Reality TV Chef Barret Beyer talks life, cooking and moving forward

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Overcoming adversity has been a silver lining of hope throughout the pandemic, and for many in the restaurant industry who have been in the midst of having their careers brought to a halt, it has now become a time to rise to new beginnings for one renowned chef.

Long Island native and Reality TV Chef Barret Beyer made his mark on television appearing on Season 11 of “Hell’s Kitchen” with Gordon Ramsay, continuing on to other notable shows such as Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” Season 6 and “Kitchen Casino.” Barret has also appeared on VH1’s “Mob Wives” and FYI Network’s “Midnight Feast.”  This is the surface work to the real heart of a chef who has built a culinary career based upon a deep-rooted passion for cooking.

Prior to Covid, Barret was most recently living his life as head chef of Tiltz Sports Bar in Brooklyn, N.Y.  The restaurant and bar drew in a successful following with their classic arcade games, outdoor seating events; primarily known for it’s showing of UFC and MMA fights, and the arcade-themed dishes.  But Barret said between Covid and a failing partnership, he knew it was time when he closed the doors in October 2020 and began moving on to a new chapter; taking on a new culinary venture and relocating to Florida.

“I love the energy in Florida; I love the sunlight in Florida,” he said.

With more opportunities for people working in the restaurant and entertainment industries becoming available in Florida, performers and chefs alike are embracing and gravitating from New York to where the work lies.  Barret said this was not an easy decision for him, having grown up in Holbrook, and leaving behind family and friends to head to Florida, but the time has come to put New York in the rearview mirror. 

Luckily, he said he is taking a piece of home with him as he sets out to partner with one of south Florida’s largest catering companies, Potions In Motion owner Jason Savino.  Ironically, as life would have it, Barret said not only did he and Jason grow up together as childhood friends in Holbrook, he essentially started his career with him years ago with a business venture non-related to cooking. Now, he is looking forward to coming full-circle when they join forces again in the kitchen.

“I wouldn’t work with somebody if they had no vision to grow.  It’s funny how life comes 360,” he said.

In addition to being able to work with a lifelong friend, Barret said he is also excited to work alongside fellow colleague “The Sexz Chef” and Potions In Motion’s Executive Chef Justin DeSimone. Barret said ever since day one when he would walk into DeSimone’s kitchen even if it was just to use it for a special event he had in Florida, he was welcomed with open arms.

“Everything was made accessible to me. He’s not like most chefs; he doesn’t have an ego,” he said.

Barret said growing up he started cooking at the age of 13 when his dad taught him how to make spaghetti with eggs and cheese and remembered it being an amazing breakfast that inspired him to cook other things.  From that point on he said he had always enjoyed cooking, but he didn’t focus on it until he joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1994 after high school.  It was during that time from 1994-1997 that he began cooking for his fellow Guardsmen and eventually attended Star Career Academy in Syosset, N.Y.

Two weeks before graduation, Barret said he applied for a sous chef position at The Black Wolf in Syosset and met with the executive chef who was a consultant. Barret said the key for him in such a poignant moment was to say yes to everything and figure out what he didn’t know along the way. At the time, Barret did not know this was to set the tone for the career ahead and his evolution toward cooking competitively.

“I was running the place within three months out of culinary school; which is unheard of,” he said.

A chef with an edge, Barret is infamous for wearing his heart on his sleeve and staying true to himself at all costs.  Barret said he feels to be a successful chef you not only need to have a big personality, but a big “inner-personality” more than anything.  In spite of big-personality mentality, Barret humbly does not care for the term “celebrity chef,” and said he feels the term is used too loosely for chefs who make one brief appearance on an episode and are suddenly coined with the term.

Of course, no matter what level a chef is, an opportunity to work alongside Gordon Ramsay is something most would seemingly hold as an unforgettable experience; for better or worse.  Barret said Ramsay was a great mentor, and the real-side of the drama-filled show is that when Gordon sits down and talks with the chefs that is who he really is.

“He cares about people, but he knows how to get ratings.  He will give you motivation, and he’ll tell you what he sees you doing wrong and things you need improvement on. That’s who he really is,” he said.

At the end of the day, Barret said his time in the military was what helped him pay attention to detail and because of that he is very focused in his cooking.  It is during times in the kitchen when things are all over the place and Barret is prepping 15 meals at once when he said his ability to have a specific tunnel vision helps make him a successful leader.

“It helps to be a leader.  You’ve got to lead the cooks through a service, you have to lead the servers through a service; you know, you’ve got to lead everybody,” he said.

Aside from a new venture in Florida, Barret said as far as Reality TV is concerned the next show on his radar is “Chopped.”  Until now, Barret said he thought he was never ready for the show, because of the eccentric dishes thrown at contestants, but now he said he feels ready for the challenge if the opportunity arises. 

To keep up-to-date with Chef Barret Beyer you can follow him on Facebook.com/PalatePirate and Instagram @chefbarret.

