By Rebecca Cahilly-Taranto
Photos by Richard Taranto
City & Shore Magazine
Lenore Nolan-Ryan clicks across the Mexican-tile floor, carrying an oversized artichoke on a blue plate accented with sundried cherry tomatoes, edamame, chives and filled with a hollandaise-style sauce.
“If I were stranded on a deserted island and had only one thing to eat, let it be artichokes!” she says as she sets down the Artichoke Benedict, a favorite on her Bubbles & Brunch menu.
Lenore is the owner of Lenore Nolan-Ryan World Class Catering & Cooking School, whose Galt Ocean Mile location opened last May. The 30-year culinary veteran has an impressive background that includes restaurant ownership, catering and private chef gigs all over the country. The new location in Fort Lauderdale represents a sweet spot for the venerable chef — something not too big, not too small, where she can host private parties, cooking classes and brunch events on a monthly schedule fueled by creativity and what she calls “Lenore du jour.”
“I’m in the kitchen all the time,” she says. “Everything I do here I’m absolutely passionate about – the wine tastings, teaching, bringing people into my space and having a party for them.”
Born in Miami Beach, Lenore grew up in a food-loving household with a mother who excelled at cooking and entertaining. “I can remember wearing a Campbell’s Soup hat and apron and standing at the stove stirring figure eights in the sauce,” she says of her first cooking memory. “I never remember seeing a cookbook in the kitchen, it was always ‘a pinch of this, a pinch of that, let’s take what’s available and make it better.’”
Travel came second to the family’s appreciation for food, as Lenore’s father’s work with casinos took them to Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and Indianapolis, as well as a three-year stint in “pre-Castro” Cuba.
While living in Indianapolis, Lenore decided that the city needed something to offset its brunch offerings that consisted of the “big, fancy brunch buffet, the diner or the pancake house.” She was 19.
“I wanted to do confitures and quiches, so I rented out a little Serbian restaurant called The Pleasant Peasant on the weekends and I would cook brunch.” When a customer asked if she also catered, she immediately replied yes and promptly had business cards made.
Two years later, Lenore visited a friend in San Francisco and ended up staying — for 20 years. During her time in California, Lenore ran five brunch locations simultaneously in the same format as her Indianapolis business: renting space at an existing location.
She also ran a cooking school, restaurant and wine bar out of a three-story Victorian home. “Those were the days. I had ladies coming daily with their baskets of fresh pullet eggs and produce from their little gardens. I remember the first time I went to North Beach,” she says. “I got off the cable car in Little Italy and the aroma of pizza, tomatoes and garlic was intoxicating.”
When Lenore returned to South Florida in 2000 to be closer to her mother, she took over a pizza location in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and ran it for 16 years, serving artisanal pizza, prepared foods and cheeses, later adding cooking classes and changing the name to Lenore Nolan-Ryan Cooking School and Catering.
Lenore’s location on Galt Ocean Mile is what the 65-year-old foodie calls her “last hurrah.”
“Whatever I want to do,” she says, “I’m going to do it right here.”
Lenore’s monthly calendar features three to four themed cooking classes, private events, catering gigs for private clients, Sunday Bubbles & Brunch events and a monthly Live2Travel, Love2Eat dinner which explores the cuisine and tastes of a destination particularly close to Lenore’s heart. On Wednesdays, Lenore invites her busy customers to pick up healthy, fresh meals with delicious soups and fresh salads to go with Lenore-a-Go-Go.
“Food is beautiful,” she says. “When you love food, you fall in love with the actual food — the egg itself, the eggplant… no egg or lemon will ever be exactly the same. This allows you to revel in the moment.” She wants each participant in her hands-on cooking class to connect with each ingredient and to be present in the moment.
“I want everyone to feel comfortable in the kitchen. As soon as you cross this threshold you’re a good cook. When you’re comfortable you’re going to do well, and it’s joyous to cook well,” she says. “I ask my guests, ‘how are you feeling today? Are you happy?’ That translates into their experience, and into the taste of the dish.”
Lenore says she believes that having a creative outlet keeps one “young, young at heart and grateful.” She spends her free time traveling, which includes a regular summer post in the Pacific Northwest as a private chef aboard a 76-foot Hatteras charter yacht. “I end and begin my year in the Pacific Northwest — I come back so refreshed.”
She flicks a wisp of hair back from her forehead and smiles, pointing to some of her favorite dishes she has cooked and plated: the Lenore Salad with baby greens, heritage greens, hearts of palm, berries, caramelized nuts, and “whatever else looks good” drizzled with a mustard shallot vinaigrette; Cedar Plank Salmon with her signature Thai orange sauce; Mint Pea Salad with Sea Salt; the Torte Milanese (“pronouncing it with an Italian accent makes it taste so much better”) brunch dish of layers of ham and cheese, and the World’s Best “these-will-be-my-retirement” Brownies.
“For me it’s the joy of doing what you love for your whole life,” says Lenore of her new venture. “Whatever you’re doing, no matter how old you are, put your joy into it. And if you are cooking, cook with careless abandon!” λ
Lenore Nolan-Ryan World Class Catering
and Cooking School, 954-491-2340,
Chef Lenore Nolan-Ryan’s Five-Spice Salmon Plank and Thai Orange Sauce
Six 5-oz. salmon fillets
1 Tbsp five spice
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp dry mustard
¼ cup honey
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp melted butter for brushing salmon
6 Untreated cedar planks, each about 3×6 inches, soaked in water to cover for 1 hour
Extra-virgin olive oil, for oiling the plank
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the surface of the planks with olive oil and place the planks on a sheet pan. Put the salmon fillets on the oiled plank surface.
In a small bowl mix honey, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and dry mustard.
Brush the top of the salmon fillets with the melted butter. Season the salmon with the five-spice seasoning. Baste the salmon with the honey-balsamic and place the salmon in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and baste again.
Serve with Thai Orange Sauce and Roasted Tomatoes, Onions and Edamame.
Thai Orange Sauce
2 cups frozen orange juice concentrate
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsps each sugar, rice vinegar and sesame oil
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 Tbsps fish sauce
¼ cup ginger purée
2 Tbsps Sambal Oelek chili paste (to taste)
Mix everything together in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes for flavors to blend. Do not boil.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Onions and Edamame
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup frozen pearl onions, defrosted
½ cup edamame
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Mix together and place in baking dish. Roast in 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until starting to turn golden brown and caramelize.