At D’Artagnan we proudly work with chefs across the country, providing them with quality ingredients to express themselves in the kitchen. In some cases, the chefs are close to home, as with Chef Ehren Ryan of Common Lot in Millburn, NJ. His acclaimed restaurant is just 5 miles from the D’Artagnan corporate headquarters, but it was a long and varied road that brought him here. Read on to learn more about this creative young chef who is making waves in the New Jersey restaurant scene.
Australian-born Ehren got the kitchen bug early, beginning as a dishwasher at 15, and simultaneously completing both high school and a commercial cookery and hospitality course, which prepared him for years of training to be a chef. He would go on to cook in some of the top restaurants in Syndey before traveling the globe. Eventually, he held chef positions in some of the worlds best restaurants including Dinner by Heston and Sketch, in London (both received 2 Michelin stars), and Pierre Gagnaire’s London establishment, The Lecture Room.
Chef Ehren and his wife and business partner Nadine have lived in at least a dozen different countries combined, beginning in his native Australia and her Austria. Their international experiences in India, Thailand, Indonesia, South Africa, Hong Kong, London, Switzerland, among others, have shaped and influenced their culinary style.
The convivial yet elegant atmosphere, as well as the imaginative seasonal menu at Common Lot, reflect the couple’s personalities and global experiences. Their dedication to the culinary arts, hospitality, and great service are evident in every aspect of their 60-seat restaurant. Nadine is a graduate of hotel management school in Austria where she was also certified as a cheese sommelier, and she runs the front of the house at Common Lot.
Common Lot has received many accolades since opening in 2016, and Chef Ehren has been called “among the most talented cooks in the state” by none less than the NY Times which rated the restaurant “excellent.” NJ Monthly has named Common Lot in the Top 25 Restaurants for 3 consecutive years since opening in 2016, and the restaurant received the Best New Restaurant Garden State Culinary Award in 2017.
We gave Chef Ehren our version of the Proust Questionaire.
What was the first kitchen job you held?
I started my career at Aria Restaurant in Sydney, Australia. It is probably one of Australia’s best restaurants. Matt Moran is the chef and owner and it was a hard place to learn. We did a lot of covers during the week at high standards and technique.
Has any crazy stuff happened during your time in the kitchen?
I witnessed an apprentice chef clean and scrub the hoods while balancing on a sheet tray – which happened to be resting on stock pots. Needless to say, he didn’t last much longer in the restaurant.
Favorite music to work to in the kitchen?
All depends on the day. Start of the week – some deep house music, Carl Cox or Skrillex, Midweek something like Two Door Cinema Club or Mumford and Sons. End of the week – 80s or 90s – Billy Idol, Metallica or Beastie Boys.
What’s your favorite post-shift snack?
Cheese on Toast – grilled sourdough, good Brie cheese that’s been melted on, pickled onions and honey … amazing. We have done a version at work for the menu.
What is your favorite D’Artagnan product?
Ducks. Amazing quality and super consistent. We get the Rohan ducks and the flavor is incredible. We smoke and dry age in house, then roast the crown before service. We use the legs in a house made sausage with Asian flavors.
Name one ingredient you can’t live without.
I personally love coriander. The baby version or the larger version. Our style of food lends itself very well to coriander as we are influenced a lot in Asian flavors.
What’s the weirdest or most interesting ingredient you’ve ever cooked with?
My sous chef – Mike Martello was playing around with a mushroom, and we found the taste and texture terrible when we cooked it. So we decided to dry it out and turn it into a powder. The change in taste was incredible. Very chocolate like. So we turned it into ice cream. It was such a surprise. The taste was chocolate and nutty without adding either of those ingredients.
Best meal of your life so far?
My wife and I ate at Brae restaurant in Victoria, Australia. It was one of the best meals we have eaten. The surroundings, the restaurant itself, the front of house staff. The food, the kitchen. Everything about that meal was incredible. Oyster ice cream, shrimp and nasturtium, the parsnip dessert. It was the perfect meal.
If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be?
I would love to eat with Jason Atherton. I would pick his brain about his restaurant business empire. He is a chef I admire, from his training to his empire that he has grown. Incredible chef.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I would be in the hospitality industry still. My first goal was to go into hotel management. I enjoy the travel side of our industry. The ability to travel for your job and immerse yourself in different cultures attracted me to the hospitality industry. So I am sure I would still be in this industry if I wasn’t a chef.