Photos Rob Smith
Largos is the new destination in Cartersville’s East End. Light and contemporary with an artsy flair, this new restaurant is everything we want and crave. Bold flavors and fresh modern atmosphere pair brilliantly to give everyone a truly memorable experience.
Chef Ryan Doyle of Sussex County, New Jersey, works diligently to create more than a bite to eat, he creates an experience to behold where he plays with different flavor profiles to build something beyond the ordinary and create dishes uniquely exceptional. Largos is fresh, modern, and sophisticated; yet remains fun and casual for all to enjoy.
Question: Largos is very reminiscent of the Napa region, with its bright contemporary décor and California focused wine selection. How does this influence translate into ingredient choices and pairings on the plate?
Chef Ryan: When you think of cuisine in Napa and other areas of California, your mind immediately goes toward freshness: that farm-to-table inspired scratch kitchen, which do everything from the ground up. Which is what we do, everything in our recipes and on our plates is from scratch.
We build every flavor. Our goal is to serve locally sourced vegetables as much as possible to ensure its freshness. Our job, then, is simply to accentuate those incredible flavors and not to beat them too much or overly process it, which often is the case here in the South, we will see vegetables fried and smothered with sauce.
Question: Owners Pat and David Holt knew they hit the jackpot when they discovered the creativity you infuse into your menus as well as your ability to transform any selection of meat into a flavorful masterpiece. If you were to select your favorite- the most perfect cut- what would it be and how would you prepare it?
Chef Ryan: A ribeye is my go-to every time. I like a bone-in ribeye, and it doesn’t matter if it is a one inch cut or, you know, a big twenty-two ounce. The big thing for me is fat is flavor. I teach my staff techniques to get the natural fats in the meat to melt in your mouth, to find that perfect temperature. Every steak can be cooked wrong, and every steak can be cooked to perfection. A medium-rare or medium cooked ribeye will give you everything you want in a steak.
You get the meaty cut with a nice flavor and all that, but then you have the spinalis and all the fat that gives you so much flavor. I’ve spent many years working in steakhouses like Hal’s and STK. Everybody has their different methods- they have their own way. Sometimes they want to put a thousand things on them and soak it in this or rub it with that. I say salt and pepper, some garlic and rosemary, and grill it to perfection. It doesn’t need to be overly processed. A good cut of meat will stand alone.
Question: Opening a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic proved to be a little tricky. You were hired to be the executive chef of this new restaurant opening in Cartersville’s East End, and then everything halted. You no longer had a kitchen to jump into and found yourself trading your apron for a tool belt. Not every chef has the opportunity to build their own kitchen. What was your reaction to this shift in roles?
Chef Ryan: (laughing) Yeah, it was interesting. It wasn’t a fight or flight moment, but I definitely had to ask myself if this was the right call. Is this opportunity lesser than me, considering where I am in my career, or -in fact- is this exactly where I need to be? In reality, being a part of the construction and design of the space helped me connect more fully.
I learned a new appreciation for the restaurant, and I fell in love with it. Before, I was a chef coming into a new space to make some food, but I found myself not just a culinary creator but builder of the space. We built Largos together and made it what it is today. I look around and see these lights and the creative wall details and think “I did that.”
There is not a square inch of this restaurant that I haven’t put my hands on, and I have a never-felt-before feeling of pride for a restaurant. With Pat’s eye for design and David’s knowledge of structure and buildings we worked together like a family. This is our baby. It’s not just fabricated, we built this together, hands-on, everyday.
Originally, Largos had a breakfast/lunch service concept, but all that seemed to change about three months before the original opening date. I was working menu ideas and giving Pat and David tastings when they said, “Well, breakfast and lunch is fun, but you could make an amazing dinner menu.” I am flexible, I was all- in for the business, so I said, “Let’s see where this goes.” So, our design shifted more upscale, and I revamped the kitchen to include more heating elements and better flow for a dinner service. That’s really how it came to be what it is today, and the people seem to really enjoy it.
Question: When you settle into the kitchen and aim to create new dishes how do you prepare? Do you have a specific routine or ritual? What does it look like, are you listening to music and experimenting with a collection of ingredients or is it quiet and you begin structured with a pen and paper?
