By Pamela Dozois

Daisy Ryan, Chef/owner of Bell’s in Los Alamos was recently chosen as one of the 10 best new chefs in the country by Food & Wine magazine. Bell’s opened in March 2018 and serves traditional French Bistro food highlighted by California cuisine.

This honor came as a complete surprise to Ryan who, in the fall of 2019, had served dinner to the restaurant editor of Food and Wine magazine, Khushbu Shah, along with Farley Elliott, editor of Eater Los Angeles, an online service informing the public of the best places to eat in Los Angeles.

“Farley Elliott had made reservations at Bell’s and he said that he would be bringing Khushbu Shah along with him,” said Ryan. “I really didn’t think anything of it at the time.” 

Shah had been traveling the country, visiting 25 different states, dining at a variety of different restaurants that were recommended to her by different people throughout the industry.

“A few months later, in February of 2020, Shah emailed me saying that she wanted me to call her on an urgent matter,” said Ryan. “I did, and she said she was writing an article for the magazine and that I had been chosen as one of the 10 best new chefs in the country.”

“I was surprised and delighted,” said Ryan. “Pretty much every well-known chef in the country has won this award, so I was honored. In choosing the winners, they are not only looking at the cuisine but who you are as an employer and member of your community.” 

“We were supposed to be going to New York in April for a meet and greet with the other chosen chefs, which was cancelled due to COVID-19,” she said. 

To support the new class of Best New Chefs, Food & Wine editors and restaurant industry leaders instead hosted a virtual Best New Chefs Mentorship Program. The program focused on leading in crisis, with panelists sharing legal resources and stories about pivoting their business models, along with sessions about prioritizing mental health and relationships. Members of the 2020 class will also be paired with Best New Chef alums and other veteran chefs to form yearlong mentorships.

“We did a lot of videos, webinars and mentoring sessions with best new chefs from past years,” said Ryan. “I will be paired with a mentor in the near future. We were supposed to cook at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic which unfortunately has also been cancelled.”

“We’re honored to celebrate these amazing people and their singular talents and accomplishments with our readers,” said Hunter Lewis, editor in chief of Food & Wine magazine. “With the world in crisis and the food and beverage industry especially hard hit right now, this class of Best New Chefs inspires optimism and hope for the future of restaurants. I can’t wait to dine at their tables again and toast all 10 of them in person,” 

Ryan says she is happy that she chose the profession of chef as it suits her personality. She went on to say that she formed an interest in cooking because her parents have always been very food-focused. 

Ryan grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley and attended Ballard and Dunn schools. 

“I went to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I graduated from a four-year program,” she said. “I then went to work in Manhattan, working the dining room, not in the kitchen, for Thomas Keller at Per Se, which is where I met my husband, Greg, who was also working there. 

“I was trained as a chef but when I was offered a job in the dining room at Per Se, which was an offer I couldn’t refuse at the time, I thought I would be there for about a year and return to cooking but that didn’t happen. I worked at Per Se for three years then at Gramercy Tavern and Brooklyn Fare. Greg worked at Per Se for five years. We were in New York for 10 years and we were married in our last year in New York.” 

The couple decided to move to Los Angeles to be closer to family. Greg worked at the Beverly Hills Polo Lounge and she worked as a beverage director with Roy Choi. At that time they received an offer to move to Austin, Texas, to work for a restaurant group where they remained for three years. 

“We had our son, Henry, the last year we were in Texas,” Ryan said. “We always wanted to have our own restaurant and wanted to raise Henry in the Santa Ynez Valley. That’s how it all happened.

“I stepped into the role as chef at Bell’s as a necessity but quickly realized that was always what I should have been doing. I like to think of myself as a very creative person, and very athletic, so it made sense for who I am. I have come to really enjoy cooking and it is gratifying to know that people are responding well to all of the hard work Greg, myself and the staff have put in over the past 2 years.”

During this time, Bell’s is open to the public for take-out until the middle of June, according to Ryan. 

“Then we will have to pivot our business a little and modify best practices for ourselves, our staff and our patrons,” said Ryan. “We are also working on setting up a nonprofit called ‘Feed the Valley’ to partner with other local restaurants to feed low income families and individuals in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria.”

The 32nd annual list of new best chefs is available at and will be featured in the July issue of Food & Wine on newsstands June 19. 

Bell’s does not have a telephone, so reservations are made online through its website