Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ranada D. Riley, June 6, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:00 - Transitioning from a nurse to a restaurateur

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Everyone, I'm Renee Collins and we are at the UK Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History today to have an interview with Ranada Riley, owner of Ranada's Bistro & Bar here in Lexington, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Riley moved to Lexington with her mother from Hillsboro, Ohio. She studied nursing at Shawnee State University and became a phlebotomist before getting into the food industry. Her love for restaurants started when she became a waitress and grew with bartending and eventually working in the back of the house.

Keywords: Back of house; Bartenders; Bella Notte; Careers; Class of 1989; Colleges; Culinary careers; Culture shocks; Deaths; Executive chefs; Front of house; Girlfriends; Henry Clay High School; Hillsboro, Ohio; Lexington, Kentucky; Nursing school; Phlebotomists; Portsmouth, Ohio; Ranada's Bistro & Bar; Ranada's Bistro + Bar; Restaurant businesses; Restauranteurs; Servers; Shawnee State University; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Bartending.; Food industry and trade.; Food.; Gay youth; Hillsboro (Ohio); Lexington (Ky.); Lexington (Ky.)--Social conditions; Portsmouth (Ohio); Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurateurs.

00:03:37 - Going from corporate to local restaurants

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And then what led you up to the point where you are now?

Segment Synopsis: Riley worked for a series of corporate restaurants, including working for universities with Sodexo. She worked with many chefs throughout her early career. She felt that something was missing during her time in the corporate world, and she began to work locally. She held a job at a country club, as well.

Keywords: Americana; Bluegrass; Bluegrass music; Catering; Corporate restaurants; Country clubs; Divorces; Executive chefs; Food critics; Gene Williams; Learning; Lexington Diner; Live music; Local; Local art; Music; Natasha's Bistro & Bar; Presentations; Sales; Sodexo; Systems; Universities

Subjects: Art.; Food industry and trade.; Music; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurateurs.; Sodexo (Firm)

00:08:04 - Creating a certain atmosphere at Ranada's Bistro + Bar

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So how would you describe--I know you've kind of talked about tying in all those elements that make Ranada's what it is. How would you describe the experience that you hope people to have as a result of walking through those doors from start to finish?

Segment Synopsis: Riley tries to create a certain experience in her restaurant, Ranada's Bar + Bistro, which is influenced by the local culture she adapts. The restaurant's artwork, entertainment, and produce are all local.

Keywords: Atmosphere; Drinks; Foods; Fresh produce; Hugs; Live music; Local artists; Local arts; Local farmers; Local musicians; Local relationships; Ranada's Bistro & Bar; Ranada's Bistro + Bar; Staff

Subjects: Art; Food; Food industry and trade.; Food service; Local foods; Music; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Decoration; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.

00:09:10 - Appearing on the Food Network with Guy Fieri and Alton Brown

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, that's a great story. Do I understand that you were on the Food Network at one point?

Segment Synopsis: Riley applied to be on the popular Food Network program Guy's Grocery Games after losing her job at a country club. She was accepted after a series of interviews. Alton Brown visited the Lexington Diner, which she and her wife owned at the time, and he tweeted a promotion for the restaurant. Riley then appeared on Cutthroat Kitchen, which is one of Brown's shows on the Food Network.

Keywords: Alton Brown; Country clubs; Cutthroat Kitchen; Food Network; Grand opening; Guy's Grocery Games; Hawaii; Job losses; Lexington Diner; Marriages; Opening day; Reality TV; Tweets; Work ethics

Subjects: Food; Food Network (Firm); Food industry and trade.; Lexington (Ky.).; Reality television programs.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurateurs.

00:11:44 - Identity as a lesbian, female chef

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So let me move into a few background questions here that kind of set the stage for your life.

Segment Synopsis: Riley identifies as a lesbian chef, but first and foremost as a woman.

Keywords: Butches; Chefs; Daughters; Diversities; Femmes; Fiancées; Fiancés; Gays; Identifying; Identities; Lesbians; Mosaics; Stereotypes; Tomboys; Uncomfortable; Women

Subjects: Cooking; Food industry and trade.; Lesbian community; Lesbianism.; Lesbians; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurateurs.; Sexual orientation.; Women--Employment.

