An Ohio native, Ryan Ratino grew up in the northeast part of the state, the suburbs of Cleveland. It was there where he would catch walleye with his grandfather on Lake Erie as a kid before bringing the days catch home where his mother would batter, fry, and serve the fish with kohlrabi from the family garden.
During high school he got his first job at the local Panera Bread, working in sandwich prep before becoming a cook in the kitchen of the Winking Lizard over in Brunswick.
In July 2009 Ratino left the Winking Lizard as well as the state of Ohio and moved to Orlando Florida to pursue a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu. Right before moving he discovered the famous French Laundry cookbook and was quickly exposed to the world of Michelin stars as a result, which in turn earned him the nickname “Michelin star” because that was all he wanted to talk about in culinary class.
While enrolled at culinary school, he started working at Shula’s Steak House at The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, a Gaylord Entertainment AAA Four Diamond property, as a junior sous chef. He stayed at the restaurant through graduation and the entire year of 2010.
In January 2011 he started working at Bull and Bear at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Orlando, but left after six months to work under Todd English at Bluezoo, a Starwood Hotel & Resorts restaurant that was named one of the ten best foodie spots in the city by USA Today. Ratino worked his way up to the executive chef position during his three years of tenure at the restaurant before leaving to move to New York City.
Once in New York City he became the executive sous chef at Caviar Russe in May 2014. The restaurant earned a three star review at the hands of the New York Times during Ratino’s six month stint in the kitchen. After leaving Caviar Russe that fall in October, he spent time at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50 and restaurant Dovetail before moving to Washington D.C. to join the kitchen at Jose Andres’ Minibar.
Ratino became the executive chef at the AAA Four Diamond restaurant L’auberge Provencale in White Post Virginia in October 2014, subsequently guiding the restaurant to a three star review in The Washington Post while utilizing produce from the orchards, vegetable gardens, and herb gardens he maintained across a ½ acre plot of land.
Eight months later in June 2015 he joined restaurateur and chef Richard Sandoval’s group, developing menus for international hotel restaurants along with curating and executing the 14 course tasting counter, Masa 14.
Sixteen months later in October 2016 he took over executive chef duties at Ripple in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington D.C. from Marjorie Meek-Bradley and gained local acclaim in the process which resulted in being awarded the rising culinary star of the year award at the Rammy, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, Awards the following June.
That same month, Ripple owners Curt Large and Roger Marmet announced the pending closure of the restaurant due to the financial constraints of operating a restaurant in the residential neighborhood. However, they had secretly kept Ratino in the loop throughout the entire decision process so he would have plenty of time to plot the course his next move.
Throughout the months prior to Ripple’s closure, Ratino scouted different locations for a restaurant of his own and began to prepare himself for restaurant ownership, ultimately deciding he did not want to go through the cycle of sending out resume’s for executive chef jobs and have to potentially move again for an opening. Eventually, he located and secured a space at 1906 14th Street Northwest in Logan Circle, formerly home to Policy Restaurant & Lounge, and began implementing his vision for the restaurant, briefly setting off to Europe for plate inspiration before undertaking redesign and renovations to ready the restaurant for its grand opening.
Less than six months after leaving Ripple, Ratino opened Bresca, his first restaurant, in September 2017. Serving as owner, executive chef, and pastry chef, Ryan brought in longtime trusted friend Jose Arguelles, whom he first met down in Florida, as a partner in the restaurant to serve as the kitchen’s chef de cuisine and hired next door neighbor Colada Shop, with whom Bresca shares a patio with, co-owner Juan Coronado to create the cocktail and drink menus. Bright, airy, and stylish with walls decorated with animal paintings, fish heads, and a moss wall, Ratino turned the space into a unique restaurant that merged modern bistronomy with casual fine dining all the while executing classic French techniques in homage to the Paris bistros in addition to the everyday experimentation. To complete the feel of the 60 seat restaurant, Ratino installed quirky serving vessels he had procured during travels around the world over the years like a bee shaped cocktail glass and 29 different types of vintage china. A roof top garden with beds lining the edges of the patio designated for hosting events and cocktail parties at semi regular clips was installed to at least sustain the garnishes the kitchen would require while a one acre plot of land in Sterling Virginia would grow vegetables for the restaurant and house beehives for sustainable honey production.
