The Story of Tarik Ryant
From Bars to Brunches
How one man’s quest for self-improvement is bringing fantastic cuisine to Philadelphia and the surrounding areas
Affectionately known as Chef Reeky, south Philadelphia native Tarik Ryant, like many from his neighborhood, fell into some of the same traps and made some of the same mistakes that led too many of our young black men to incarceration. However, it would be the overcrowded state prison system that would lead this young entrepreneur into his future and out of a troubled past. Incarcerated at SCI Somerset, Tarik was forced to bunk on the kitchen block. Since the prison requires inmates to learn a trade, he opted to work in the kitchen. Working behind the scenes, Ryant became curious about cooking, asking questions and eventually requested to “work the kettles.” It wasn’t long before the popularity of his cooking had 19-year-old ‘Reek’ running the kitchen as the “youngest in charge” cooking meals for 2,500 people at a time. That was what sparked his passion for the culinary arts.
After 4,600 hours logged as a certified Journeyman in cooking, the now released Tarik enrolled in the Walnut Hill College’s Culinary Arts program to hone his craft which included traveling to France and learning the artistry behind fine dining. While enrolled, Chef Reeky also worked in healthcare and decided to pursue a “fallback” degree in Healthcare Management. But that didn’t quell his curiosity or thirst for knowledge which motivated Ryant to obtain a Management degree from Temple University’s acclaimed Fox School of Business. Ryant also bolstered his working knowledge by taking a Real Estate course, then went to Community College of Philadelphia to obtain OSHA30 certification to become a General Contractor for the City of Philadelphia.
It was after investing the time in himself that it was then time to put his years of education and hard work into practice. Flipping rehabbed property was a natural fit given his knowledge of real estate and certifications. Tarik was able to sell his rehabilitated property for a profit and used the returns to pay himself back. Soon after, he then bought two more properties. One of those commercial properties would soon become his first restaurant, Chef Reeky’s Cafe (formerly Rhythm & Brunch Cafe). While it may sound like it came easy, Ryant highlights the need for entrepreneurs to really take time to learn the business of their respective disciplines.