In many ways Ryan Whyte-Buck is no different than a lot of the chefs out there. All the way down to that first time he took a job as a dishwasher once upon a time and the chef asked for help.

“On my first day, the guy says ‘can you grab me some basil out of the walk in? I was like what do you mean? What does it look like?”

click to enlarge HIGHLY ANTICIPATED RESTAURANT FOLKLORE set to open this month Downtown
Chef Ryan Whyte-Buck

Not exactly the kind of response you would have expected from someone who had just taken a job in a kitchen, but he made it work. Looking back, he says it was really the beginning of his curiosity about food.

“I grew up eating chicken and frozen corn.” He says. “My dad, that’s how he still eats. It’s not something he’s super curious about.”

But Ryan was. It’s a curiosity that set him on a path to working in some great kitchens in Portland, Oregon and New York City. A year and change ago, it led him here to Savannah, where he became Executive Chef at a Bed and Breakfast on Gaston Street in Downtown Savannah called Bellwether House.

By the end of this month, he will be opening his first restaurant here in Savannah. 

Folklore is set to open by Christmas at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd and Congress Streets in the space formerly occupied by The Fat Radish.

It is fair to say Chef Ryan and his family have been settling in nicely.

“The moment I came to town, I was in love. My wife had been here a few times. I love that Savannah has a little bit of grittiness to it. It’s not polished like Charleston. I just knew it was the right place.”

To this point, he’s been serving their guests at the B&B. None of his food has been available to the public. It’s a position he has enjoyed. It has allowed him to experiment a little with what he would like to do ahead of the opening of Folklore.

“We know that when people are coming here, they want Southern cuisine. We are doing Southern cuisine, but we are painting it with a brush of East Asia,” He tells me.

“In our tomato sauce, we are going to be incorporating miso and soy sauce instead of straight forward salt.” He says “It kinda helps round out the flavors.”

The Asian influence comes from the fact that his wife is half Taiwanese. They’ve spent a good bit of time there. “That’s really close and personal to my family now.”

But it won’t end there.

“I really like digging in to food from different cultures. Not just like French traditional stuff that was really popular.” He says. “If it is spicier and really exotic to me, it’s more exciting because this is what people are eating all over the world.”

All of that sounds great, but at the same time Chef knows that tourists—I’m sorry, ‘visitors’—to Savannah don’t always like to stray from the basics. Some do, of course, but not in the numbers restaurant owners and chefs like to see. It’s the age-old issue in a city so heavily dependent on tourism dollars. Do you offer what you know will fly out the door in large quantities? Or do you offer something more creative that is unlikely to be as popular?

click to enlarge HIGHLY ANTICIPATED RESTAURANT FOLKLORE set to open this month Downtown
Jesse Blanco

Chef Ryan knows all about it, and he’s here for it for the long haul. He tells me their trial run dinner last month was very well received by their guests.

“Our fried chicken, we tested it at our preview dinner. It was incredible. It came out better than we could have imagined. We are using sweet potato starch. We had a shrimp dish that everyone was in love with.”

The visuals coming out of their kitchen certainly fit the bill. Folklore is going to try to walk that fine line of Southern food done a little differently. Ultimately, Chef Ryan wants to be creative with their offerings, but he says cooking for his family during the pandemic made him appreciate the art of keeping the simple things simple.

“The name Folklore is about traditions over millennia.” He says “It’s really important to respect that. This isn’t about me or what I want to cook. I care about the people who are sitting down here.”

“This is something we are going to work on closely with everyone and the city of Savannah.”

And we are looking forward to it.

There is no set date for their opening yet, but it will likely be in the second half of December. You can find them on social media (Facebook and Instagram) or see their first menu now at eatfolklore.com

- Photos provided by Folklore

About The Author

Jesse Blanco

One of the most recognizable personalities in the Savannah/Hilton Head Island television market, Jesse Blanco is sometimes called "Savannah's Anthony Bourdain." His 'Eat It and Like It' show has become a major regional brand in the foodie world.
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