An interview with Ryan Chetiyawardana; Mr Lyan

Award winning bartender, bar owner, brand owner and author Ryan Chetiyawardana; Mr Lyan

We get to the Root of Ryan’s belief that the perfect serve can be achieved in a sustainable, responsible way in a world class environment.

Can you tell me a bit about your journey from winning the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year in 2009 to today, where you have an impressive (increasing) plethora of awards accruing, books in print, a highly respected portfolio of bars and your own cocktail range on the shelves?

I always loved how the world of food and drink touched so many different industries, so I was keen to see what we could explore to go beyond the standard definitions of a bartender. I was fortunate to work with some amazing people, and from my time in Edinburgh where I first won bartender of the year, I just tried to learn as much as I could, and try to find ways of folding my interests and studies into my work. This took me throughout the UK, but it also gave me a chance to work with people who were keen to explore different ways of doing things.

That’s been the guiding principle for the company since we started. We’re really fortunate that we’ve been able to pick up some awards on the way, but really, the most exciting aspect for me has been the way we’ve been able to build a team that’s been excited by the idea of developing new ideas, and new ways of making connections within the industry, and beyond. That’s allowed us to do the diverse range of things that we have now

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Sustainability is really important for you on a personal level, can you explain why? Was there a particular trigger for you or has is always been a core belief?

I think the notion was important to me from a young age – it was certainly part of how we were raised. But I think my studies in Biology, and a desire to challenge the established models and try and find new ways of putting things together also meant that it became an integral part of the company when we started. Strangely I’d done some talks and projects on sustainability before we started which really didn’t seem to resonate, so I put the idea as a background to what we were doing even though it was important to me personally, but it was great then to see people recognise the subject as time went on.

I think it also didn’t always occur to me to be necessarily about ‘sustainability’ in a traditional definition. Some of it to me was about common sense, or questioning why were doing things a particular way. It was only when I started to explore alternatives did I really realise how much waste was unnecessarily generated.

Can you share some pioneering practices that your Bars or restaurant have implemented to reduce their impact?

One was to challenge the foundation of the craft. Why do we rely on one particular acidulant that has to be imported from abroad and then only use it once. Why did we restrict our palate of ingredients and create unrealistic demands and pressures on their production? By challenging these notions, and demonstrating that there was an alternative, we were able to drastically reduce waste, but we were also able to influence an industry by kicking off a discussion that was relevant to everyone, and to promote best practice and considerate sourcing and usage. A huge amount to me was about education. Not only on the examples and opportunities out there, but to also show that these ideas were available to everyone including the home consumer.

I love your Time Capsule ‘Bespoke without the Bling’. Can you tell me a bit more about how you select the bottles?

Challenging and redefining luxury is a key part of what we do – particularly to show that modern luxury isn’t about ostentatiousness or waste. We also wanted to demonstrate that real luxury is in the ideas, in experience, and in more than the classical flashy showcases. With the Time Capsules, it’s about creating something personal, something beyond simple rarity (although it has that too) but about expertise, time and individuality. So it’s important every aspect reflects these, so the bottles themselves tell a story. Some are very old – 3 piece glass bottles used to house rare wines and spirits from over a hundred years ago – others have an interesting story behind them to link.

To find out more about Mr Lyan visit http://mrlyan.com/

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