Changing Courses: Q&A With Bell’s Restaurant Chef Daisy Ryan

A Q&A with Daisy Nan Ryan, Chef and Owner of Bell’s Restaurant in Los Alamos, California.

Tell us about your journey.

As a native of the Santa Ynez Valley, I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and spent several years working in some of New York City’s preeminent kitchens, including Gramercy Tavern, Chef’s Fare and Per Se. Me and my husband Greg returned to the West Coast, where we helped open The Line Hotel in Los Angeles before heading to Austin to oversee the beverage program for McGuire Moorman Hospitality. In 2018, we permanently relocated to California’s Central Coast, opening Bell’s in Los Alamos, and launching our company, Companion Hospitality. Companion Hospitality now includes Bell’s, Bar Le Côte, Priedite Barbecue, new beer and wine bar The Other Room and our non-profit, Feed The Valley. Since opening Bell’s, I was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and the restaurant was named to Esquire’s Best New Restaurants list as well as earning a coveted Michelin Star in 2021.

What does sustainability mean to you and why?

Sustainability needs to be a frame of mind: a process in which we question how and why we do everything we do. This includes why we eat what we do, live the way we do and what effect that has on our personal and global environment. We have to think about our micro and macro impact.

What changed your awareness to agriculture and the planet?

I don’t know that my awareness has ever changed but has just grown. Opening your eyes to what is beyond the end of your nose and understanding that even if you are only one person, it takes millions of individual people to create change in our food systems and the overall health of our planet.

How does it reflect in the way you personally live and inside the restaurant?

At the restaurant, we talk a lot about all the small decisions and actions that make up our whole day. Being conscious and thoughtful in so many moments in a day can lead to the ultimate success in a larger timeline or goal. If we could think daily about the earth and our impact in this way, it could make a big difference.

What do you hope changes for future generations?

I hope we can teach younger generations to consider their actions, to wonder more, ask questions of everything, so they have a desire to make things better.

Can you tell us about the Feed The Valley project?

Feed the Valley is a non-profit organization that Greg and I started during the pandemic to help to not only feed food-insecure communities in the Santa Ynez Valley, but our model also gives local restaurants cash flow which allows them to be able to participate and give back to their neighbors.

What’s the mark that you want to leave on the world?

I don’t want to leave a mark; I think the goal for me is to leave it unmarked.

What made you want to work with Perfect Day?

I am always looking for alternatives that focus on mindfulness and care for our planet and producers that think outside of the box.

What is the dish you’re making with Perfect Day?

Chickpea Panisse made with Perfect Day Milk, served with Cantabrian Anchovies and Oregano Gremolata.

Explain how you’re using Perfect Day in your dish in regards to taste and texture.

The Perfect Day Milk is cooked into the Panisse, replacing regular whole milk. To me, the taste and texture is almost indecipherable.

What does a kinder, greener future look like to you?

One where we are more considerate and empathetic to the world beyond our small needs and wants.

What do you hope people will inspire others as they see this video?

To think of alternatives that may be more responsible and to be more thoughtful in everything they do in their lives.

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