00:13:30 - Changing her attitude about perfectionism--Part I

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And you seem to be--and like I said, we've had a very short relationship--

Segment Synopsis: Riley wants to be remembered as gentle and wants those around her to be proud of her. She has grown since the beginning of her career when she was a verbally abusive chef who sought perfection.

Keywords: Addiction; Anger; Authenticity; Chefs; Executives; Gay women; Gays; Gentle; Improvements; Kind words; Lesbians; Mindsets; Overweight; Perfectionism; Pride; Proud; Soft; Strength; Trainings; Verbal abuses; Visions

Subjects: Authentic; Food industry and trade.; Lesbian and gay experience; Lesbians; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.

00:16:22 - Work-life philosophy trends

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think we're living in very special times and I know we have a long way to go but there seems to be a real, true call...

Segment Synopsis: Riley and Collins discuss the changing attitudes in corporate work environments regarding being one's authentic self.

Keywords: Authentic; Better; Corporations; Improvements; Lifestyles; Philosophy; Professional; Trends; True selves

Subjects: Corporate culture.; Work-life balance.

00:18:12 - Happiest moment

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So let's go back in time a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about why this period in her life is her happiest time.

Keywords: Outspoken; Personality; Self care; Softness; Staff; Teams

Subjects: Food industry and trade.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.

00:20:06 - Changing her attitude about perfectionism--Part II

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, your staff really makes the experience so enjoyable.

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks more about how her philosophy regarding work and her staff have changed and become more gentle.

Keywords: Demanding; Harassment; Perfection; Personality; Philosophy; Staff; Verbal abuse

Subjects: Food industry and trade.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.

00:21:06 - Teenage years in Lexington, Kentucky during the 1980s

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let me ask you a few questions.

Segment Synopsis: Riley describes what Lexington, Kentucky was like when she arrived as a teenager in 1986. She talks about the things she liked, her attitude, and her experiences at Henry Clay High School.

Keywords: 1986; Bluegrass music; Family; Friends; Growing up; Henry Clay High School; Hillsboro (Ohio); Identity; Loners; Lost; Music; Social classes; Teenagers; Teens

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Lexington (Ky.)

00:24:41 - Parents

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What are your parents' names?

Segment Synopsis: Riley describes her relationships with her mother and father and how their interest in music and cooking influenced her.

Keywords: Best friends; Calendars; Cooking; Fathers; Growing up; Half brothers; Hard working; Mothers; Music; Nieces; Parents; Traveling salesman

Subjects: Childhood; Families.

00:27:32 - Childhood career dreams

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Do you remember knowing what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about wanting to be a cowboy as a child. She talks more about her brief career in the medical field before discovering her love of restaurants.

Keywords: Animals; Artists; Back of house; Careers; Cowboys; Dreams; Farms; Guitars; Medical field; Money; Phlebotomists; Restaurants

Subjects: Childhood; Occupations.; Professions.; Work.

00:29:21 - Important people in her life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So let me ask you, who is the most important person in your life?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about her mother and her fiancée as two of the most important people in her life.

Keywords: Co-dependent; Fiancées; Fiancés; Important people; Married; Mothers; Relationships

Subjects: Families.; Interpersonal relations

00:30:21 - Mentors

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Do you have any stories or memories that come to mind during a difficult time in your personal or your professional life...

Segment Synopsis: Riley describes some of her mentors in the restaurant world and what she has learned from them. She talks about learning from generations both older and younger than herself.

Keywords: Anita Lowe; Business; Chefs; Difficult times; Elizabeth Faulkner; Gene Williams; Generations; Intergenerational; Learning; Mentors; Miguel Rivas; Openness; Orlando (Fla.); Restaurant owners; Sodexo; Young people

Subjects: Food industry and trade.; Occupations.; Professions.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.; Work.

00:35:05 - Life philosophy

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So what lessons do you feel that--or I guess, what lessons or guidelines apply to the world of being a chef that you feel like relate to anybody no matter what career they're in?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about the lessons and life philosophy that she tries to pass on to her staff. She says, "How you do anything is how you do everything," is her philosophy.

