Elevated Simplicity

It is not realistic for expanses of soil and saltwater to be prepared for consumption and served within a culinary establishment. It is fitting, however, for these aforementioned earth-pieces to exist as a principal source, providing ingredients utilized for cookery.

For Ryan Solien, chef d’cuisine of Gulf Coast Kitchen, Long Island is his principal source. “The essence of Tuscan cooking is seasonal availability and fresh, homegrown ingredients,” says Solien, a graduate of California Culinary Academy. “With our access to local produce and seafood on Long Island, cooking in Montauk is a dream.”

Solien joined Gulf Coast Kitchen, a Tuscan-style interpretation of sustainable cuisine positioned within Montauk Yacht Club, in March. Along with consulting chef Gabriele Corcos, he presents an artisan menu designed to convey “elevated simplicity” using Long Island-born ingredients. Simplicity, according to the equation below, induces comfort and, subsequently, satisfaction (indicated by the smiley face emoticon), which Solien aspires to provide patrons.

Simplicity —> Comfort —> =)

“My goal is to take Tuscan home cooking, which is family-style and comforting, and create that for our customers using what is available in the community,” says Solien. “Instead of branzino, we use bluefish from a local fisherman. A lot of fresh vegetables and herbs from our farms, too. It works.”

Solien, who resides in Rome semi-annually, is conversant with similar, locally-focused situations. Prior to his arrival at Gulf Coast Kitchen, he served as executive chef of Sequoia High Sierra Camp, a secluded, environmentally-conscious retreat in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument, and Big Sky Mountain Resort in Montana. He also stinted at La Pergola, a Michelin-rated restaurant in Rome. Within each culinary experience, Solien incorporates his surroundings to create clean, health-first recipes.

“When your ingredients are fresh and available within an hour, as a chef, you really can’t ask for more,” he notes.

Though Solien enjoys obtaining inspiration from community-based kitchens, he is also a “junkie for cooking anywhere.” Examples include chef-touring with Godsmack, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Bruce Springsteen and Tool, as well as serving on Cirque du Soleil’s program OVO.

“I was with Bruce when he sold out Madison Square Garden for ten straight shows in 2000 and it was crazy,” says Solien. “But you also learn a lot from putting together a kitchen and breaking it down every night.”

While Solien views each period of his culinary career as education, with Gulf Coast Kitchen and its fresh-recipe ethos, his position as chef d’cuisine represents more than professional lessonry: It embodies family and tradition.

“My parents would dump me at my grandmother’s for the weekend and we would just cook,” laughs Solien. “I remember making gnocchi ravioli with her from scratch. I’ve loved it ever since.”

Signature Dish:
Big Eye Tuna Tartar: An example of Gulf Coast Kitchen’s local-influenced interpretation of Tuscan cuisine, Big Eye Tuna Tartar is prepared with Montauk bigeye tuna, shallots, Italian parsley and lemongrass. Served beneath a crostini and dressed with a truffle-glazed micro salad, Big Eye Tuna Tartar is a “simplistic dish,” says Solien, “but clean and delicious when prepared fresh.”

niko krommydas

Niko Krommydas has written for Tasting Table, BeerAdvocate, Munchies, and First We Feast. He is editor of Craft Beer New York, an app for the iPhone, and a columnist for Yankee Brew News. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.