The last name gives it away: Mark Ryan is in the family business, and has been his entire life.
Mark has been a fixture at his father’s company since he was little, working right by Robert Ryan’s side starting in grade school. When he graduated high school, he headed straight into a two-year culinary arts program at Atlantic Cape Community College. After graduating, Mark was ready to take charge of the Robert Ryan kitchen, which he did for years, but he’s also had a management role in every department within the company. These days, as co-owner, he’s out of the kitchen and working with department managers and clients to make every event a success.
You’ve worked with your father since you were a child. Did you always know you’d become co-owner, or did you think you might try your hand at something else?
I always enjoyed cooking food at a young age. My father was in four different partnerships in catering companies before he started his own. Growing up, I remember always being with my dad at work, whether I was helping in the warehouse or doing coat check.As I got older (around 14 or 15 years old), I started to work the grill/fryer at local pizza shops and started my path outside of Robert Ryan Catering & Design (RRC&D). From there, I delivered food while in high school, then I went to Atlantic Cape Community College and graduated with my culinary degree in 1997.During culinary school, I would come home on the weekends with fellow culinary students and work events for RRC&D as the business grew. I knew then I wanted to finish school and go into the business. Before graduation, I told this to my father; he disagreed, and wanted me to get experience first in other companies. I worked at a restaurant for six months and knew it was not for me, so I quit and came on board full-time in 1998.
My philosophy for food is simple: Buy the best quality products and make sure to season and cook them correctly. Local, organic ingredients are superior for top-quality dishes. I also love to present awesome bites in miniature vessels that are unique. Food trends change every year; one thing that continues to delight is to miniaturize an entree into one bite and present that item in a vessel that fits its style. We have mini bamboo boats, 2-ounce shooters, Chinese to-go containers, mini mason jars, mini terracotta pots, glass milk jars and a variety of vessels in different shapes and sizes that make for memorable food and beverages.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me is floating from venue to venue for various meetings with department managers and clients. I work very closely with our full-time employees from the operations, culinary, sales and staffing teams. I also do first-time tours and meetings with clients at all three of our venues, our off-premise partner venues and at clients’ homes.
What do you think the key to success is for a catering company?
The key to success is to always be open to change for the better when opportunities arise, as well as staying ahead of trends. Our industry changes every two years, so to stay up on the trends we send our team to conferences annually to educate and learn from others. This is also what makes RRC&D successful.
What makes RR stand out from the crowd?
Our three uniquevenues, top-quality food and impeccable service.
Tell us something about yourself that no one would know just by looking at you.
Nobody could tell by looking at me that my wife and I are high school sweethearts and have been together since 1992. We were married in 2000 and have four beautiful children: Kayla, who is 19, Brianna, who is 18, Mark, who is 15, and Korrine, who is 6.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
I enjoy cooking at home with my kids and spending time with my family. I also enjoy watching my kids play sports.
What would be your desert island last meal?
Local cheese (I’m not picky), lemon-honey-infused walnuts, and grilled seeded bread.
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Ready to learn more about our menus and events? Schedule a consultation with one of our event managers today!Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating onWeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more aboutRobert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.—Nina MaloneAll photos courtesy of Robert Ryan Catering & Design