Ryan Rondeno is a personal chef to celebrities including Sean Combs, Ben Affleck, Will Smith and orchestra conductor Gustavo Dudamel! Jimmy Star interviewed him about his origins, what he's up to right now, and his plans for the future.
Jimmy Star: Did you grow up connected to celebrities? If so who, and is that how you got your break?
Ryan Rondeno: My career started in the restaurant industry. I was taught in mentored by fantastic chefs who helped me become what I am today. The break came for me in 2008 as I was in a culinary transition.
Jimmy Star: Tell us about how you went from dreaming of being a chef to seeing it actually happen. Was there a turning point? If so, when, and what were the emotions that accompanied the “aha” moment?
Ryan Rondeno: The culinary industry isn’t always easy. We face tough roads and challenges on a daily basis. Persistence and desire are a couple of characteristics that often lead to success. I’d always ask myself “Was I good enough?” or “How can I get better?” Self-motivation remained a key factor for me in order to achieve greatness. I was able to turn things around with consistency. With consistency, I’m able to keep my eye on the prize.
Jimmy Star: What made you decide you were going to be a chef? Did you have any doubts along the way?
Ryan Rondeno: Because of having the passion and love for food, it was an easy transition into the culinary world. I find myself in my element when creativity is involved. There were always doubts when starting this new journey. Would I be successful? Would I continue to love it? I’m grateful for the choices I’ve made, and am pleased with the continued path.
Jimmy Star: How did you end up cooking for the rich and the famous?
Ryan Rondeno: In 2008, the recession was hitting America in an unprecedented way. I found myself in transition and couldn’t find a job. I applied for a job not knowing a college friend listed the ad. I knew it was my time to embark on a new journey and chapter. The job interview was a lengthy four days and I made the cut by cooking my style of food. This job has contributed tremendously with my success in Los Angeles.
Jimmy Star: Can you tell us what dish you think claimed your fame?
Ryan Rondeno: There hasn’t been a particular dish that was a claim to my fame. I dwell on creating excellent cuisine that appeals to different clientele across the country.
Jimmy Star: When did you know your hobby was turning into a career?
Ryan Rondeno: My hobby turned into a career in 1998. It was my first restaurant job. I received a quick taste of how restaurants move and it’s serious business. My decision helped me shape and fulfill my destiny.
Jimmy Star: Does success feel how you thought it would feel?
Ryan Rondeno: Success is everything that I thought it would be. The life of being an entrepreneur teaches you life lessons. We have to fail to succeed. I wouldn’t change anything for the world. The potential is great, and look out for great things to come.
Jimmy Star: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
Ryan Rondeno: Long hours, little pay. As you start out in this career, hours are long and pay is low. We all have to earn our dues. The chef wants your level of commitment before he/she will invest in your career and guide you to success. As your career grows, hours are long but pay is better.
You’ll be friends for life.
Chefs spend more time in restaurants than with family or friends. You're able to build a life-long bond that’ll bring about self-development. Some of the best lessons are built in a restaurant. I always appreciate the soldiers that I was able to go to war with everyday.
No personal time.
The culinary industry requires a lot of your attention. I always appreciate the time when I do have it. I always want to catch up and see what’s going on around the city.
No sick days or injuries.
You're expected to work sick and not really take time off. I believe you have to be really sick or in the hospital to get time off. I’d rather someone stay at home and not get anyone else sick. It also affects the quality of the food.
Your goals for your career will constantly change.
When I started cooking, I wanted to focus on being a pastry chef. Once I tasted the hot line, everything changed. It led me to all of the projects that I have now.
Jimmy Star: If you could battle any chef in the kitchen who would it be, and why? What dish would you battle him with? Do you know this chef's weakness?
Ryan Rondeno: I’d love to battle against Chef Bobby Flay. I’ve always had respect for his style of cooking, and emulate it in different aspects. I’d challenge him with my shrimp and grits. I think he is not as well versed in Creole cooking.
Jimmy Star: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ryan Rondeno: In five years, I see myself deeper in my element. We are planting the seeds to achieve greatness. We are currently working on releasing an app for home cooks to release their inner chef. I also plan to release cookbooks, partner with wineries, and a restaurant. I’m looking forward to seeing my products maximize their potential.
Jimmy Star: Who inspired you and who were your teachers?
Ryan Rondeno: The journey has been amazing. I’ve had the chance to work with and learn from amazing chefs throughout my years. When I first stepped into the kitchen, it was a surreal experience. The vast amount of ingredients and techniques that have been applied are now a part of my cooking repertoire. New Orleans will always be my birthplace of the journey. I’ve had the privilege of working with chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Anne Kearney, and Sue Zemanick. They’ve set the foundation of who I am today in the restaurant world. I’ll always take with me the foundation of being at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, a school that is continually filled with talented teachers and up and coming chefs to learn from.
Jimmy Star: What are some up and coming things you have scheduled? What do you hope to get out of them, and why?
Ryan Rondeno: I’m cooking for the third time at Stage and Table. We are putting together a fabulous French dinner. I’m also working on releasing the app Super Chef. It will a great app for consumers to try different dishes to try at home. It’ll range between easy and intermediate execution. I’m looking for everyone across the world to get to know my style of cooking and create magic in the kitchen.
Jimmy Star: If you could cook for anyone, who would it be and why? Also what dish would you prepare?
Ryan Rondeno: I’d love to cook for Kobe Bryant because he loves Italian food. The way he looks at basketball is the same way I look at food. The intensity and passion for the craft never ceases to amaze me. I’d definitely cook butternut squash agnolotti with lobster and truffle.
Jimmy Star: Where can we try some of your food?
Ryan Rondeno: I’d love for everyone to try my food through local popup dinners or even hire me to cater your private and public events.
Jimmy Star: Do you think the wives of chefs tend to be fat?
Ryan Rondeno: The wives of chefs do not tend to be fat.
Jimmy Star: Can you cook just as good of a meal being mindful of calories? Be honest.
Ryan Rondeno: In my honest opinion, food can be elevated no matter what. Although some consumers can be engulfed in calorie driven meals, it’ll make it less enjoyable. I prefer using fresh ingredients and maximizing the flavors.
Jimmy Star: Do you do private events? If so, how can people book you?
Ryan Rondeno: We cater all types of private events. Our goal is to bring a unique and fulfilling experience to every guest. I can be booked at https://www.rondenoculinarydesigns.com.
Jimmy Star: How can we follow your journey?
Ryan Rondeno: I’d love for you to follow me on this great journey! My Instagram handle is @nolachef212 and @rondenoculinary. Also, my Facebook pages are Rondeno Spice Collection and Rondeno Culinary Designs.