Bryan Ramos, New Executive Chef of The Office, "I Had my So-Called Dream Job, but I Realized it Wasn't What I Wanted in Life"
While they sure know how to cook up a damned good meal, chefs tend to be an eclectic group with widely ranging talents and interests.
Some are into music; others are into the visual arts; and a few even have some scientific degrees up their sleeves.
For example, newly appointed executive chef Bryan Ramos of the Office has also held the title Petroleum Geology Monitor.
We recently spoke to him about his hopes and dreams for the Office, his experience working on oil rigs out in the Gulf, and what it's like to come back to the kitchen after venturing out into another field.
Clean Plate Charlie: When did you take over as executive chef at the Office?
Ramos: I've been executive chef since January, but I started in October. I was actually brought on as sous chef, and the position fell into my lap when the former executive chef moved onto bigger, better things. I was in the right place at the right time.
You worked in petroleum geology for a while. How did you get back into cooking?
I've been cooking in restaurants since I was 15. I went to culinary school, then I went back to school to get my masters in geology. I had my so-called dream job, but I realized it wasn't what I wanted in life. So, I came back to restaurants. I started working for a company called Chartwells that specializes in corporate dining accounts for everything from corporate campuses to universities. I graduated from FAU. When I was looking to get back into culinary, I applied for a position with Chartwells on the campus. I thought it was cool to work where I graduated.
What exactly did you do on the rigs?
I was a petroleum geology monitor on oil rigs. Basically, I'd check the parameter pressure, casing integrity, and things like that to make sure no disasters or blow-outs would happen. I'd report back to clients to let them know about the wells.
You said you realized it wasn't what you wanted in life. Why was that? Were you in the industry during the Deepwater Horizon incident?
I was still finishing school during Deepwater. Something like that shouldn't have happened in the first place; one of the main reasons I left was that, considering that just happened, it still felt like companies are more concerned with making money than anything else. They try, but not as much as they could.
We've heard some reports from fishermen about deformed shrimp and other seafood coming from the Gulf. Have you seen or heard anything about it?
I haven't personally seen anything, but I read the news and I've seen the pictures on websites. You're pumping millions of gallons of oil, which shouldn't be there in the first place, and then chemical dispersants; it can't be healthy. Like Fukushima, it's got to be going some place. But, you've got to eat, right? It's part of life now, even though you don't want it to be.
Well, that's sort of depressing, but we get what you mean. Onto lighter subjects: What changes, if any, have you implemented at the Office since taking over?
I just want to take everything to the next level, make everything more visually appealing, like a 'bigger and better' sort of thing. I'm making little tweaks on the menu with existing items to make them bigger. I'm doing lunch and dinner specials everyday, some will make it to the next menu change, hopefully.
In terms of the style of food served, how does it fit into what you're used to cooking?
It's American gastropub. To me that means things like meatloaf, burgers, seafood, chicken, and steaks. The U.S. is made up of immigrants, so I'm trying to combine different flavors and techniques. I recently started doing Chilean sea bass over Israeli couscous with sauteed spinach, and an Asian lemongrass glaze, combining everything together for a dish that's American, but also introduces guests to other cuisines. I really like to eat steakhouse cooking with meats, mashed potatoes, veggies, and things like that. All of the restaurants I've worked at have been traditional steakhouses with fresh seafood and a bit of a Caribbean feel.
In which restaurants did you work previously?
I started off at Turnberry Isle as a nighttime graveyard cook, but I had to leave because I was going to school. I went to Flanigans for a while, then I went to the Diplomat, which was awesome. After that I got a chance to go to move to Sarasota for the Longboat Key Club. I really learned to mix different flavors there by making things more palatable; I learned the most there. The resort had six concepts in addition to hosting special events and banquets. I had the chance to work at different restaurants with a wide variety of cooking. Then I moved to Boca for school, and here I am.
Why would you tell readers to visit the Office?
It's a cool place to come hang out; it's a prime location; the food, I think, is amazing; and we do all kinds of specials. For St. Paddy's day we're doing corned beef and cabbage all weekend.
The Office is located at 201 E. Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach. Call 561-276-3600, or visit theofficedelray.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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