When I talk to chefs about their lives and their careers, I always find it interesting how their upbringing and childhood plays a part. For Nate Garyantes, executive chef at Ardeo + Bardeo, growing up in a family that owned a restaurant made him hesitant to become a chef. “Initially, I felt it wasn’t for me,” he says. Seeing his father, the restaurant owner, work long hours and spend time away from their family made Garyantes pause before deciding to work in the restaurant industry.
So instead of enlisting in a kitchen crew, Garyantes joined the army for three years where he earned an Expert Infantry Badge. Afterwards, he moved to Hawaii where he started working in restaurants, at first in the front of house and later in the kitchen. “I fell in love with all of the fresh fruits, vegetables and fish Hawaii had to offer,” he says. It seemed that the kitchen was calling him.
After time in Hawaii, Garyantes moved to Delaware, where he became the executive chef and owner of Restaurant 821 which earned Zagat’s highest rating for food in Delaware. In DC, he was previously the executive sous chef at Jose Andres’ Cafe Atlantico and later worked at Minibar. Throughout all the different restaurants and cooking various types of food, Nate had one thing to say, “It doesn’t matter what I’m cooking, so long as it’s executed properly.”
I find it fascinating how all of Nate’s experiences have kind of rolled together fortuitously to make him into the chef he is today. Particularly, his military experience has played a large role in him maintaining a regimented and organized kitchen, despite the fact that the lifestyle of a chef can be rather hectic and harried at times. “Cooking is the easy part,” he says. “Leading a team, mentoring others, running food and labor costs is challenging. My experience in the army helped and moved me in a positive direction,” he says.
The theme of leading a team came up several times in my conversation with the chef. I think it’s always admirable when a chef actually wants to teach others in the kitchen, rather than viewing other cooks as competition that has to be squashed. “I relish the role of being the leader and mentor,” he says. “As a chef, you have a responsibility to take your knowledge and pass it down to someone else.” Specifically, Nate talked about how rewarding it was to see such growth in one of his sous chefs who worked with him in Delaware and now works with him at Ardeo + Bardeo.
When we talked a little bit about the DC scene and its future, Nate echoed the desires of many other chefs I’ve talked to. “I’d like to see more good ethnic food options in DC proper,” he says. Indeed, he rattled off the names of a few places that lie outside the district in Virginia and Maryland, but we both agreed that DC itself could do with some Korean barbecue and small taquerias. However, Garyantes said he values the cultural aspects and small neighborhoods that currently exist in DC already.
Check back at 1 PM for Nate’s recipe for scallop schnitzel. If you’ve ever eaten it at Ardeo + Bardeo, you know you’ll want to make it at home.