Some people may know Randy Ryan as “Rein Beau,” a name that stemmed from his first business. To others, though, he is known as “the Kimchi Dude,” his business name and brand identity for homemade, healthful foods. He recently opened a stand in the Marketplace at Steamtown, where his menu frequently changes to feature his new ideas or holiday specials. While he is mainly self-taught in the culinary arts, he credits a culinary class at Wallenpaupack Area High School as his introduction to the craft. He graduated from Wallenpaupack in 2005 and lives in Scranton.
Meet Randy Ryan…
How did “the Kimchi Dude” come about”?
Originally, the first company I started was just juice. It was called Rainbow Juice. Through the process, I ended up elaborating the menu and the concept. I put all my eggs into the kimchi basket and kind of just rode that out and switched to the Kimchi Dude. The idea behind Rainbow Juice was just a company, whereas when I transitioned to the Kimchi Dude, it would be more about me and a personal brand and what I’m putting out and what I’m proud of. Rein Beau kind of stuck from there.
What is the concept you’re trying to show through the Kimchi Dude?
The main priority of the company is to create sustainable culinary, so using ingredients that can be grown sustainably and of course are healthy for the environment and people. I didn’t just want to create healthy food, I wanted to create delicious food that anybody can enjoy.
Can you describe kimchi?
The simplest method is to call it Korean sauerkraut. It’s fermented vegetables, Napa cabbage, Daikon radish, green onion, carrots, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, Celtic sea salt and just a little bit of sugar to activate the process.
What got you interested in creating something that’s so different?
The push for sustainability is a huge thing. Our nation as a whole is extremely wasteful. I just figured the government isn’t really doing anything, so I wanted to do whatever I could.
How did you learn about kimchi prior to starting this business?
I’ve always been very intrigued with the eastern cultures, whether it be sumo, smithing and the culinary, of course. Somewhere along the lines of researching the eastern culture, kimchi sprung up. I was just very intrigued. It’s what they call an eternal food. It’s kind of like honey in a sense that it won’t go bad, if prepared correctly, and it can sit for hundreds or thousands of years. It’s super sustainable. It was a way for the South Koreans to preserve the harvest through winter and have something to eat. Its a probiotic, ketogenic food. It’s kind of the best of (all) worlds — health, deliciousness and sustainability. After the first batch I made, I loved it, and it went from there.
How did making one batch for yourself become a full-time business?
Back in those days, I was sharing a lot of food with people just to kind of get my products out there and gain recognition. I was sharing little jars of kimchi with people, and they were obsessed. They’d call me up at midnight and say, “I need to swing by and get some kimchi,” so I knew it was time to put more focus on it.
Can you describe your products?
The original juice concepts were called earth juice, sun juice and moon juice. They correlate with the colors. Earth is a green juice, sun is an orange juice, and the moon is a white, cashew milk and is white like the moon. Earth juice is mixed greens, and I describe it as a vegetable candy, sweet and sour. It might sound nasty, but it’s totally not. I find a balance in my drinks between fruits and vegetables, so they’re nice and sweet. Sun juice is, of all the juices, definitely a pick-me-up. Moon juice may fall in the category of dessert. It has maple syrup that sweetens it up and cinnamon.
You say your menu is “the most innovative in the valley.” Why?
First of all, I don’t use recipes. Everything is made from scratch. Not a single thing on the menu is or will be made from a pre-made ingredient. One-hundred percent of things I make will use whole foods, scratch or basic ingredients. I don’t think anybody else can claim that. On top of that, I’m creating five times more compost than waste. To add in, people are losing weight, reversing illnesses and all these other things that I didn’t expect along the way. There’s an aspect of wellness to the menu.
What is something running a business has taught you?
Discipline for sure. Getting up in the morning, if I didn’t show up today, it’s not happening. The biggest thing is discipline, finding a balance (between) personal leisure and running a business. It’s a balancing act and takes practice.
Have you have a moment or time if your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I think opening this stand for sure. You listen to entrepreneurs and speakers say, “You’re never going to be ready,” so just say yes to things. It was probably in March or April, I put a deposit in for this place, I wrote a check and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m just going to do it and see how it goes.” It was one of those moments when I had to stop waiting for other people to help me, jump right in by myself and stand on my own two feet. It’s working out so far.
What has been most gratifying so far?
My favorite part, now that I have a spot, is people coming here on dates or first dates and inviting other people. It’s more of like a gathering space. It’s a new element to the business that I just love.
Did living in different places give you a different perspective on anything as opposed to being in NEPA?
Totally. Even if you just go to Philadelphia and you eat, then come back to Scranton, you realize the food culture here is 10 years behind. It’s very limited. It’s one of those things where you only know what you experience. I grew up in a trucking family, so that helped a lot. We were always going somewhere.
Do you hope that your stand and products will contribute to growing the food culture in NEPA?
Definitely. Part of becoming the Kimchi Dude was that I would establish a personal brand as a chef and be able to open different concept restaurants. This is one. This is sustainable, whole food and raw diet. There are plans for a gourmet burger bar. Maybe there’s pizza (shop) down the road or a noodle shop.
Your food and products have an element of art to them. Can you describe how it is art?
My philosophy is life is art. Art can be anything from painting to the way you design your furniture to the way you dress yourself. Culinary for me, includes the plating and a lot of minor details that are often overlooked. I appreciate culinary as an art because it’s the only art that can stimulate all five senses.
The final word is yours.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. A big shift in my life was the first time I tried high-quality sushi. That was probably the start of me losing a lot of weight, feeling better and clean. And I’ll often hear that people don’t like kimchi because they’ve tried it from someone else. My kimchi is a balanced recipe, not too spicy, it doesn’t have the fish sauce, and most people who try it end up loving it.
Photos by Emma Black