THE RIEL PROJECT…


Meet Ryan Lachaine… he’s either:
(a) a masochist
(b) a hockey player
(c) a chef
(d) all of the above

Judging by what I know of Ryan, he’s definitely a chef (a damn good one at that) and from what I’ve been told, he’s also a former hockey player… both of which probably make him at least slightly masochistic… so he’s an anomaly. I’m going with (d) all of the above.

Before deciding to make the leap of opening his first restaurant, Riel, Ryan worked for many of Houston’s great chefs including Bryan, at both Stella Sola (RIP) and most recently at Reef. I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan very soon after Bryan and I started dating… not here in Houston, but at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. I swear not every story starts that way, even though it may seem as such.

Bryan and I have both enjoyed Ryan’s company then and still do to this day. His stories are always entertaining and his charisma is irrefutable and we haven’t even started talking food yet. Some of my favorite dishes have come from Ryan over the years. He was kind enough to help us launch our non-profit, the Southern Salt Foundation, last year and course he served was amazing plus I still miss the charred rice dish he created at Reef years ago.

We are both very happy and excited for him as he embarks on this new chapter as an executive chef of his own restaurant which we frequently visit and has since been nominated for many awards including several culture map Tastemaker Awards (which Bryan’s emceeing again this year!!).

It was on our first of many visits when I thought, why not document a chef as he opens his very first, highly anticipated restaurant! The story of Riel doesn’t end there however, his talent is matched by the team working their asses off on the line, including his sous chef, EJ Miller (also nominated for a Tastemaker Award) as well as Riel’s front of the house lead and general manager, Chris Fleischman; who’s ability to recommend wine has never disappointed us… In fact I might be guilty of pouting when those newly recommended wines are 86’ed.

As much as I would love to sit here and reminisce about food and talk about wine, especially as I’m currently starving and trying to quite the hanger with a bag of white cheddar Boom Chicka Pop, I would much rather let Ryan’s and Riel’s story be told more by photographs and less by words.

The first installment of many… unfortunately these have been sitting on my hard drive as they were shot prior to super bowl… an event I’m still playing catch up from. Happy Monday!?  I give you an intro a project I’m incredibly excited about, one that will be beautifully chaotic… you know, REAL.

I DON’T THINK THERE’S ANY CHEF THAT IS BORN GREAT, LIKE IN MUSIC OR IN SPORTS. YOU HAVE TO BURN YOURSELF… MESSING UP MAKES YOU A BETTER CHEF.DAIVD CHANG
So, over the next several months, year… maybe longer, we’ll see where this project takes us… I will document the lovely humans that make up Riel. The sweet bartender behind the bar that always puts up with my non-stop dribble when it’s been a rough week, the amazing GM, Chris, who never disappoints when suggesting a new wine and who, by the way, also still enjoys a blind tasting challenge.

Opening a restaurant is never easy and it doesn’t matter if it is your first or your 100th. It’s incredibly hard work. It’s endless hours. It’s working until 4:09 am just to write lists of  equipment, plates, glasses and cutlery…

It’s trying to find the perfect uniform for your staff that also fits the decor and brand standard even when it isn’t your brand necessarily…

Yet… sometimes, in my case especially, it’s designing website while also designing another concepts website that mysteriously lost it’s hosting during a partner “divorce”….

It just boils down to one simple fact….

IT HAS TO BE DONE… AND NOW.

Because…  it’s not going to get done on it’s own y’all.

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