Keywords: Atmosphere; Careers; Chefs; Cutting corners; Lessons; Perfection; Philosophy; Principles; Safe; Staff meetings; Work ethic

Subjects: Food industry and trade.; Occupations.; Professions.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.; Work.

00:37:40 - Not having a culinary school degree

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Can I just ask a clarifying question because I want to make sure our audience knows.

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about the bias against her as a restaurateur without a culinary degree. She discusses local Lexington restaurateurs supporting (or not supporting) one another.

Keywords: Biases; Chefs; Childhood; Culinary degrees; Culinary schools; Entertaining; Fathers; Food; Formal education; Grandmothers; Lexington (Ky.); Local; Mothers; Social media; Support; Wichita State University; Women; Women chefs

Subjects: Food industry and trade.; Occupations.; Professions.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.; Work.

00:41:54 - Definition of diversity

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So let me go into some diversity and inclusion related questions here that will kind of capture what your thoughts are about diversity and inclusion.

Segment Synopsis: Riley gives her personal definition of diversity.

Keywords: Acceptance; Definitions; Diversity; Expectations; Fears; Harlan County (Ky.)

Subjects: Culture.

00:43:48 - Challenges she has faced as a lesbian, female business owner

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So what is the most challenging situation that you feel you've had dealing with diversity that you faced and how did you handle that?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about the discrimination and dangers she has faced as someone from a minority community. She talks about being outed as a lesbian by the local newspaper when her first restaurant opened. This led to hate mail, threats, and other dangers for herself and her staff.

Keywords: Being outed; Challenges; Challenging; Frightening; Grand opening; Hate mail; Lexington Diner; Lexington Herald Leader; Outing; Pride Month; Slurs; Straight pride; Telephone calls; Threatening; Threats

Subjects: Cooking; Culture.; Discrimination.; Food industry and trade.; Homosexuality--Social aspects.; Lesbian and gay experience; Lesbian community; Lesbianism.; Lesbians; Occupations.; Professions.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.; Sexual minorities.; Sexual orientation.; Women--Employment.; Work.

00:46:12 - Learning more about diversity

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What areas of diversity do feel like you personally would like to know more about?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about aspects of diversity that she has learned more about over the years, and aspects that she would like to learn more about in the future.

Keywords: Addiction; Artists; Artwork; Awareness; Curious; Diversity; Fireworks; Forgiveness; Hidden bias; Inclusive; Learning; Lee Cruise; Military veterans; Minorities; People of color; Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Race; Regrets; Representation; Rumors; Treatment; Unconscious bias; Understanding; WLEX (Television station); Well-rounded

Subjects: Culture.; Discrimination.

00:52:39 - What most people don't know about her

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So let me ask you--this is a good question.

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about an aspect of herself that many people may not know about.

Keywords: Afraid; Crying; Image; Perceptions; Sensitive

Subjects: Character.; Personality; Stereotypes (Social psychology)

00:54:06 - Female business owners

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What is it like to be a female business owner in Lexington?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about other women business owners in Lexington, Kentucky.

Keywords: Advice; Angry; Female business owners; Gentle; Strong women; Tough; Women business owners; Women chefs

Subjects: Cooking; Culture.; Discrimination.; Food industry and trade.; Lexington (Ky.); Occupations.; Professions.; Restaurant management.; Restaurants; Restaurants--Employees; Restaurants--Kentucky; Restaurants--Personnel management; Restaurateurs.; Women--Employment.; Work.

00:55:51 - Goals for the future

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So what is on your bucket list?

Segment Synopsis: Riley talks about some of the things that are on her "bucket list."

Keywords: Backpacking; Bucket lists; Health; Italy; Priorities; Self care; Van Morrison (Artist)

Subjects: Goal (Psychology); Motivation (Psychology)

00:57:00 - Conclusion

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Is there anything that we did not talk about that you would like to add to this interview?

Segment Synopsis: Riley gives her concluding thoughts on diversity and inclusion.

Keywords: Changes; Learning; Openness; Opinions; Pain

Subjects: Culture.; Discrimination.