Local ceramicist Billy Ritter’s art education began in a graphic arts program in a vocational program through Riverside High School in Ellwood, Pennsylvania. He earned his BFA in painting from Slippery Rock, and his studies eventually brought him to Northeast Ohio and Kent State's ceramics program.
During his time at Kent State, Ritter studied with legendary local ceramicists Kirk Mangus and Craig Lucas. Ritter is now an adjunct professor at Tri-C’s Western Campus and teaching artist of ceramics at NewBridge Cleveland. Last November, Ritter partnered with Toast Wine Bar in Gordon Square for a special dinner inspired by Toast’s menu and chef Joe Horvath’s plating.
“Last year I had an excellent dinner at Toast with Jill Davis and Chef Joe Horvath,” says Ritter. “For that dinner, Joe and I agreed upon three different forms that he could plate on. He gave me total creative reign, and the rest was history. I spent so many hours making all the things and I have to say the most rewarding part was the packed house of people who were all so happy and supportive of what they were experiencing. It was an experience beyond community and eating; it was a ceremony or something incredibly profound and meaningful.”
Following that successful dinner at Toast, Ritter approached another of his favorite local chefs about a second collaborative dinner. This time, Ritter is partnering with The Black Pig for a unique dinner, consisting of a cocktail, six savory dishes and one sweet dish.
“As I reflected on that event I knew I wanted to do this again and so I approached Chef Michael Nowak at one of my favorite places, The Black Pig,” Ritter says. “What I love about The Black Pig is that Michael is very dedicated to the origins and quality of his food. Any meal that I would want to eat starts with something incredibly delicious. Growing the vision of the experience, he created an appropriate atmosphere in the joint that fits with the fare: exposed brick, dark wood, amber lighting. This is the place where I can think, where I can feel and recharge.”
Designed to emphasize Nowak’s specially-designed menu, Ritter has handcrafted seven ceramic pieces using organic shapes, textures and a natural palette. Due to limited seating, only 30 tickets are available. Therefore, Ritter has only created 30 of each dish, and each will be available for purchase after dinner.
Remembering an early brainstorming session with Nowak at his studio at the beginning of March, Ritter says “Michael and I talked for a few hours. I made sketches and showed him sample forms from my showroom, where I sell my work at the studio. We shared inspiration in all of the things. The core of the conversation was about form and function. Michael referenced the term ‘hand-hewn’ or hand-carved, we talked about the visual look of the geology of stone, the look of the passage of time on a surface. It was all so romantic and came from the origins of the known trades of farmers, crafts-people, chefs and artisans alike.”
This special artisan dinner takes place at from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. next Monday, June 5. The meal includes meat, seafood, vegetables and gluten. Due to the unique nature of the event, no substitutions are available. Tickets are $100 each, and include one welcome cocktail, food, tax and gratuity. Tickets are available through Eventbrite or by calling the restaurant at 216-862-7551.
Cocktail: Lemon and Ohio Locust Blossom
First Course: Seafood Crudo
Seabean, Seaweed Salt, Sunflower Oil
Second Course: Scallop and Caviar
Potato, Radish, Radish Green, Tarragon Buttermilk
Third Course: Charcoal Roasted Ohio Carrots
Carrot Veloute, Spiced Carrot Salt, Carrot Salsa Verde, Cumin
Fourth Course: Chistorra and Olive Tortellini
Charred Octopus, Olive, Smoked Olive Oil, Fermented Dandelion Harissa, Paprika
Fifth Course: Pork Sausage Stuffed Chicken Ballotine
Mushroom, Walnut, Camembert, Spruce
Sixth Course: Ash Crusted Lamb
Potato, Beet, Smoke, Herb
Seventh Course: Ohio Strawberry
(The Black Pig) 2801 Bridge Ave., 216-862-7551, blackpigcle.com.