Feature photo credit Kate Fox. Gallery photos courtesy Barret Beyer

Renowned Counselor and Author Ron Villano Carries on through Tragedy and Dedicates Life to Mental Health Awareness

By Amy Nicole Tangel

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, many people may be checking in and asking themselves how they are dealing with everyday life and the struggles along the way; wondering if therapy is the answer to a better quality of life.  Nationally renowned counselor and author Ron Villano, who has dedicated his life to helping others after suffering his own personal tragedy, said he believes mental health is necessary for everyone in good times and bad.

With offices across Long Island and beyond, Ron Villano M.S., ASAC is the current Director of Family and Personal Counseling in St. James, N.Y., and additionally operates a private psychotherapy practice in Bohemia.  Ron has built his career in personal and professional counseling based upon his heartfelt life’s mission to help people, and eventually he became an inspirational speaker to help grieving parents after the loss of his youngest son Michael in a tragic car accident on July 22, 1998.

Although Ron said he had practiced therapy part-time before the loss of his son, it was after going through his own healing process and darkest hours when he had the revelation to make not only celebrating his son’s life his focus through helping others, but to truly build a platform to spread awareness and speak to people who have also suffered the loss of a child.

“There is never a good day to die, there is never a good day to get divorced, and never a good day to lose your job.  It took me a long time to get to this spot, but that’s how I help them,” he said.

Ron is also the author of, “The Zing: The self-discovery guide to help you go from living life to loving the life you live,” a book which he said was already in his head before the loss of his son, but after Michael’s passing the book took on a whole new meaning and in 2006 the book was published.  Alongside Ron’s trademarked motto “Embrace the Power of Change,” the book is broken down into seven specific topics of mental health each with its own analogies to help readers easily remember and learn.

In the book and throughout Ron’s practices, “The Tunnel” is a concept Ron said he uses with patients to learn how to take something negative and get through “The Tunnel” to get to where the light is.  He said most people when going through a darkest moment run back to the more comfortable and less scary place at least a few times before breaking through to the other side.

“You want to go through that light tunnel, because you want something new, something different; you’ve had enough,” he said.

Ron works to share his insight and compassion any chance he gets and in addition to counseling, writing, and motivationally speaking, he said he is also the top psych contributor for WCBS (880 AM) Newsradio nationally.  You can also find expertise from Ron in 26 newspapers across the country with his column, “Ask Ron Villano,” which he describes as a “Dear Abby” type of help for readers. 

Going above and beyond to help anyone who knocks on Ron’s door seeking help is the foundation of his work, but he said he doesn’t do it on his own.  Ron said his life is led spiritually to not only celebrate his son’s life, but by the calling to continue to serve others.  Helping others doesn’t just go for his patients, but Ron takes great pride in his staff and said he works to make sure everyone makes a decent living.  For Ron, he said it just feels good to help others, and he wants to keep doing more by being as relatable as possible to every person he counsels.

Ron goes to therapy every week himself, and said it is important for him to let people know as much as he helps others with their own mental health. He is just like everyone else and continues to work on his own life’s struggles in the most positive ways possible.

“I will always tell the patient, ‘The only difference between you and me today is you’re on that side of the couch,’” he said.

When it comes to public speaking about the loss of his son, Ron said he only goes according to his spirit.  If he doesn’t feel that connection with his son for a particular event, he said he simply won’t do it no matter what the venue.  He said he always makes sure to tell the people he is speaking to he is there to honor them and what they have gone through by his signature opener of asking people the names of their children who passed on and making that connection. 

“No big talk, no big speech.  Just asking them names for the first fifteen minutes.  They all tell me it makes them feel so terrific,” he said.

What Ron experienced with the loss of his son is what he calls, “forced change,” and he said that can also be applied to life changes such as divorce.  He said any change is difficult, but when we are forced is when we are truly challenged to get through it.  Ron said human nature leads us to believe these things can happen, but “not to me.”

“Divorce is another forced change; a death where you were living with someone and now you are not,” he said.

Whether it is dealing with grief, divorce or any other issue in life that causes emotional struggles, Ron’s compassion and commitment to those he interacts with shines through in the stories of countless people he has helped over the years.  Most recently, Ron has also been utilizing social media to reach people near or far with regular posts offering simple steps for people to take on their own to help them with various topics of interest such as, “4 Ways to Recover from Disappointments,” “4 Ways to Get Closer to a Partner,” “3 Ways to Respond to Anxious Thoughts,” and “Dealing with Mistakes.”

Ron said he tries to bring everything down to a “6th-grade-level” when working with people to make it as simple as possible for them to grasp the help he is trying to provide.  For himself included, he said breaking things down is the best way to learn new ways of thinking and that is why his book has no repetition.  Instead of telling people how they should think, Ron said the book is a tool to provoke people to think for themselves.

“This book was made to give you zing, give you life, give you passion, and embrace change; start enjoying every moment you have” he said.

To purchase a copy of “The Zing: The self-discovery guide to help you go from living life to loving the life you live,” you can order through www.thezing.com and the book can also be found on Amazon.  If you are interested in learning more about the services Ron and Family and Personal Counseling provide, additional information can be found at www.familyandpersonalcounseling.com, or by calling 631-758-8290.

Photos courtesy Ron Villano