Faces of Fauquier: Busy chef returns to her roots

The globe-trotting private chef and her husband, formerly a professional skateboarder, had lived adventurously for about eight years.

Warrenton native Ryan Ross cooked constantly for big groups, celebrities, friends, couples and her spouse - sometimes in elaborate kitchens, sometimes in a toaster oven.

Ms. Ross earned acclaim for creating surprises with locally-sourced food and spices.

Five years ago, while living in the Pacific Northwest, she won $10,000 on Chopped, a Food Network reality show.

But, with a daughter on the way, she and husband Casey Rigney, who for a while had lived in Nicaragua, decided to settle down a bit. Last summer, they bought a new home on 1.6 acres in a fairly-secluded spot just outside of Warrenton.

They thought about making their home in her husband's native Washington state.

"But, I really missed the change of seasons," said Ms. Ross, who also liked the prospect of more contact with her family. Her mother operates The Natural Marketplace in Warrenton, her father practices law here, and her brother has a local real estate brokerage.

Mr. Rigney works on environmental issues two weeks at a time on a boat, alternating with two weeks of free time. He flies back and forth to the Northwest.

Everything seemed great - until the pandemic struck.

"I thought, 'Here we go. I better assess my financials . . . . I thought it (work) was gonna slow down, but it never did."

With restaurants closed or constricted for months, even more clients sought her services to create meals for in-home celebrations large and small.

Some clients hire Ms. Ross to fill their refrigerators with prepared meals and carefully-selected ingredients.

Word-of-mouth, her Instagram account and an occasional ad in The Scout Guide have helped build her business.

Last year, Middleburg's historic Red Fox Inn offered Ms. Ross a one-day-a-week consulting gig as culinary director to infuse the menu with creativity.

And, she wrote a cookbook, published in July.

Callisto Media representatives asked Ms. Ross and 40 other chefs to audition for authorship of a newlyweds' cookbook.

"They basically said, 'We're a data-driven company. We know what will sell'."

Her writing samples and recipes won Ms. Ross the job. It took her about four months to complete the No-Fuss Cookbook for Newlyweds, which includes 100 recipes and dozens of tips of tips, all delivered with breezy humor. Chapter 1, "Your Kitchen Is a Disaster," suggests that newlyweds get the basics:

Two skillets, one medium and one large, with lids.

A medium saucepot with a lid. Think of a spaghetti pot.

A small saucepot with a lid for quick jobs like heating up soup.

A chef's knife or utility knife.

A serrated knife.

A paring knife.

"Whether you have a brand-new giant kitchen or just a camping fork between you, this chapter has you covered on how to set up your kitchen for two," she writes, later advising: ". . . you'll learn how to share the kitchen with each other and create a mutual space where you can have some fun - and perhaps a cocktail - while cooking together."

The introductory chapter has more suggestions for equipping and arranging a kitchen, including a section titled, "The Work Triangle Is a Myth."

Ms. Ross stresses the need for open counter space and likes hands-free trash, compost and recycling bins within easy reach.

The publisher paid her up front and will keep the book's proceeds.

Ms. Ross aspires to write more cookbooks. As a collector of them, she particularly cherishes one a client gave her - Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook, illustrated by Andy Warhol and published in 1961.

Meanwhile, the busy cook recently joined Homemade, a subscription service in which Ms. Ross and four other chefs lead virtual cooking classes and events. With a laptop, a camera and special lights, her kitchen serves as a studio for the collaborative effort.

Even with a nanny to help with her toddler Isla, the chef has her hands and time quite full.

Age 35

Home Near Warrenton

Work Private chef; culinary director, Red Fox Inn, Middleburg.

Why do you do the job? I have a lot of creative juices flowing. I like the idea of having a good career and some flexibility. I like the physicality of it, the change of seasons, the community of people. It's an essential - food.

Family Husband, Casey Rigney; daughter, Isla.

Education Natural Gourmet Institute, 2009; bachelor's degree, dance and communication arts, Hollins College, 2007; Highland School, 2003.

How long have you lived in Fauquier? All but about eight years of my life.

Why do you live here? Family. It's home. I love that we are close to the mountains and to the water. I love the fact that we are close to two international airports and a great city. So, you've got everything right here.

How do you describe this county? We are Northern and Southern . . . . I think there's a lot of drive and a lot of loyalty among the people here . . . . It's a comforting place.

What would you change about Fauquier? I would like to make it easier for new businesses to grow here. I'd like to see more innovation.

What do you do for fun? Travel, read, cook and entertain.

What's your favorite place in Fauquier? I love The Natural Marketplace. I love sitting up there. I've been doing it since I was 4 years old. I run into my brother and dad there, so it doesn't get much better.

What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? I think we are in the right position to have more support for farmers. I hope we create more integrated learning experiences for adults and kids.

Favorite TV show? "Homeland" and "Parks and Recreation."

Favorite movie? "The Long Kiss Goodnight."

Favorite book? "Blood, Bones & Butter" by Gabrielle Hamilton

Favorite vacation spot? Holbox, Mexico

Favorite food? In the summer, it's watermelon. I could at a whole watermelon in one sitting.

What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? "Try to get everyone to like you."

I went to a class on how to get a job, and they said the most important part of your persona is being likeable and someone you could spend 16 hours with. I've tried to take that with me. Just come from a place of love.

What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? We like to say we'd do everything the same . . . . (But), take care of your family and those in need, donate to causes you believe in . . . . We'd probably have a house on an island and hit up some of those expensive restaurants.

Have a suggestion? Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or Lou Emerson at LKE@fauquiernow.com

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