Table & Main’s Ryan Pernice: Treating OTP like a foreign land is “behind the times”

Plus 12 other quirky things we learned about the Roswell restaurateur
Courtesy of Ryan Pernice
Courtesy of Ryan Pernice

13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Ryan Pernice is the owner and operator of Osteria Mattone and Table & Main.

You own two restaurants, but do you cook?
I do cook—I wouldn’t say well. I enjoy it. My favorite thing to cook is steak.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I am an avid journaler, and I have journals from when I was eight saying I wanted to own restaurants.

Both of your restaurants are in Roswell. What do you say to ITP people who treat OTP like it’s a foreign country?
They’re behind the times. There’s been such a defusion of great restaurants opening up OTP that that distinction is meaningless. Look at Avalon; Riccardo Ullio and Doug Turbush have places here. And there’s just great food popping up in unexpected places, like Ponce City Market to the Braves stadium. There’s never been a better time to eat in Atlanta, so you’re missing out if you stay in your zip code.

You’re really into photography. What’s your favorite subject?
I just got a new G16 Canon. It’s my first step up from point-and-shoot. I would say [my favorite subject is] anything that fuses travel and photography because it’s another way to explore a new frontier. Any time I’m not in the restaurants, I have to document it.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to anyone opening a restaurant?
Don’t listen to the haters. I totally took that from Taylor Swift.

You opened two restaurants with chef Ted Lahey before turning 30. Where do you see yourself going in the next decade?
We’re considering a lot of options. In town is sort of calling my name, but Roswell has been very good to us. An investor said to me recently, “Excellence drives growth, and ego drives expansion.” It’s a question of which one of those do I want to feed into at the moment.

What’s your guilty pleasure fast food?
Zaxby’s, the Big Zax Snak. It’s like a sodium bomb, but it’s delicious.

What was the last TV you bingewatched?
Mad Men, the last season

What’s the best and worst thing about being in business with your older brother, Daniel?
Business decisions are hard enough to make as business and not an emotional choice. When you layer in this is my brother, the consequences of making a wrong decision or a right decision people don’t agree with are amped up. When people say it’s not personal, it’s business. Well, when it’s your brother, it’s both.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
The Sound of Things Falling, it was good because it wasn’t specific to my life. I have a guest who has given me this wonderful problem: She will bring in a different book every time she comes in and say, “You gotta read this!” She’s got me into some pretty good stuff.

Where’s the next place you want to travel to?
I am on the board of a nonprofit, the Kula Project. We’re traveling to Kenya and Rwanda to visit the work we’ve been doing over there and meet some of the people we’ve helped and hear their stories. We support farmers in a bid to become more sustainable and have a positive impact over their lives and have a more economic sustainability in their communities, which are often impoverished.

Role models?
I put a lot of faith and admiration in Danny Meyer. He’s a really interesting person to watch, just the way he’s put his businesses together. When he started, his way was so different, and he resonated with his employees and his guests. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I didn’t learn a ton at [when I worked at] Maialino [part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group].

What was your first concert?
Creed. I’ve been to three total Creed concerts, and I would proudly go see them again.