegant dining room or a perch at their cozy bar. Either way, you’ll enjoy pretense-free dining at its finest.