Chef Ryan: CR: My wife jokes that it is always the same picture. I have the television on my favorite program with Action Bronson, F*ck, That’s Delicious. His music plays on in the background. I have my laptop in front of me, and then ten or more recipe books and magazines spread out in front of me. I look through all this material and look to get triggered by something. For example, if I am looking to create a new appetizer and see that shrimp is a popular trend right now, I will begin to research different methods and recipes.
I typically conceptualize a dish first. I will write three versions of a plate, changing sauces and ingredients. Then immediately jump into the kitchen and make it, breaking each version down. In the end, I may keep elements from phase one or phase three, mixing them together to make the perfect creation. Allowing myself to get triggered during this process broadens my inspirations from social media and specific chefs’ feed, to traveling and dining experiences.
Question: Who are your culinary heroes, and who do you follow?
Chef Ryan: I would have to say my culinary hero is Anthony Bourdain. He was a family friend, and I read his books when I was young and followed his career closely. I spent time with him in my early twenties, that I found very inspirational. Every level of cuisine, no matter whether it is a mom n’ pop sandwich shop or fine dining, French gastronomy; food has the ability to be that one great dish, and it could be a hot dog.
Anthony could see the beauty of all of it. He appreciated that a good burger is a good burger, and a really fantastic filet is an amazing filet and there’s a thousand things in between. You could have parsnips a hundred different ways, but this way is fantastic, and this is why… He appreciated different culinary techniques and learned from everybody. I gained that from him. You can’t stop learning in this field. This industry develops so quickly: so many new ideas introduced every year, someone is out there always pushing the limits to do something different. There are a million different elements to cooking and I appreciate the vision of being able to see the forest through the trees, if you will.
Question: What would you consider was the most formative culinary experience you had as a young chef?
Chef Ryan: I fell in love with the controlled chaos you can only find in a kitchen, really. A kitchen is really high energy, especially on those busy nights, Friday and Saturday. It’s a go, go, go. You show up and adapt and overcome. I started working summers in the restaurant business when I was pretty young, 12 or 13 years old, in my aunt and uncle’s restaurant Never Enough Thyme in Alpharetta, GA.
I went to Sussex County Vocational High School for my preliminary chef training then jumped straight to the Academy of Culinary Arts in New Jersey. I knew in my teens that this was for me for the rest of my life. I was young and hungry for more responsibilities; I had that kind of tunnel vision that was goal oriented and wanting to succeed and move forward. Similarly with Largos, there is this drive to create this fantastic experience, seek good press, win awards, you know, build a brand.
Question: How would you describe the perfect meal?
Chef Ryan: There was this little restaurant in Naples, Italy, which I will never forget. It was tiny, twelve- fifteen- seats maybe. The chef was a little woman in her seventies and the restaurant had been in her family for a hundred years before her. It was a really neat back story. Every dish was prepared and served by this old woman.
She carried our plates to the table, and I was blown away at how personal the experience was. Our first course was a wine braised vegetable dish served with toast points, and you put it together yourself. I remember it being so simple and not over the top. It was elegant and personal and so far removed from anything you would see in the U.S.
I mean, if you do see it in America, it is typically so pretentious and will cost hundreds of dollars. The experience gets muddied in the cost. The lady cared about the food, and she cared about the people. This is exactly the kind of experience that the owners of the restaurant and me want to give to our guests.
The world is a crazy place. No matter what field of work you are in, or what home life you have, whether you have kids or not, everyone likes to go someplace where they feel welcome. Somewhere where they can almost disconnect for a moment from the business of the day and the hectic things going on in their lives, to have a moment to enjoy life. You don’t have to travel or seek out a crazy expensive event.
Sometimes just that one night with a loved one or group of friends when you are greeted at the door and brought to a table and immediately enveloped into this group, collective environment. We will offer a cocktail to help you feel the mood and get into your evening out. Then out come the appetizers, and now you are enticed. Next arrives your entrée and you are nearly overwhelmed because of the beauty and the flavors.
You are completely drawn into the experience, that you don’t want to leave, and we want you to stay and have dessert. Sit back in your chair and tell a friend an old story or disappear from the world entranced with your date. We want you to fall into an evening outside of the hustle and bustle and have a personal experience. That is what a perfect meal is made of.