Cooking not a job, but a passion for Rhumbline owner
The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., is one of America’s most demanding, and prestigious, cooking schools in the nation. The school’s graduates hold positions in the world’s finest restaurants, creating new dining experiences and changing the way we think about food.
One of those graduates is Jamestown’s Ian McIntyre, the owner and chef at Newport’s Rhumbline Bistro.
McIntyre’s family moved to Jamestown from New York when he was a toddler and he grew up near Mackerel Cove. He said he spent a lot of time crabbing and catching fish as a child. McIntyre attended the Jamestown schools before switching to St. Michael’s and then going to high school at Tabor Academy in Massachusetts to further his sailing dreams. Restaurant work came early for Mc- Intyre as he bussed tables at the Mooring in Newport during his teenage summers.
Dinners were a family affair for McIntyre while he was growing up. He said everyone helped by either setting the table, making the meals, or cleaning up afterward.
“Dinner was kind of an important thing every night,” he said, “whether we liked it or not at that age.”
McIntyre traveled west for college, enrolling at the University of Denver, where he graduated with a degree in art. Cooking began as a way to pays his debts and finish up college. When he returned to Rhode Island, McIntyre continued cooking. His first local job following school was at the Schoolhouse Cafe, which was on Narragansett Avenue in those days.
“It wasn’t just a job, it was something that I loved to do,” Mc- Intyre said. “I was overly persistent.”
From there McIntyre went to work at a number of local restaurants including a two-year stint at Rhumbline, the Newport restaurant he now owns. Eventually McIntyre was able to attend the culinary institute where he was trained in classic French technique. Ten years ago, after he had returned to this area, he decided to seize the opportunity to own his own restaurant.
“Once you start working the line for 10 to 12 years, you start wanting more,” he said. “So you start looking into the management, and all the other fun things like taxes, bill paying and looking at the big picture. It was just a very short step to deciding to do it on my own.”
While spending a year living in Tucson, Ariz., McIntyre did a lot of Southwestern-style cooking. He said that as a diabetic he is concerned with keeping ingredients fresh, keeping sugar content down, and preservatives out of the food he prepares. He cites celebrity chef Bobby Flay as an influence on his cooking.
“It’s about keeping things simple,” he said, “and trying to get the best things out of the food that you can in the simplest ways.”
According to McIntyre, the short tourist season in the area means he has to be able to impress the local population with his skills in order to survive the slowdown in the offseason. While he is happy to make sure diners from the nearby Marriott and Hyatt hotels are satisfied, he knows he has to keep his menu local and cost-effective in order to keep his regular year-round customers coming back.
“It’s really just about taking input from all of your customers and making sure that they’re right on the page with what you’re doing,” he said.
The Rhumbline menu changes three times a year, and while the restaurant is predominantly seafood oriented, featuring locally caught fish liked striped bass, at this time of the year items like lamb shanks begin to work their way onto the menu. The fresh vegetables that grow in the restaurant’s backyard garden are still being harvested, and although there is a New England orientation to the menu, McIntyre said there are ways to work Southwestern influences into the dishes as well.
“You can take your basic buerre blanc and use a little bit of chilies instead, lightening it up so people leave having been able to finish their whole plate, and not feeling like they’re going home and they’re going to fall asleep behind the wheel,” he said. “There are certain ways of making people want to eat your food weekly.”
McIntyre says the restaurant business remains difficult. He still does 90 percent of all of the cooking in his restaurant. He does wish he could afford to hire additional staff so he could take a day off now and then. He reported the summer of 2013 was solid, but not spectacular, especially compared with the summer of 2012 when the America’s Cup World Series and Ocean State Tall Ships Festival took place in Newport. Fortunately the fair weather in September and October has resulted in solid business in the fall as well.
McIntyre, whose daughter attends Melrose School, continues to embrace his Jamestown upbringing.
“Jamestown is where my roots are and I strongly believe that it is a community like no other. I plan to make it the place where I spend my final days as well as a place where I hope to spend all the resources I can to help the community thrive in any way.”