In the Kitchen

Cross-Pollination

Chef Ryan Miller talks about The Beehive Cafe, the language of food, and that time he helped Hurricane Katrina victims

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Chef Ryan Miller has done it all. He’s worked in kitchens from Los Angeles to Seattle, Missouri to New Orleans. He’s worked in fine dining, greasy spoons, and everything in between. Now Miller is making his mark at The Beehive Cafe, located on the waterfront near Independence Park in Bristol. Throughout his travels, Miller’s cooking philosophy has remained the same: Keep things simple, no bells and whistles, and cook from the heart. For Miller, it’s not just about the food; it’s about how The Beehive can make a positive impact on the surrounding community.

What first got you into cooking?
I’m originally from southern California and got into cooking because I was already in the arts. I owned an art gallery and played in a band, so to me food and music were kind of the same thing. I really enjoyed the tradesmen aspect and using my hands, and we were really blessed in California, as we are in Rhode Island, with accessibility to local product, so it made cooking exciting because it was always evolving. Then in 2005, I found myself working with relief organizations in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. I got the opportunity to cook with some local men and women who just lived through a hurricane, but when you sit down at a table, everybody’s equal. And when you have good food, all those daily problems we have melt away. As a cook, to provide that small slice of time for people to just sit down and enjoy good, thoughtful food was an experience that really solidified my desire to provide that kind of moment for people.

What’s different about The Beehive from other kitchens you’ve been in?
I’ve worked in a lot of kitchens where the food was most important, but in this kitchen I’m trying to make the culture of the kitchen just as important, so our philosophy of inclusion comes through in the food. We’re building a language together, both visually and verbally, so that it’s ours, not just mine. Here, it’s not about Chef Ryan Miller, it’s about us at The Beehive. We did this; we put these plates up together, it’s a group effort. There are a lot of restaurants you go to and the food is fabulous, but you don’t feel that connection or the love.

You recently put out a new menu.
We work through a lot of things in our daily specials. We think about things we love eating and then try to take it to that next level. I’m also real concerned about sourcing. We just put a dedicated fish dish on the menu, but first I had to make sure I could source that fish from a sustainable local source from waters that aren’t being overfished or using disreputable fishing practices. And there’s a little bit of playfulness with what can we do logistically in the kitchen. We don’t have actual fire, we don’t use any fryers, we use very little refined sugars, and we try to use as much natural, whole, organic product as we can. I want to make sure what we’re doing has an impact on the community, which is a huge thing for food in general.

Anything else new coming up?
We are looking forward to starting Supper with Friends that bring friends from the community to cook Sunday suppers. So your neighbors can come in and cook a big Italian style pasta dinner. Or we’ll partner with other restaurants and do prefix meals about once a month. This not only involves more of the community, but makes it fun for us, too. We love those kinds of challenges.