New Executive Chef Ryan Stringer appointed at leading Belfast restaurant James Street

Acclaimed chef Ryan Stringer has returned to Belfast to take the lead as Executive chef at Belfast’s award-winning restaurant, James St.

Previously Executive Chef at the ground-breaking ELY group of wine bars and restaurants in Dublin, the Dungannon native returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in over a decade with exciting plans ahead for the celebrated restaurant.

New Executive Chef Ryan Stringer appointed at leading Belfast restaurant James Street01.JPG
Ryan Stringer is pictured with Niall McKenna.

One of Belfast’s most renowned and well-loved restaurants, James St., which is owned by culinary legend Niall and his wife Joanne McKenna, first opened in 2003.

Since then, the entrepreneurial pair have been credited with helping to drive Belfast’s thriving hospitality scene after growing their restaurant portfolio to include James St. Bar and Grill in 2011, Hadskis in 2014 and earlier this year the hugely popular Cookery School located in the stunning surrounds of Waterman House inside the bustling Cathedral Quarter.

Stringer has already been working at the flagship James St. restaurant since late last year and is excited about bringing his own style and passion for food and wine to the menu in 2022 as part of this new appointment.

Stringer acknowledges the legions of loyal customers who are so important to James St. and reassures that their beloved classic dishes will not be going from the menu anytime soon. However, he is keen to inject his own experiences from ELY, as well from his stages at Raymond Blanc’s world-famous Michelin-starred restaurant Le Manoir auxQuatSaisons in Oxford and at Copenhagen’s 108 restaurant, the affordable sister to world-renowned three star Michelin restaurant “Noma.

Commenting on his new role, Ryan Stringer said:

“I’m absolutely delighted to be back in Belfast and taking this new role as Executive Chef at such an iconic restaurant. Personally admired by me for nearly two decades, James St. has an outstanding reputation for incredible food and ambience and is credited with a strong and loyal customer base. I’m keen to keep doing what James St. does well while introducing some of my own style and experience.” 

“Our customers love the steaks and a range of delicious dishes including its famous crab and chili linguini – they won’t be going anywhere. However, I’m excited to show my passions and style as well as continuing with the classics that have put this restaurant on the map.”

Commenting on the appointment, owner of James Street, Niall McKenna said:

“We are delighted to have Ryan on board as our new Executive chef. He is the perfect fit for us, and we are excited by what lies ahead on the menus under his tutelage. He has experienced some of the world’s greatest kitchens and we can’t wait to see how he brings those influences to our menu. He is hugely passionate about sustainability and having a “no waste” kitchen and he thinks extremely carefully, and creatively, about making the most of every part of each ingredient he uses,” said McKenna.

After more than a decade in Dublin, Stringer is glad to be home. His journey back to Ulster began in 2018 when he bought a house for himself and his two sons in Dromore. He commuted from there to Dublin every day but when lockdown hit, like many others, he realised he wanted to be closer to home, full time.

He started looking for opportunities in Belfast and connected with Niall McKenna. They hit it off and their talks culminated in this new Executive chef role for Ryan.

Sustainability is extremely important to him as well as a “no wastage” ethos, which can be an issue in hospitality.

“I use everything, cauliflower leaves, stalks, roots all the bits that 90 per cent of kitchens might throw away, I use them.”

Ryan is extremely impressed with the exceptional standard of local produce and is looking forward to showcasing the amazing bounty of local ingredients on the restaurant’s menus.

“Our vegetable supplier, Leon, cuts the vegetables in his field in the morning and I have them by 3pm that day. It influences me every day on how I will then build a dish. I’ve even named a dish on the menu after Leon, that’s the respect I have for his produce and the importance of the working relationship. My starting point is what my producers tell me is fresh and tasting great that day.”

From his years in ELY, he has a love for matching great wine with exceptional food and he is excited for James St customers to enjoy the same.

He is looking forward to his next chapter as he returns to his roots, this time with a whole new wealth of knowledge and influences to draw upon.

“I’ll definitely be taking my experiences in Ely with me to James St. I was there for over a decade and it shaped me. It was part of me for so long. I’m really excited to bring all the experiences I’ve had back home to Ulster with me in my new role,” Ryan said.

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