2018 Talent

Ryan Samson

Chef & Owner, Vespaio

Chef Ryan Samson discovered his passion and inspiration for cooking while growing up on his family’s land in Pennsylvania. From an early age, he was cultivating vegetables, baking bread, fermenting ingredients, curing meats, and breaking down his own animals. Upon graduating high school, Samson enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute which saw him intern at the award-winning Sagamore Resort in Lake George, New York. After finishing culinary school in Vermont, he moved to Napa Valley where he worked as sous chef alongside Carmen Quagliata at old-world Italian restaurant, Tra Vigne. Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne was famous for curing its own meats such as salami, sopressata, pancetta and prosciutto. Samson brought this experience with him to Austin two years later where he became Executive Chef at Vespaio Ristorante in 2002.

Samson continues his dedication today as the head chef and heart of Vespaio; in 2004 he became partner at their sister restaurant, Enoteca Vespaio, which caters to a more casual crowd. In addition to honoring his roots of sustainable living by supporting local vendors, he uses every part of an animal and creates his menu based on what is fresh and available in the neighboring farms. Aside from its rustic, warm, cozy ambiance, Vespaio is praised for its fresh pastas, charcuterie & antipasti displays, and expansive wine list. With a prime location on South Congress for the last 20 years, the restaurant has become an Italian dining niche for locals and visitors alike. When not working, Chef Ryan Samson spends time with his wife Maggie, a pastry chef, and their 5-year old twin boys.