Chef Ryan Williams brings a wealth of experience working at fine dining establishments across the state.
(Sarasota, Florida) J.P. Knaggs, owner of the award-winning Bijou Café in Sarasota, recently appointed Ryan Williams as the restaurant’s new executive chef. Williams brings a wealth of restaurant experience to the position.
How did Williams, 34, discover his passion for the culinary arts?
“Believe it or not, as a dishwasher,” he laughs. “I was 14 years old and got a job washing dishes at a neighborhood restaurant. I was fascinated with everything that went on behind the scenes and never looked back.”
Williams followed his passion by completing a culinary degree from Florida Culinary, now known as Lincoln Culinary Institute. He started cooking professionally at the age of 20 as the sous chef at Tommy Bahamas in West Palm Beach. He further honed his craft at Cafe Chardonnay and Vic and Angelos, both in Palm Beach Gardens and at The Breakers, the celebrated Palm Beach resort. During this time, he developed his flair for multicultural cuisine and for combining ingredients to create fresh, bold flavors. “Innovation keeps life interesting, both on and off the table,” he says. “But I still believe in old school techniques.” William’s most recent position was executive chef of Pietros on the Ocean in Jensen Beach. He moved to Sarasota with his wife, Tanya, and their son Kai.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Bijou team,” says Williams. "I look forward to working with J.P. and Shay creating some new menu items. It’s going to be an exciting journey!”
Knaggs says he met Williams when he and his wife were visiting Sarasota a year ago. “We met by sheer coincidence when they were strolling in downtown Sarasota,” he says. “I noticed his wife’s South African accent and introduced myself—and we quickly started talking about food and fine dining. Ryan’s 100-watt enthusiasm for the possibilities of exceptional cuisine was obvious.” Knaggs adds that he and his wife, Shay, eventually traveled to Jenson Beach to try William’s food at Pietros on the Ocean. “Ryan cooked a seven-course tasting menu for us—and he knocked our socks off! We knew right then that our guests would love him.”
Williams’ culinary talents impressed Knaggs. His business talents did, too. “Today’s restaurant industry is highly competitive,” says Knaggs. “Skilled management is imperative on every level. Ryan’s management skills are second to none. He kept costs low and quality high in a busy 300-seat restaurant with multiple menus and venues. His rare combination of creativity and practicality make him the perfect fit for our team.”
According to Knaggs, Williams will continue to evolve The Bijou’s menu through the fall and winter seasons. “Our new selections will reflect Ryan’s artistry and background cooking at four-star restaurants,” he says. “I can’t wait to give our guests a taste of his creativity.”