For the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that our fridges have been generously stocked with gourmet prepared foods, from spicy, beer-flavored cheese spreads, to pasta with capers and crushed hazelnuts, to glazed root vegetables. Or perhaps you’ve noticed some of our more recent specials, like the wacky (and ridiculously delicious) bacon, jalapeno, and nut butter sandwich, or the breakfast sandwich with bacon, medium-boiled eggs, grilled potatoes, and garlic aioli (mmm bacon everywhere). Meet Julie Ryan, the culinary mastermind behind many of Dep’s tasty new prepared items and sandwiches. A little bit about Julie: After studying art and music, she moved to Europe, where she lived for more than 10 years writing about art and culture. Oh, and cooking. Julie developed her love of food living on vineyards, baking bread in Vienna, and butchering rabbits in the South of France. Yum! Back in America, she flexed her culinary muscles at SCRATCH Bread in Bed-Stuy, where she was inspired by the chef's amazing dedication and artistry. We sat down with Julie to talk sandwiches, inspiration, and cooked squirrel.
Hey Julie! So when did you first know you were into food?
The first time I ran out of food to eat. That is not to sound facetious – but cooking on extreme budgets and seasonally has brought such beautiful food to the world: hello rillettes! And the nature of putting things together out of need is central to a kitchen. That said, I have been totally spoiled by great ingredients, too!
My family took pilgrimages to cheese factories growing up; we ate stinky Munster, fat laden sausages and headcheese. Raw beef on rye bread was common with sliced white onions salt and pepper (how important this salt and pepper was!!) We also ate an inordinate amount of mac & cheese from a box and diet Slice. I knew nothing of fresh garlic, pine nuts or risotto. But I knew what an apple tasted like off the tree.
I was well fed and always starving. That is a way of life! Always curious what is next…
What’s your background in food ? Rumor has it you spent a lot of time cookin’ around Europe.
I worked in a ton of temporary food establishments (burger frying, French frying, Fry Frying…) at state fairs and music festivals as a kid. I worked at a cool place called “Tommy’s” in Cleveland, OH. And I accidently ran my own kitchen one summer (when the chef walked out) in Starlight, Indiana. The place was owned by an ex-stripper and her geriatric mafia husband who required a list of meaty favorites, biscuits, sausage gravy etc. I learned to cook a lot of Southern food, fast! (Also cooked squirrel.)
I lived in Europe for more than 10 years then until recently returning to NYC. And a lot of my food background comes from that experience. Living on vineyards, taking apart a rabbit in the South of France for the first time. Identifying mushrooms in the wild, diving for sea urchin. Tasting everything!! I learned the recipes of the people in my life and my life had suddenly become the whole world. At some point I started doing catering and it was popular and grew.
What inspires the food you make at Dep?
I studied art and music, and at night, whereever in the world I am, people have gathered and we have eaten and talked and played music. Out of that domestic experience (if I can call it that) I ran a Salon in Vienna (Salon Am Hof) with a partner where we had official house concerts, with art exhibitions and up to a hundred people would come: I made the food. It was all about these multiple levels of experience, pleasure and restraint.
What inspires me? Even if I will never see the people who eat the food I make, I cook for the people I know and love. I cook for Franz who loved eating, I cook for the anorexic French roommate who could buy food but couldn’t prepare food. I cook for Susan who taught me Persian cooking and Bene who taught me something of Italian. I cook for a gaggle of Georgians (the Republic of) who are like my family. People and food history inspire me, and I seek ingredients and combinations to meet these occasions!
What's been your favorite thing that you've made for Dep?
Well, like painting, my favorite thing is often the last thing I’ve made. I have been using 6 Point Ales to make various cheese spreads; last night I made “Mike’s Righteous Cheese Spread” using Righteous Ale with a combination of Dep’s great cheese selection. That is one of the great things about cooking at Dep – the wonderful ingredients and selection of cheese and chacuterie. Amazing! I feel really lucky to be surrounded by all my global favorites (pasta, Austrian soda, Wisconsin cheese and bacon…..)
What’s your favorite Dep sandwich?
My favorite sandwich(es) at Dep are the #3 and the #6. I mean, Taleggio, Dijon, Mortadella and cornichons? Or Fontina Gruyere and Speck? Heck, yes. So it follows that my favorite sandwiches are about this balance: great bread (or I’ll just eat the insides!) and top-notch fillings.