Patrick Ryan


Patrick Ryan lives to innovate. “I’ve never been good at the grind, having one task and doing it everyday. I like to constantly keep inventing and creating.” A Kansas City native, Patrick’s creative spark found a home in the kitchen. He began working in kitchens at an early age, at cozy mom-and-pop joints helmed by Mexican cooks. It’s here where he first began to learn about Mexican culture and cuisine, a love affair that inspired him to get his culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon, and an apprenticeship with legendary chef Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago.

Patrick returned home in 2010 to open the first iteration of Port Fonda, a small restaurant housed inside an Airstream trailer that specialized in serving up regional Mexican fare with a Midwestern twist. In other words, not your standard burrito. Port Fonda became a brick and mortar in 2012, ushering in a culinary renaissance that’s earned him a James Beard nomination for Best Chef Midwest for the past three years running! Food & Wine has nominated Patrick not once, but twice, as its People’s Choice for Best New Chef.

Why We Love Patrick Ryan

Patrick is warm and down to earth. He has a deep respect for his city, community and staff - especially his staff, whom he credits for his multiple James Beard nominations. Also, he brought deep-fried avocado tacos to the Midwest, which gives him major brownie points in our book.

“Good cooks are naturally givers. It makes you feel good to entertain, to share, to give. And running a restaurant is amazing because you get to do it all of the time.”

“The first thing I’ll do when I travel is hit up a street vendor. If you don’t know anything else, find a place that has line. And just get something little to eat, maybe something little to drink.”

6 Questions with Patrick Ryan

  1. How did the food thing start for you?

    I grew up four blocks from my grandparents. And I kind of grew up with them. They had a garden outside, and we’d pick vegetables. So by the time I was like 6 or 7, I knew how to cook. I could make scrambled eggs. It’s sounds weird to say aloud, but I was just good at it when I was really young. And when you find something that you’re good at, you end up liking it a lot. And I just never quit loving it.

  2. Smells. Tell us your favorite smell.

    Queso fundido! It's Chihuahua cheese, chorizo rojo, poblano rojas, Mexican oregano, all coming out of a wood-burning oven with fresh corn tortillas… that’s my favorite smell. It’s my death row meal, it’s my favorite smell, it’s one of my favorite things to eat ever. It’s fantastic.

  3. How did you get connected with Mexico?

    I was working at mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants when I was like 14. I was the chip guy, or the dishwasher guy, kind of the one white guy. So I learned to speak Spanish, a little bit of the culture and geography. I just fell in love with the people I was working with. And the connection with Mexico followed.

  4. What do you love about going to Mexico?

    Over the last four or five years, I started going to Mexico more and more often, and into different places. It’s such a huge, diverse country. And now I just caught that bug. And I just want to see all of it. Even just Mexico City. It's so huge. It’s like going to New York City for the first time. You can’t experience everything. You can get a little bit here and there.

  5. You say you were a "sports guy" growing up. What Kansas City team do you most want to win a championship?

    Right now, it’s gotta be the Chiefs. Sporting Kansas City, the soccer team, I really really like. There are a lot of people I’m really close to in the organization and the players, which have lived in the same building as me. So I’m really connected to Sporting Kansas City. But, man, we got to get a Chiefs Super Bowl in my lifetime. Probably this year.

  6. Serious question. Is a hot dog a sandwich?

    Oh my god. We were just talking about this... Fuck no! It’s not a sandwich, it’s a hot dog! Look, I get it. I’m open to all opinions... but it’s not a sandwich. A torta is a sandwich. I mean, if my dad was ordering a hamburger, he’d call it a "hamburger sandwich." He’d never call a hot dog a sandwich. Because it’s not a sandwich.

Explore Upcoming Trips with our Tastemakers

Oaxaca with Gregory Gourdet

Explore food, art and culture with Chef Gregory Gourdet. Oaxaca packs in so much of the complex, fascinating culture of Mexico and we'll experience it all—at artist studios, ancient ruins, local markets, street-food stands, hacienda hotels. Join us!

Alaska: Deep Backcountry

Seven days of Alaskan wilderness backpacking, limited to just 10 people tpo maximize our backcountry access. Float planes, snowcapped peaks, camping on pristine glacial lakes, and the rare opportunity to spot grizzly bears in the wild. This is the Alaska of your dreams.

Portugal with Jamie Malone

We'll go deep into Portuguese culture and cuisine: azulejo tiles, Fado music, sparkling wines and vintage ports. Explore taverns and markets, vineyards and farms, and sail through the world’s most gorgeous wine country.