Bresca would become an instantaneous hit within the D.C. restaurant scene, earning Washington City Paper’s best new restaurant of the year award for 2017 in addition to being named sensation of the year for 2017 by Eater and earning Ratino a place on D.C. Refined’s 34 under 34 list all while executing over 200 covers a night on weekends.
Almost a year after opening in August 2018, Bresca officially became the first D.C. fine dining restaurant to be completely carbon neutral, joining the prestigious list of 18 other restaurants from across the country monitored by San Francisco’s Zero Food Print, and organization founded in 2013 by chef Anthony Myint that aims to fight climate change by way of restaurants using sustainable practices in order to reduce their overall carbon footprint within the environment. To do so, Bresca does things like using 400 stainless steel tasting spoons on a rotation and wash basis rather than plastic disposable spoons, uses off cuts of meet to offset the carbon output per diner, and substitute animal fats for butter to downsize the use of the carbon intensive diary product.
A month later on September 13th, 2018, Ratino received a call from the president of the Michelin guide informing him that Bresca had been awarded a Michelin star on the same day the D.C. guidebook was scheduled for release to the public, an accolade that has been retained ever year since its initial award. He celebrated the award with the restaurant team by toasting with a bottle of Nebuchadnezzar before the night’s dinner service and taking everyone out for drinks at food at the Line Hotel after its conclusion.
At the end of November 2018, Ryan announced he would be opening a new tasting menu restaurant and bar on the second floor of the same building as Bresca. That winter, the entire 2nd floor was renovated to create an 18 seat carbon neutral restaurant called Jont, a play on the French word jaunt, along with a 35 seat bar called Bar Jont which opened in the spring of 2019. Designed by Amber Kenrick, Jont was instilled with a speakeasy like feel and atmosphere for guests upon arrival who would then be whisked into a hidden room for an 8 to 11 course progressive tasting menu heavily influence by Nordic and Japanese cooking at a cost of $100 per person prepaid tickets or more causal small dishes like hotdogs and caviar service if remaining at Bar Jont for the evening. Conceptualized as a place where Ratino could personally choreograph every single bite of food for the guest that night, the restaurant would also double as a food lab for the Bresca team where they would be able to stretch tough to produce menu items over a full night of service unlike downstairs in addition to crafting ingredients like 208 dry aged dairy cow and lacto-fermented porcini mushrooms, numerous aged vinegars, shoyu sauces, and crafted miso pastes.
In the early spring of 2020, coronavirus happened, effectively delaying the debut of Jont. Finally, that summer on July 16th Ratino opened Jont albeit with a slightly different set up than originally planned. The tasting menu was gone, swapped out with a five course pre fixe menu from Bresca for $75. Seating was reduced from 18 to 12 with clear acrylic dividers placed between parties. Reservations became required, although they would have been needed even before the pandemic. Ratino sights the opening as not the real debut of Jont but more of a soft opening that allows the Bresca team to serve more guests on a nightly basis in a safe manner by utilizing the extra room the space provides.
At the end of April 2021, Michelin published its annual guide for D.C., allowing any restaurants already with a star that were closed because of the pandemic to retain them. While never closed for the entirety of the pandemic, Bresca retained its one Michelin star while Ratino’s newer upstairs fine dining restaurant Jont was awarded two Michelin stars, thus making the 30 year old Ratino the youngest U.S. chef ever to provide over a two Michelin starred restaurant and the youngest chef ever to have two different Michelin starred restaurants.
A rising star within the District of Columbia’s rising food scene for several years now, chef Ryan Ratino is on the cusp of making to the leap to national stardom through recognition received from his seasonal American, European rooted, a la carte Michelin starred restaurant Bresca and his more experimental 2nd floor tasting menu exclusive concept Jont. Although not a formal native of the district, Ratino’s style of balancing plates with approachable food that simultaneously serves the natural ego of a chef has in turn made him one of the most authentic chef’s working in D.C. today.
Awards & Press
- Michelin 2 Stars