Mike Ryan of Lola



This is part one of Chrissy Wilmes' Chef's Choice profile of chef Mike Ryan of Lola. Part two, a Q&A with Ryan, is here. Part three, a recipe from Ryan, can be found here.

  • Chrissy Wilmes

Some chefs fall in love with cooking early. Mike Ryan's infatuation came later - the aftershock of what began as an arranged marriage rather than an organic romance. Ryan's father oversaw restaurants for Marriott, and politely suggested he take a position as a short order breakfast cook. "It's something that I was kind of forced to do at first," explains Ryan, "but, I grew to like it."

Ryan later attended culinary school at Forest Park Community College, and travelled to New Orleans in 1987 for an externship at Commander's Palace. There, he learned to prepare authentic Creole dishes - an experience that's served him well as executive chef at Lola (500 North 14th Street, 314-621-7277).

In July of 2010, Ryan took over the executive chef position of the then six-month-old French Creole restaurant. He was faced with the challenge of enlivening an established menu. "They had a pretty good following with what they were doing already, so I didn't want to mess with that too much." Yet, Ryan wanted to compensate for the lack of Creole presence on the menu."I tried to give it a little more Creole flair."

Mike Ryan preparing red beans and rice - CHRISSY WILMES
  • Chrissy Wilmes
  • Mike Ryan preparing red beans and rice

When he's not re-working his menu and toiling over specials and perfecting traditional red beans and rice, Ryan's busy being a dad. He has his work cut out for him -- "I have a ten year old that's in fourth grade, I have a three year old that's in day care, and I've got an eighteen week old. I have my hands full. On my days off, I'm taking care of the kids."

Ah, the life -- having a chef for a parent. Gut Check strongly doubts those boys ever get the blue box blues.

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