Now Playing

Man on Fire

Rays on the Bay is burning up the kitchen—and the turntable.

Chef Bryan Byard at Rays on the Bay on Hawai‘i Island

Buzz-worthy chef Bryan Byard made a huge leap from his grandmothers’ kitchens in the Southwest to some of the most lauded eateries in New Mexico and Colorado. How’d he do it? Without a culinary degree, this unbridled rebel in a pristine white coat apprenticed with some of the country’s top toques. Today, the passionate 34-year-old soul man is serving up some of the most exciting food on Hawai‘i Island at Rays on the Bay at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay.

You’ve made a lot of moves in your relatively short career. How’s your latest move from Rocky Mountain high to low-key island style working out for you? It’s incredible here. The climate, the people and the pace all suit me. I grew up in Albuquerque, and there are actually lots of similarities–wide open spaces, the heat.

Tell us about your ultimate culinary moments so far—a favorite childhood memory and a career thriller? My grandmothers on both sides of my family really inspired my love for food. As a child, I loved being in the kitchen with them. As for my career best, it was definitely preparing dinner at the James Beard House in New York. As a chef in America, that’s one of the ultimate achievements. It’s an invitation-only experience: You come on the radar, and they seek you out. 

What are your current hots and nots? The wines coming out of Argentina at the moment, especially malbec from the Mendoza region, are absolutely phenomenal. On the not-so-hot side of things… it irritates me when someone messes [food] up. It’s disrespectful.

What’s happening at Rays on the Bay? It’s so great getting to know the farmers, fisherman and ranchers here. Hawai‘i Island has incredible products and so many ethnic influences. So, I’m slowly adapting the menu to complement what’s here and, most importantly, to what people really want to eat.

Word has it that food is your first love, but music is a close second. Please share! When I’m not cooking, I’m collecting and producing music—that is, providing rhythmic “breaks” to hip-hop and rap artists around the world. I started collecting vinyl records as a kid, and now the count stands literally in the tens of thousands. Most of it is old jazz, funk and soul.

Your favorite local food? Spam-and-egg musubi. I also love good noodles with a fried egg on top. It’s just awesome comfort food.

Newfound fun in Hawai‘i? Fishing! It’s relaxing, and I usually throw everything I catch right back.

Favorite spot on Hawai‘i Island? The beach up north at Mauna Kea Resort.