In the Kitchen with CBC Restaurant Executive Chef Ryan Caldwell
When CBC Restaurant Executive Chef Ryan Caldwell first saw the strawberries from One Gun Ranch while staging at Malibu Beach Inn, he knew he wasn’t in New York City anymore.
Caldwell had been working as the Corporate Chef for Broome Street Hospitality, overseeing the opening of The Eastfields Kitchen & Bar as well as several of the brand’s other restaurants, when he felt called to escape the busyness of the City that Never Sleeps and move west. He applied to a handful of restaurants in the Malibu area in 2017, and knew he’d found something special while in the kitchen at CBC Restaurant — both with the local produce as well as the collaborative atmosphere at Malibu Beach Inn.
“I was like, ‘What is with these strawberries?'” Caldwell recalls. “I had never seen a strawberry so red and vibrant. I freaked out a little bit and the chef at the time was like, dude, it’s cool. And I was like, no, you don’t understand — these strawberries!”
Caldwell has always been enthusiastic about food, ever since he was a young boy. “At home [in Georgia] growing up, I was always was in the kitchen with my mother or dad, making biscuits or whatever,” he says. “I liked watching the Food Network and instead of watching The Simpsons like all the other kids, I was watching Emeril Live. There was just a lot of food in the house all the time.”
After going to school to be a mechanic, Caldwell opted to follow his passion for cooking and attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Atlanta. He completed his post-graduate internship at Vail Cascade Resort in Colorado, then moved to Portland, Oregon, to join the team at The Nines Hotel. He later worked for a few years as sous chef at Smallwares in Portland under Chef Johanna Ware, before moving to New York City to work under Executive Chef Terrance Brennen at the Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Picholine.
In 2014, a couple of years before Picholine closed, Caldwell was recruited by Silkstone Hospitality and opened The East Pole Kitchen + Bar (then called Cafe Americano), sister restaurant to The Fat Radish, one of the pioneering restaurants of farm-to-table cuisine. He went on to become executive chef at The Fat Radish, oversee Leadbelly Bar (now Bar Belly), and supervise Silkstone’s events catering before being recruited by the Martignetti Brothers of Broome Street Hospitality. While he loved his time in New York City, by 2017 he was itching for a change of pace — and he found it at Malibu Beach Inn.
In all the roles he’s had, Caldwell has always put an emphasis on using the best, locally sourced ingredients available to him. At CBC Restaurant, it’s wonderfully easy to do. “One Gun Ranch is 15 minutes from us and grow the most beautiful produce,” Caldwell says. “There’s such a bounty of everything in California. Fresh seafood, fresh vegetables, incredible citrus, the most amazing scallions and avocados: it’s all amazing.”
The loose theme of CBC Restaurant is “coastal cuisine,” featuring all that California has to offer, as well as a selection of rotating Mediterranean classics. For all of them, Caldwell lets the ingredients dictate how the dish turns out.
“I talk to my guys [at the farmers’ market], and they tell me what’s the best, most interesting thing right now. And then I taste it and just let the food tell me what to do,” he says. “I’m just in the vehicle for its success. The ingredients do all the work, not me.”
That goes for the evergreen menu staples — a roasted free-range chicken breast, a grass-fed beef burger, roasted Ōra King salmon — as well as the rotating specials. Each reflects the season’s best available produce and flavors and highlights the ingredients to the fullest.
“I’m a highly creative person, and when I get to just experiment in the kitchen all day — that’s when I could die happy,” Caldwell says. “I’m always working on the food: at home on my days off, and at CBC. I always enjoy the challenge. I love to dive into a new dish and see where it takes me.”