Lick the Plate: Introducing Chef Ryan Coffey from Twenty/20

Lick the Plate: Introducing Chef Ryan Coffey from Twenty/20
From the East Coast to Carlsbad, Ryan Coffey takes over Twenty/20 as sous chef under Executive Chef Julian Quinones. Photo courtesy Twenty/20

This is my second visit to Twenty/20 and first since Ryan Coffey has taken over as sous chef under Executive Chef Julian Quinones.

I did a sampling of his new menu items last week and was impressed by his style. I mentioned this the first time around, yet it’s worth repeating, as Twenty/20 is one of those local resort restaurants that should be put on your dining radar.

The entire team, including Food & Beverage Manager David Putnicki, are all world class.

I sat down with Coffey after our tasting recently to learn more about him and his road to Twenty/20.

Where are you from and what was going on in your food world growing up?

Born and raised on the East Coast just outside of Philadelphia. Parents weren’t the best cooks but my mother did always have dinner on the table every night growing up for us kids. Friday night was always pizza night, which I can remember always being a great experience, most times I was sent to pick up the pizza and to watch the crew working inside the kitchen, sights, sounds, smells I was pretty hooked. Which lead me to my first kitchen job in a small pizzeria/hoagie shop.

You were involved in coaching prior to your culinary career, what influenced your decision to become a chef?

I took up sports management in college and wanted to become a sports agent, football and athletes was always my vision. Started as an assistant in the film room and worked my way up from there. After a playoff loss in 2007 to Joe Flacco and the Delaware Blue Hens I was let go and it was time to rethink my career choice. I turned down a lot of other coaching jobs because I felt like I had lost my drive. I bounced around Delaware working a couple different kitchen jobs before realizing that cooking and food was what I wanted to make my life. I essentially dropped everything and took off to Baltimore to attend culinary school.  It was a great decision as it gave me foundation to build off of. I also made amazing connections at school; some of the instructors to this day are my best friends, mentors, and sounding boards for new ideas. I even met my wife in culinary school.

Take me down the culinary road that led you to Twenty/20 and what restaurants and chefs influenced your culinary style the most?

After culinary school I went to work at Salt Air, a farm to table restaurant that owned and operated the farm that provided a majority of our produce and proteins. It completely changed the way I looked and prepared food. Knowing the efforts that go into not only growing produce but also raising animals made me quickly realize the love, attention, and respect I need to give every ingredient. The first time I burnt bacon from a pig that I had raised almost killed me. I left Salt Air and spent time at Delaware Park Casino, which at first seemed like an amazing job but the grass isn’t always greener so I took my passion back to Baltimore and began consulting. After two very successful consulting jobs I was brought on as the kitchen supervisor at the Baltimore Renaissance. There I was able to blossom under Chef Andrew Gould who allowed me to bring my farm to table passion to the Watertable restaurant. Learning quickly how to elevate “hotel” food and make it so much more. After a brief three month consulting in USVI with Chef Mitch Cooper I was brought on to help re-launch Renaissance Indian Wells specialty restaurant Sirocco. With Marriott and Starwood merging I felt the need to advance my career once more and took on the responsibility of sous chef at the Sheraton Carlsbad resort and spa, with my main focus being Twenty/20. An amazing restaurant, with an atmosphere unlike most hotel restaurants, and food that delivers the California coastal flavors with my focus on peak of freshness. I’ve had the privilege to work for some amazing chefs, and with good reason, I was taught in school it’s not always about where you work but whom you work for. In most cases I’ve sought out chefs such as Chef Julian who is the Executive Chef of the resort to learn from.

You just launched a new menu at Twenty/20 what are some of your favorites on it?

There is something on it for everyone and a focus on peak of freshness is my biggest thing but also slipping in some of my favorite flavors and styles. My favorite dishes from our starters would be the Pork Belly and then our Charred Octopus, as for entrees I would have to say that our Duroc Pork Chop or our Seared Duck Breast are my favorites.

I enjoy hearing about the detailed preparation of these dishes, pick one of your favorites and describe what goes into it.

The Charred Octopus is by far my best dish, there is no secret to that, and the preparation is a labor of love. I like to clean and actually brine the octopus the day before braising. The next day I rinse the octopus in cold water for about five minutes, then add to a braising pan with white wine, citrus, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, a wine cork, and a secret blend of spices. The octopus braises for an hour and a half at 275 degrees before I remove it and bring it down in temperature. The octopus is then rubbed with chili oil then grilled. Accompanying the octopus is our chili chimichurri, fried garlic, and an Anson Mills Grit Cake that we make with white cheddar and jack cheese.

You have a fabulous cocktail program who is the talented individual behind it?

Twenty/20 has an amazing cocktail and beverage program including handcrafted cocktails, local craft beers, and wines. The man behind all of it would be Stephen George, our restaurant mixologist and bar manager.

Lick the Plate is all about food and music, which was your first concert and what three bands would you book?

My first concert was called the MMRBQ. It’s a rock station back east and every year they have a summer series with a cook out, food and music. Some of the bands playing were Halestorm, The Offspring, and ZZ Top.  Also working out in Indian Wells put me elbow to elbow with Guns’N Roses, which was pretty awesome. As for my top 3 bands it would have to be The Temptations, Kenny Chesney, and a Tupac vs. Biggie Free-Style.

Anything else you would like to add about Twenty/20?

Our Food and Beverage Manager David Putnicki a certified sommelier from The Court of Master Sommelier, a former restaurant GM of Kauai Grill a Jean-George restaurant completes our young team. Tasked with elevating the experience of Twenty/20 from a food, beverage, and service stand point in a growing culinary atmosphere that is North County San Diego. We have an amazing menu already planned for Valentine’s day, which is right around the corner, that will feature a three course menu perfectly paired with hand selected wines by David.

Twenty/20 is located at 5480 Grand Pacific Drive, Carlsbad. (760) 827-2500. Visit online at twenty20grill.com.

David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at david@artichoke-creative.com or (858) 395-6905. 

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