After a week off to recuperate after the busy parade day festivities, we’re back to publishing our local hospitality questionnaire here on WhatsUpNewp!  Our next feature for Shift Drinks is Chef Brian Ashness.

Chef Brian Ashness at Surf Club

I had the pleasure of working with Chef Brian during his tenure as the Raw Bar Chef at Midtown Oyster Bar.  There were three main characteristics that always stood out to me about Chef Brian. One was the passion he holds for what he does.  The second was his constant pursuit of more knowledge and the third was his even-keel attitude. While at Midtown, Brian was always doing homework on new products, researching ingredients and techniques to apply in his kitchen.  He would schedule trips to oyster farms so that the staff could learn more about what they were selling. He would always have a smile on his face and a positive demeanor, even when we were all working our way out of the weeds in the middle of July.

I’m a huge Brian Ashness fan and once you meet him, I’m sure you will be too!

Chef Brian is a proud father, devoted husband and a 12 year veteran of the restaurant industry. He currently works as the executive chef of the Surf Club, a new downtown hot spot owned by the proprietors of Midtown Oyster Bar, where he enjoys making good food with great people. He also teaches a pizza class once a month that is a fun, different and hands-on way to enjoy a Monday night out with friends!  The next class will be held on Monday, April 23rd.

If pizza isn’t your thing, the Surf Club will also be hosting a “Taco & Tequila” dinner on Monday, April 16th. It will be a full-fledged fiesta so be sure to get your tickets sooner rather than later as this event will fill up quickly! If you find yourself at the Surf Club, stop by the kitchen window and say hello, Chef Brian isn’t shy and loves making new friends!

Current Occupation?

Executive Chef at Surf Club

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A millionaire-astronaut-cowboy

The best thing you ever drank?

Spicy Watermelon Margarita at the Surf Club. Please don’t roll your eyes. Try it. Alex Brandariz is a master of elixirs.

The worst thing you ever drank?

Once I was having a drink with some Brazilian chefs at a bar in San Francisco. They offered me a shot of Campari, which I’m pretty sure is Portuguese for unleaded. It was terrible.

Proudest accomplishment in life?

Working my way up from dish dog to chef. It was such a fun, satisfying journey that took a lot of work.

Favorite superhero?


You’re offered a shot, what are you shooting?


Most embarrassing moment?

When I was much younger, I took a shot with a girl that I really liked and then proceeded to throw up all over her. She was really cool about it, but my friends never let me live it down. They are probably laughing about it while reading this.

Place you’d like to visit the most?

Tokyo, Japan. Have you seen the video of samurais fighting on jet packs? Plus ever since I read kitchen confidential, I’ve wanted to eat my way through that city.

Netflix recommendation?

Ugly Delicious, dope!

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Moose tracks.

Favorite bar in town?

Midtown Oyster Bar. Shout out to Julie, Val, Cheryl, Cam, Tyler, Dakota, Sara, Luke, and the great Timmy Towey.

Favorite bar out of town?

The library at the Nomad in Manhattan. Super cool spot.

Weirdest 7/11 purchase?

Taquitos at 3 am. I regretted it the whole next day.

Last book you’ve read or recommend?

Principles by Ray Dalio. It is an extremely thought-provoking read. Favorite quote: “Evolving is life’s greatest accomplishment and it’s the greatest reward.”

If you could be on any game show, what would it be?

Family Feud with the Surf Club Crew. We would lose, but it’d be a good time.

Favorite movie?

Rocky III. That movie was inspirational as hell. Eye of the tiger!

If you had to listen to one album on loop for the rest of your life, what would it be?

You Get What You Give by Zac Brown Band or Reasonable Doubt by Jay-z

What’s a hobby you’ve had or currently have?

I’m a voracious reader. I finish a book about every other week. I also like to play poker when I can.

Ideal Newport meal. (Combination of restaurants around town). Favorite App, Entree, Dessert, Drink?

App: Sushi at the Clark Cook House

Dinner: a bowl of ramen at Ború

Dessert: an Awful Awful

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

Spending time with my family. My wife always makes me laugh. And my daughter just started walking. It’s been awesome just chasing her around.

Best meal you’ve ever had?

I’ve been fortunate enough to eat in a lot of great places, so I think it’s hard to say one meal was a definitive “best.”  A few worth mentioning would be the chef’s tasting at Le Bernardin, the omakase at O Ya Boston and the butcher’s feast at Cote NYC. My family also has some epic potlucks. My father’s side can all hold their own in a kitchen.

Preferred hangover regime?

Sleep, Powerade, soup and damage control.

Biggest pet-peeve while working?

A negative attitude. I hate it when people shut down.

If you had to drink only one alcoholic beverage for the rest of your life what would it be?

Loose Cannon IPA

Last meal?

The last meal I ate? Right before this, it was seriously a pizza that Charlie Holder bet me I couldn’t eat in under a minute. I lost. Last meal before I die? A good bowl of Ramen Noodles.

If you could change one thing about Newport, what would it be?

The traffic and parking.

Weirdest request you’ve ever been asked while working?

While chef de cuisine at an inn in New Hampshire, a guest brought in a deer they’d run over and asked me to cook it. It turned out to be a fantastic venison stew. I just thought it was strange that I was essentially preparing road kill.

If you had one superpower what would it be?

I always thought Magneto was pretty cool.

What’s your spirit animal?

The pug in the Doritos commercial.

Two words that describe you?

My wife said smart and stubborn.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known ten years ago?

Life is truly what you make it. Get to work!

Cheers, Chef Brian!

Surf Club is located in the Perry Mill Building (337 Thames Street) in Newport and online on Facebook

Tyler Bernadyn
Tyler Bernadyn at Midtown Oyster Bar

Tyler Bernadyn is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award-winning $10 entree dinner special.

Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.

Email him at and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.