Ryan Murphy a.k.a. Kevin a.k.a. Ryan Kevin Bryan Adams a.k.a Tall Chef - Ryan currently slings drinks and so-good eats at Sovengard in Grand Rapids. He's a veteran of multiple ArtPrizes as well as wedding season at the Downtown Market. Ryan is our resident chef and mixologist, and he's been working with Middle West since the end of 2015.
The Middle West Questionnaire
You were born in Michigan. What's the biggest progression you’ve noticed in this state during your lifetime?
I feel like my life is split between younger life in Detroit vs. time in Grand Rapids. Since I’ve been here the cultural excitement, arts, food, nightlife scene on the west side of the state. It's like as I’ve been growing up the state has growing up right along side. Even when I go back to Detroit there is so much more to do. The best part, though, might be how much room remains.
What about the Midwest makes it a source of inspiration to you? What are you excited to share with others?
I think it's that the Midwestern friendly mentality goes beyond the expected. It includes a community aspect that allows you to find people that inspire you and want to work with you. People are more willing to help rather than just shoot you down.
What is your primary role with Middle West? And how do you feel your unique talents and personality contributes to the Middle West team?
Feel like I’m still figuring out what my one big passion is, but I feel like I’m pretty decent at a number of aspects. Plus I think I’m a pretty quick learner and generally I'm happy to jump into whatever role. Like in all of our planning and set-up, I can sort've add ideas and help where needed. Then once we get going - I love to cook and make drinks. Pretty essential stuff to what we do!
What you are specifically working on right now?
So I've been dreaming about a bar trailer. A little cute, old trailer that we can tote around and bring to events. I think it'd be an amazing added on and something we could bring to so many places. On a bigger scale, I think I'm still figuring out where I’m most passionate. That's been one of the great parts about being part of Middle West. I sort've get to try on different jobs.
Which Middle West event do you consider a highlight so far? What about it makes it stand out in your memory?
That’s hard. I think Austin in 2016. That’s probably the top pick. It was only my second time to Austin with the first being our scouting trip there. And I got to design a food and drink menu for the hundreds of SXSW goers who came through our space. And that was a first for me. It's also was great because we're just so immersed in it for a week. It's like our own little world.
Tell us a story about an experience you’ve had with Middle West that confirmed the impact Middle West is making or some time when something that we're doing feels meaningful?
In Detroit, on the first night when we had programming about Detroit's food scene. So much came together and so many people were excited. We had a great crowd and a bunch of cool local restaurants that Scott Rutterbush from Dine, Drink, Detroit brought together. And then the owner of the restaurant that catered the food approached me and said, “I totally didn’t get it when you guys approached, but this is amazing." And went on to tell me how honored he was to have his food there and how much the conversation about Detroit's food culture meant to him. And it was so gratifying to see someone get what we hope they'll get out of it.
Tell us something new you have learned since beginning work with Middle West.
So many things….what a Michigan House is. Small physical skills. Vocabulary has expanded. Design industry things. Event industry things. But mostly the crazy power and energy that can come out of working together. It’s like a fairytale type thing that we do. When you describe it sounds idealistic and unrealistic, but we actually put it into action and it's pretty powerful.
Where do you imagine Middle West will be in five years? Dream big.
The people that every Michigan company and organization wants to work with. Year round demand to be planning their event, designing their spaces, designing experiences for employees, clients, and guests - all their different needs. Just like statewide reach to bring people together.
Favorite behind the scenes Middle West memory?
It's not just one, but it's the post event/no guest/team only dance party that happens at 3 AM after every thing we seem to do.