DUSTIN RICKER // Chef, Ardsley Station
Photos courtesy of ARDSLEY STATION
AS EXECUTIVE CHEF at Ardsley Station, Dustin Ricker adds love to his dishes as if it’s any other ingredient. A self-taught, barbecue-smokin’, creative-cooking connoisseur, Ricker whips up recipes that span comfort food to fine dining: wings, burgers, ribs, grouper, Bolognese and New York strip are all at home on the menu. Originally from Bath, Maine, with stints in Colorado and Oregon, Ricker, along with his wife (also a chef) and children, is savoring life down South, where local ingredients are often available year-round.
ON CREATING A NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT
We’re trying to be approachable. We don’t want to be pretentious; we want to serve great food at a reasonable price and have people come back over and over again, because they love what we’re doing. Our front of the house, bartenders and the whole restaurant work together in unison unlike any place I’ve ever worked before.
ON HIS FAVORITE DISHES
I love the whole menu. As the chef, I put my hands on everything. I love our vegetarian squash dish because I’m getting these really beautiful acorn squash from Tuten Farms, and we’re using Charleston gold rice and some local mushrooms that we pick up from GrowFood Carolina; we sauté that and put it in the roasted acorn squashes. I think the Bolognese is very unique, too, because it’s a riff on traditional Bolognese. Instead of using cured meats from Italy and ground veal and pork and beef, I’m using our barbecue and the beautiful ground pork from Marvin [Ross] at Peculiar Pig Farm. I also don’t think anyone in town does what we do with smoking wings, and our blue cheese dressing is really tasty. It’s a nice take on a classic dish for someone who wants to come in and have a beer and some wings.
ON SUPPORTING LOCAL FARMS
We’re as local as possible. Probably 90 percent of what we purchase comes from within a few hundred miles of where we are. All in all, I try really hard to be a Southern kitchen, where I try to utilize everything I possibly can from our region. I’ve got some great cheeses coming out of Tennessee, Charleston and out of Georgia, plus [we use farms like] GrowFood and Tuten Farms. We try to source everything responsibly and support our local economy.
ON STAYING IN SEASON
When I came in, I revamped the entire menu. I change the menu items as the seasons change. Some dishes last 60 weeks, some last two to four weeks — depends on the availability of local products.
“Probably 90 percent of what we purchase comes from within a few hundred miles of where we are. All in all, I try really hard to be a Southern kitchen.” — Dustin Ricker
ON THE POWER OF LOCAL PATRONAGE
A lot of our locals are coming back. We see them several times a week. That means we’re doing something right. But it’s [proprietor Tyler Kopkas’s] vision. Tyler is such a great owner and really cares about who we are in the community. We just opened up for brunch recently, and that’s been well received. It’s very humbling — the amount of support that we’ve had in a short period of time. It certainly makes it enjoyable to come to work, cook and look forward to everyday service.