Ryan Bzibziak is a man of two passions: the culinary arts and the world of music.
Before becoming a resident of Niagara Falls, he was born and raised in North Collins.
“It’s probably the smallest town in the whole world,” Bzibziak said. “You can walk the stretch of North Collins in 20 minutes. It’s insane.”
With a graduating class of approximately 50 students, he and his brother, Corey, were raised working on farms.
“It’s probably the reason I’m socially awkward, I guess. I hung out with all the same people for 17 years of my life. I didn’t branch out to any other schools. I couldn’t really branch out to any other schools until probably my senior year,” he said.
Being closed off from the world was not a bad thing, in Bzibziak’s eyes. He said, “I think being so sheltered off from the world helped me focus on what I wanted to do: Focus on being a cook. It helped me focus on doing music. All the stuff I wanted to do.”
When he was very young, he would help his mother cook dinner and he said it clicked for him that he wanted to become a chef.
During an open house for the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services as a sophomore in high school, “I went right to the chef and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’” Half of his time in high school was spent mastering his craft at BOCES.
As a 19-year-old intern chef on the set of a Disney Channel© reality series called “Bug Juice,” he started to really find his footing.
“I think that doing this camp thing, and being in Maine and meeting all of these new people: I think that’s what helped me break out of my shell. I was, as I said, very socially awkward, and then I did this.”
Culture shock set in after moving to the city of Niagara Falls to attend the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.
“Within my first week at this apartment, living in the city of Niagara Falls, my roommate’s car got broken into,” Bzibziak said. “This is unheard of in my head, because I lived in Langford. I lived in the country. Nobody did that. You could leave your doors unlocked. You didn’t have to worry about leaving stuff in your cars. It was weird, very weird.”
Bzibziak worked his way up the ranks and now holds a position as a line cook at the Country Club of Buffalo.
“Just the fact that I got a job at the CCB is amazing. They don’t give people shots at these kinds of places. They don’t take chances, because they’re dealing with very expensive food. They can’t have you f------ it up.”
His passion for music began initially while playing percussion in fourth grade. Cave Wilson became Bzibziak’s mentor when he took drumming lessons at Hamburg Music Center.
“He was probably the coolest guy I’ve ever met in my life,” Bzibziak said.
Another deep rooted source of inspiration for Bzibziak was his brother, Corey, who brought himself to put down the drum sticks and pick up a guitar.
“Of course there was the kind of thing where I saw my brother doing it, so I wanted to do it,” Bzibziak said. An electric guitar “sat in my room for like, a year and a half. Collected dust,” he added. “Then I got an acoustic ... That’s when I started to actually focus on instrumental. It went up from there.”
Just recently delving into the performance world, he has a few open mic nights on his repertoire, along with a couple shows at venues such as the Tralf Music Hall in the city of Buffalo and The Forvm. Prior to January, he was mostly posting cover tunes on YouTube.
Bzibziak’s first open mic experience in Hamburg was with Jake Galenski, also known as Jacob Peter, at Moonshiners Pub & Grub.
“He got me into open mics. And he got me into the music I’m playing now and helped me find my voice,” Bzibziak said, about Galenski. “He’s taught me some different vocal exercises and different things like that. His music in general is amazing.”
After receiving praise from Galenski, Bzibziak said, “I’m like, star struck. I look up to this guy and he’s telling me I did an amazing job.”
Another major influence, for Bzibziak is, “Of course, my brother. He’s the reason I started playing music. Because I looked up to him.” For a stint of time, the brothers played together in a Buffalo-based group, Humble Braggers.
“It just felt really good to play music with my brother. The person who I once looked up to, to music, and got me into music, I was now standing on stage singing with him,” he said.
He opted out of being a member of that band, due to the high demands of his culinary life. With five or six 9-hour days, always on weekends and always late nights, Bzibziak balances two loves.
“I like to say that cooking is my career and music is my passion. I have a passion for cooking. There’s no doubt about that. I love every second of my work day. But music is what I can come home to. It’s my crutch. I can home home and just unwind with music.”
His style falls into the deep soulful sound, with a heavy inspiration and admiration for Allen Stone, a rhythm and blues soul musician from Washington.
Bzibziak has also been tending to Sheds, a series of gospel jam sessions.
“Soul gospel music is what I love to play. What I love to sing,” he said. The people who participate “have such an understanding for music. They feel it and they understand it from the core. That’s where I’m hoping to be and that’s who I want to learn from,” adding that he hopes to form a soul band in the future or to partner with his friend and mentor, Jacob Peter.
With making it in the industry, “You have to have so much dedication. I don’t expect it to just come to me. It would be a huge risk to me because I would have to push my culinary to the side, ahead of time, in anticipation that I would hopefully get famous.
“My family is so supportive. They’re always going to be there, in case I do screw up and fall on my a--. They would be there if it didn’t go right, but I would hate to have to do that to them,” Bzibziak said.
He presses on writing songs, inspired by his love life.
“What’s weird is a lot of my songs are influenced by my love life ... It’s weird for me because I don’t really care about my love life,” Bzibziak said. “It’s weird that I want to write about it. I don’t care about trying to find the one. If it happens it happens. But I sit there and write about the person not being the one, or whatever.”
Is he sure he doesn’t care?
“I guess it’s kind of like a secret thing,” he answered, hidden deep beneath his subconscious.
Within Bzibziak’s music collection, are sounds from The Wood Brothers, Allen Stone, early releases from John Mayer, The Head and the Heart, and The Avett Brothers. An unlikely find would be Tyler, The Creator: founding member of Los Angeles based rap crew, Odd Future.
“He is so philosophical and secretly deep and he acts like he doesn’t give a s--- but he really does. Everything bothers him and he’s a sensitive guy, but he acts so tough,” Bzibziak said. “People just don’t take time to listen to what he’s actually saying.”
As cars sound systems bumped and dogs on leashes strolled by the wrought iron fence of Caffe Aroma’s patio in the city of Buffalo, Bzibziak told a story.
After an open mic night, Ben Uytiepo – from Buffalo band Darling Harbor – approached Bzibziak with a compliment and an invitation to open for that band’s album release at the Tralf. With only two open mics under his belt, Bzibziak found himself in a dressing room prior to the show in shock and awe.
Before taking the stage, he said said that Uytiepo hopped on the mic to introduce him (which is alledgedly rare for Uytiepo to do) and said “some of the nicest things that I’ve ever heard in my whole life,” according to Bzibziak. “He was just so supportive and nice and the fact that he even gave me the opportunity to play with them was amazing.”
The crowd, he said, was interactive and energetic. Bzibziak quickly made a Facebook fan page just prior to the show, so when he finished his set, he could be found on the internet.
“I completely forgot to even mention the fact that I had Facebook page to everyone, because I was just so... I just forgot everything I wanted to say at the end,” Bzibziak said.
Find Bzibziak at open mic nights in the Southtowns or on his Facebook page.