Saturday, October 16, 2021

Chef Ryan Swanson leaving KAI restaurant

With the help of Chef Ryan Swanson, Kai restaurant was featured in Tastes & Treasures II with its accent on historic, indigenous foods. The chef of award-winning Kai restaurant is moving on. The Historical League appreciates his love of history and contributions.
Priscilla Totiyapungprasert Arizona Republic
USA TODAY NETWORK October 13, 2021 Ryan Swanson, the chef de cuisine at Kai, grew up in Ahwatukee just 10 minutes away from the award-winning dining destination. For the past 12 years, the fine-dining restaurant in the Gila River Indian Reservation felt like home as he worked his way up from line cook to head chef. Now Swanson — self-described “Arizona boy and a desert boy” — is moving on. A spokesperson for the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass confirmed that Swanson is leaving the resort’s flagship restaurant and his last night of service is Saturday, Oct. 23. Swanson told The Arizona Republic he is stepping into a new, more operational role at the historic Ocean House beach hotel in Rhode Island. While it’s hard to leave home, Swanson felt it was time to explore another side of the industry, as well as another side of the country. ‘It’s very Arizona-specific’ Swanson was promoted to head chef of Kai in 2015. In 2020, he was recognized as a semifinalist for the James Beard Awards in the Best Chef — Southwest category. Kai, which means ‘seed’ in the Pima language, is known for its upscale menu inspired by the Pima and Maricopa Tribes.
Recent dishes at the restaurant include a chilled cactus and melon soup made with lemon semifreddo, compressed Arizona melon, guajillo oil and citrus lace; the Kai lobster roll made with vanilla butter poached lobster tail served on Ramona Farms pinole cornbread and 60-day corn bisque; and a grilled tenderloin of tribal buffalo served with smoked corn puree, scarlet runner bean chili, cholla buds and saguaro blossom syrup. “It’s very Arizona-specific,” Swanson said. “That’s the reason why it’s so special. Not too many people are doing what we’re doing right now.” Kai restaurant
looks for new head chef Swanson said he was proud to collaborate with Indigenous farmers in Arizona and showcase their ingredients, from tepary beans to saguaro seeds. Swanson has worked with Native Seeds/ SEARCH and the San Xavier Co-Op Farm in Tucson, as well as Ramona Farms in Sacaton. He has also used for- aged ingredients from Tohono O’odham artist Terrol Dew Johnson. “I’d like to thank the community and the executive committee and everybody at the restaurant for the enormous support they’ve given me throughout the years in allowing me to be creative and do my best work at Kai...It’s been a real honor and a real pleasure and I’m going to miss them,” he said. Swanson feels like he’s leaving the restaurant in a good place for the next chef. The chef de cuisine role at Kai is now open. Interested candidates can apply online at Reach the reporter at