As Executive Chef for The Absinthe Group, Ryan McIlwraith collaborates with the teams at each of the group’s five unique restaurants to oversee menu development and kitchen operations. Previously Executive Chef of The Absinthe Group’s Bellota, McIlwraith joined the group in 2014 and launched the acclaimed Spanish restaurant in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood in May 2016. Under his leadership, Bellota earned numerous regional and national accolades, including three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle and restaurant of the year from Eater SF.
Raised along the coastal waters of Vancouver, British Columbia, Ryan got his start in the restaurant industry at the age of 19, and shortly after, attended culinary school on Vancouver Island. After gaining an understanding of both French cooking technique and sushi at Vancouver’s well-known Blue Water Café, McIlwraith moved to New York City at age 25 to serve as opening sous chef at Gordon Ramsay’s namesake restaurant at The London NYC, which earned two Michelin stars. To deepen his understanding of the art and discipline of cooking, he staged at cosmopolitan restaurants such as Jean-Georges (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s flagship in New York) and Eleven Madison Park (under Daniel Humm). McIlwraith has honed his skills in other acclaimed restaurants including Fleur by Hubert Keller, Seamus Mullen’s Tertulia, Boqueria NYC, Estadio in Washington D.C., and at numerous Jose Andrés concepts, including minibar, Zatinya, Jaleo, and Oyamel.
McIlwraith formerly served as chef de cuisine at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Napa Valley, then as opening chef de cuisine at Coqueta in San Francisco. McIlwraith guided Coqueta to a Bib Gourmand in the San Francisco edition of the Michelin Guide, a 3.5-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle, and a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Best New Restaurant.
In his role as Executive Chef of The Absinthe Group, McIlwraith is committed to maintaining a high-caliber cohesiveness among all restaurants within the group, as well as overseeing the distinctive and unique dining and drinking experiences for which each restaurant in The Absinthe Group is known. Using his diverse background and unique culinary point of view, McIlwraith is poised to help usher The Absinthe Group into its next 20 years.
“The upscale Hayes Valley mainstay has a private dining space with a separate entrance, its own bar, coat room, and restrooms. Decorated similarly to the main restaurant with dark wood, paintings, and old-school charm, the menu offers French fare and a raw bar,” via 7×7, September 2019
“Obviously, this place has a good-sized menu of absinthe drinks, but we’ll happily order a martini and eat some pate at the bar while we decide if we want to join all those people sitting outside by the weird sculpture on Octavia,” via The Infatuation SF, September 2019
“Hayes Valley’s longtime favorite brasserie, Absinthe, has a new executive chef, Ryan Fowler, and to kick things off, he’s jazzing up the brunch menu with pain perdu and Dungeness crab and avocado omelettes,” via Eater SF, August 2019
“Just because it’s one of the oldest restaurants in Hayes Valley doesn’t mean that Absinthe Brasserie and Bar has lost its shine. An outstanding cocktail program, along with French and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, makes Absinthe a neighborhood go-to for locals and hungry shoppers alike,” via SF Travel, August 2019
“An homage to all things French, Absinthe is still one of my favorite places to eat in the city. Why? It’s a buzzy destination that feels glamorous and special, evoking a one-of-a-kind feeling of Belle Epoque-era Paris,” via SF Bay Times, June 2019
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is located in San Francisco's vibrant and charming Hayes Valley neighborhood, and is among the city’s beloved longest-running dining institutions. It features a creative menu of French brasserie fare, along with an inspired selection of classic cocktails. With lively, informal décor that evokes turn-of-the-century France, Absinthe’s warm, convivial atmosphere has romanced locals and visitors alike since its founding in 1998.