Today we meet Brian Lewis of OKO Rye.
Your Name: Chef Brian Lewis
Your Role: Chef/Owner (For the past three years, Fecedio Douglas runs the day-to-day operations with me and is extremely talented).
The name of your restaurant: OKO Rye
MyRye.com: Describe yourself in one word.
How long have you been a chef at OKO?
Lewis: I have been the Chef and Owner of OKO Rye (alongside my Chef de Cuisine Fecedio Douglas) for three years.
Previously, where did you work?
Lewis: I have cooked professionally for the past 35 years. I currently am the Chef and Owner of The Cottage Westport, The Cottage Greenwich, OKO Westport and OKO Rye.
Prior the opening these restaurants and forming my company, Full House Hospitality Group, I was the Chef and Owner of ELM Restaurant in New Canaan, CT. Prior to ELM, I was the founding Executive Chef of Richard Gere’s Bedford Post Inn, located in Bedford, N.Y.
My career before this has spanned 20 years of cooking and leading some of the most well-known restaurants in the country, from coast to coast including Lutece, Oceana, Sign of The Dove, The Ritz Carlton and Rockenwagner (to name a few).
What and when was your first paid job?
Lewis: My very first job was washing dishes and prepping for the Chef (for free on my own time, to learn) at 13 years old at Fritz’s restaurant in my hometown of Somers, N.Y.
Describe your path to becoming a chef.
Lewis: I knew from the age of 13 years old that I would be a Chef for my lifelong career. I was obsessed and driven with cooking and the intense new “sport” that I found in the kitchen. I was sidelined from playing football due to an injury and found my greatest lifelong passion, cooking, one day while looking for a job to fill the void of having to sit out for a season of football.
I began as a dishwasher and worked for free after school on my days off, went in early, stayed late, all just to learn from my childhood heroes, the superstar Chefs of the kitchens in as many of the best restaurants which I could find and work in throughout northern Westchester.
As my early mentor, Chef Tom Elia said, ‘You just know when you know, and the olive oil is in your blood.” I have never considered cooking a job, more my life and the kitchen was my new football field!
What are three attributes that make someone a good chef?
Lewis: Passion, grit and discipline
Describe your restaurant’s clientele.
Lewis: OKO Rye has a wonderful and exciting clientele from Rye and the surrounding Westchester and Connecticut area. We actually have a significant draw of New York City clientele drawn to OKO as well. The common characteristic I can best use to describe our clientele is adventurous! While we have many families on a daily basis, we certainly attract a great deal of girls night groups, large parties of friends gathering to celebrate and just have a beautiful evening together, as well as the dedicated “ foodie’ looking for the Omakase experience.
Describe the atmosphere of your restaurant.
Lewis: Lively, exciting, modern yet warm and inviting with awesome R&B music playing! The night is always bursting with the constant array of artfully plated food and cocktails parading through the dining room, as everyone focuses on that more than anything!
Describe the physical attributes of your restaurant.
Lewis: Cozy, lively, modern and comfortable with beautiful large windows looking out onto the action of Purchase Street, coupled with the high energy of the open kitchen and bar where the action is!
Match a recommended meal with each season:
|Occasion||Recommended Meal – Lewis:|
|Warm summer evening||Red Miso Grilled Peach & Tomato Salad|
|Crisp fall afternoon||Kabocha Squash Tempura w/ white miso aioli|
|Cold winter day||Crab Nabemono w/ Hoshikari Rice|
|Muddy wet spring night||Nigiri Sushi Assortment (Extra Uni)|
What is your favorite dish on the menu and why?
- 10-piece Nigiri Sushi Assortment
- Santa Barbara Uni Toast w/ milk bread, umeboshi, goat’s milk butter, smoked trout roe
- The OKO Burger w/ bacon jam, grilled shallot kimchi, red miso aioli, lotus root tempura
What’s the most underrated day of week and time of day to enjoy your restaurant?
Lewis: Thursday at 5:30. I find Thursdays the best day to beat the weekend crowds and get an early jump on the Omakase treats that we have ready to roll out for the weekend. Uni and lots of other Japanese fish and shellfish arrive both Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it’s a great day to be the first in on the action!