Rye Craft Food & Drink owner draws inspiration from farm-fresh products


collaborative process leads to the menu at Rye Craft Food & Drink, which specializes in its namesake.

“Craft food keeps things simple, but we execute it extremely well,” Rye owner and chef Jeff Qualls said. “Rye is all about food and drinks people can relate to. We want the food we make to remind you of what grandma cooks.”

Qualls, who grew up in Sherman and started cooking when he was 13, said he had dreamed of opening his own restaurant.

Following graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in New York in 2001 as well as a baking and pastry school in Napa Valley, Qualls moved to McKinney in 2003. His extensive cooking resume includes the TPC in Craig Ranch, Hibiscus and Neiman Marcus as pastry chef.

But he said his restaurant dream became a reality when the downtown McKinney location for Rye “fell in his lap” in 2015.

“We wanted something small,” Qualls said. “I knew if I was going to spend 75-80 hours a week in a place, I wanted to enjoy going to work.”

Qualls works with local farmers, so the menu changes seasonally.

“The ideas for the menu come from products,” he said. “We work with 12-15 farms on any given day. A farmer might show up with some figs or persimmons, and we will create a special with them. It’s a collaborative process as well as a balancing act between current trends and what’s available.”

Qualls said he is a hands-on owner who wants to be in the kitchen creating food that is comfortable and familiar.

“Rye is intimate and small enough to personalize. For the guests who come in several times a week, we learn their names and what they like. The dining room here should feel like an extension of your home.”

When naming the restaurant, Qualls said he was looking for something to fit the style of the eatery, and the building it was housed inside—former Gov. James Throckmorton’s old law office.

“We needed something rustic to keep the feel we wanted,” Qualls said. “We are big whiskey fans, and at the turn of the century, all whiskey was made from rye. This combines the heritage of rye and whiskey with the history of this downtown.”

Rye Craft Food & Drink
111 W. Virginia Parkway, McKinney
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Rye Craft Food & Drink

Qualls said he believes in being hands-on at his restaurant. (via Jean Ann Collins/Community Impact Newspaper)

Rye Craft Food & Drink

The poached pear and baby arugula salad ($9) is topped with blue cheese, candied pistachios, pickled shallots and caramel-cider vinaigrette. (via Jean Ann Collins/Community Impact Newspaper)

Rye Craft Food & Drink

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