Tell me more, Please

A little while ago, I was lucky enough to meet one of Derek’s friends who happened to own his own catering company/food venture. We got to talking and I learned more about why he started, what inspired him, and a little bit about his experiences, and I asked if I could share. Ryan, being the driven, and intelligent person that he is, was willing to teach me a little bit more about what he did, and the interview follows:
First off, let’s have an introduction – what is your name and what do you do?
I’m Ryan Santos and I run a weird little catering company called Please. (http://www.pleasetoeatyou.com)
We specialize in multi-course dinner parties under 50 people. Along with a bunch of other unique food/cocktail services.
How did you get started in the food industry?
I went to UC for graphic design and spent a few years out of school doing that.  The whole time i had a full time hobby at home of learning how to cook, which stemmed from being diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s disease.  Part of one of my treatments involved an extremely strict diet, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free.  Without an array of specialized products available as they are now, I learned to cook everything from scratch.  From then on I was hooked.
What were you doing before you started your own business?
Ryan: I worked in restaurants.  A lot of the time working my restaurant shift and then coming home and doing catering. I still spend time in restaurants cooking to continue to learn and grow, especially in places with a very focused point of view or speciality.
Why did you start your own business? What got you interested in food?
Ryan: The severity of my health has caused me to become self employed.  Anyone with, or knowing someone with Crohn’s knows you can feel great for weeks and suddenly one morning be bed ridden for a week, or more.  While I’ve had chefs who’ve been super understanding, my health is often so up and down that being self employed is really the only choice for me and my health.
Aside from the story above of what got me interested in food, just the idea that you could be both creative but also it was a physical act of working.  Being burnt out on sitting at a desk all day doing graphic designy stuff, the thought of working up a sweat and chopping and burning myself, as oddly as it sounds, sounded awesome.
Have you ever run into any challenges as far as providing options for guests with dietary concerns?
Ryan: Almost none at all.  Though I don’t have dietary restrictions any more with my health, coming from that back ground, I have a sympathy for people who have REAL allergies or restrictions, and will gladly take on the challenge.  We work with our clients to provide them everything they want, and our underground dinners cater to them as well.  While maybe not EVERY dinner would be appropriate, we have no problem doing a vegan dinner or anything along those lines. I think our willing to embrace restrictions instead of cursing them like a lot of chefs, are one of the factors that make us unique.  We approach them as creative challenges and not restrictive annoyances.

You struggled with some dietary concerns yourself – how did you handle that, and what have you taken away from that experience?
Ryan: Well it taught me how to cook!  And like i’ve said above already, i think it’s given me a unique perspective and appreciation to creating dishes for people who suffer from health based food allergies and restrictions.

What are some of your favorite vegetarian or vegan foods that you’ve created?
Ryan: Well don’t tell anyone, but most of the dinners i’ve done have been vegetarian. i find it just as easy to cook the food we do as vegetarian as it is to cook with meat.
I don’t know that I have a favorite dish, because of the format of our dinners and our desire to push ourselves creatively, we typically don’t ever repeat a dish. so as soon as we make a dish and like it, it’s as quickly replaced with something new.
What do you think could be improved about vegetarian or vegan food, or what challenges have you come up against in working with it?
I think it suffers from the “crunchy granola” stigma. Along with kind of being a mandatory menu item that might not have as much creativity or passion as other dishes on a chefs menu.
We create dishes.  We are aware of our dinners restrictions but we almost never label a dish as meat, vegetarian or vegan.  Most people who’ve eat our food that is vegetarian, at the end of dinner say they never even realized it was, until someone had made a mention of it.
Anything else you want to add?
Ryan: I think that’s it. I’m excited to bring Please to Cincinnati, and please help us spread the word.
Find us on facebook at:   http://www.facebook.com/pleasetoeatyou
And sign up for our underground dinner series in collaboration with the Brush Factory which is beginning April 1st, and then will be bi-weekly starting in May, along with quite a few more casual food events.  We’re keeping a list of interested people and then will email details about dinners and events as they come up:
A favorite tune to cook to?
Ryan: When i’m cooking alone, more often than not it’s Beach House. it falls somewhere perfectly between relaxing and energetic.
if i’m cooking with the Please crew, oddly enough, i rarely get to pick the music.
A favorite place to stop and visit in Cinci?
Ryan: I always try and stop in the Brush Factory design studios, to
see what Rosie and gang are up too and i usually dont leave cinci without a trip to La Mexicana, the taco truck on queen city blvd.,
the party source to oogle expensive bourbons i wish i had or Camp Washington for a cheese coney.
In essence, Ryan inspired me in many ways. He is doing exactly what he is passionate about doing, and I want to do the same. His drive to learn more and his absolute dedication to what he does is something I strive for. Watch him go on Twitter, too, @pleasetoeat. For more on Crohn’s Disease, visit here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001295/ I’ll be adding some links to some food allergy sites, as well as keeping everyone up to date on what I can concerning our donations, etc. Thank you for reading! And a huge thank you to Ryan not only for sharing your insights and story, but for the amazing meals I’ll be eating this spring thanks to your cooking. Love.

 

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