It can be a bittersweet moment in the career of a chef. On the one hand, it’s what many chefs work towards as they grow older: a restaurant that becomes so well-run that they feel freed to spend less time onsite and more time with family. On the other hand, stepping back from the kitchen can be difficult for someone who has spent so much of their life there.
Such is the crossroads for Ryan Collins. Most of his adult life has found him the kitchen, and, since opening Little Star in 2018, he has been involved in every aspect of it: design, management, cooking, and more. In many ways, the restaurant is Collins. But, the grind of the industry can take its toll, and at 39, the father of two has been feeling the pull to take a step back. The feasibility of such a move always turns on whether, in the founder’s absence, there are hands capable of sustaining the restaurant.
Enter Reggie Calhoun. With experience at places like Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar and Lampo, Calhoun joined Little Star soon after it opened and has been Collins’ right hand man ever since. As Calhoun’s responsibility grew in the kitchen, he eventually began creating his own dishes for the restaurant, like, on the current menu, Smoked Beets with cashew crema, green grapes, pistachio, and horseradish; Ember Roasted Carrots, with citrus mole, sesame brittle, coconut, scallion; and Grilled Tequila-Lime Shrimp, with peanut aioli, crispy shallots, and herbs.
As Chef de Cuisine, Calhoun is now poised to run the Little Star kitchen himself. “Reggie’s been with us since the beginning, and knows as well as anyone who we are as a restaurant,” said Collins. “His talent and hunger leave me with strong confidence that Little Star is in good hands.”
So, what will change? Well, on the one hand, not much. The aim is for Little Star to remain the same great restaurant it always has been, grounded in Collins’ passions for Spanish and Mexican cuisine. But, on the other hand, over time regulars may notice more of a stamp from Calhoun himself. “Like Ryan, I plan on operating in the fairest and most ethical way,” Calhoun said. “While doing so, I also plan on making my own stamp on the menu with my inventive yet approachable flavors, while staying in the realm of our Spanish/ Mexican American fare.” Welcome the Calhoun era at Little Star.