In May 2011, Ryan Hardy stood for the fourth time as a finalist for the James Beard Award: Best Chef Southwest. Though the award eluded him, his next step did not as Hardy resigned his six-year post at The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colorado in search of his own venture in New York City. In June 2013, Hardy put his creative entrepreneurship to work and opened his first restaurant – Charlie Bird – a Manhattan eatery with an Italian-inspired menu showcasing Hardy’s distinctive culinary style and his passion for quality ingredients and service.
Hardy’s experience in the kitchen began in 1999 at the famed Rubicon Restaurant, owned and operated by Drew Nieporent, Robert DeNiro and the Myriad Restaurant Group in San Francisco. In 2001, after just three years of professional cooking, a 25-year-old Hardy took the reins of his first restaurant in Aspen, Colorado and nine months later notched Rustique Bistro among Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants. Hardy left to assume the head chef role at Santa Fe’s 4-star Coyote Café, working for James Beard Award Winner Mark Miller.
In 2003, Hardy would return to the Myriad Group at the Coach House Restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard where he was a James Beard Rising Star Nominee in 2004 and was named Best New Chef New England in 2005 by Yankee Magazine. It was here that Hardy began the island’s local food movement, founding New England’s second Slow Food Chapter in 2004 promoting the island’s farmers and fisherman. His efforts did not go unnoticed being named alongside Alice Waters and Roxanne Klein as one of the most sustainable chefs in America in 2005.
A new challenge took Hardy back to Aspen in 2005, to The Little Nell Hotel. Furthering his sustainability record, Hardy founded the 34-acre Rendezvous Organic Farm, spawning a new market for locally grown pork, lamb, goat, chicken, cheese, charcuterie and heirloom Italian produce not previously available in the United States. Armed with these ingredients and intel gained from annual trips to Rome to learn the art of pasta, Hardy developed the style in the kitchen that he exhibits today.
His efforts have seen feature stories and appearances in Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, The Martha Stewart Show, Cooking Light, Wine Spectator, Saveur, GQ, The New York Times and NBC’s Today Show.