Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 2, 2022

From fine dining to real estate

Calderson finds satisfaction in flip of career, location

Ryan Calderon is a Realtor with the Auburndale Group at Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown. He became an agent six months ago after leaving the culinary profession. - Photo courtesy of Ryan Calderon

As a child, Ryan Calderon learned food could be an expression of love. Whenever he ate his Mexican grandmother’s tamales or his Italian grandmother’s panettone, he felt the warm embrace of familial affection and the sense of belonging that defined his formative years.

As Calderon came of age, his emotional connection to his grandmothers and the food they made guided him to the culinary arts.

“Both of my grandmothers loved to cook and conveyed their affection for others through food,” Calderon, 41, recalls. “Their meals were delicious and a wonderful experience, and I wanted to give the same feelings and memories to others.”

Calderon spent years pursuing his passion, beginning in restaurants in California, where he grew up. From coffee roaster to winemaker to cheese monger, he touched every corner of the commercial kitchen as he learned his trade.

After interning at San Francisco’s Sons & Daughters (a $250-a-plate culinary experience) and honing his craft at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, Calderon baked sourdough bread, cookies, doughnuts and dog treats for his neighbors in Austin during the pandemic.

He also made his own panettone, which turned him into a neighborhood celebrity.

Known for its domed shape, panettone is a sweet bread studded with candied fruits and raisins. Calderon uses a sourdough-based brioche and adds golden raisins, cranberries, candied orange rinds and chocolate chips to the mix.

Before baking his panettone, Calderon tops the dough with an almond paste, granulated sugar and Marcona almonds, making its crust a crunchy companion to the fluffy bread.

“Each bite contains different ingredients, so the experience changes as you eat it,” Calderon says. “And it makes an epic French toast.”

Although cooking is one of Calderon’s great passions, he now sees it as a labor of love, not a career.

“I’ll always love to bake, but it’s time consuming and the profit margins are razor thin,” he says. “I needed something that would support my family better.”

Calderon’s family consists of his wife, Jenny, and their pit bull and dog treat taste tester, Savage. The “something” he found to support them better is real estate.

“I became interested in real estate during the pandemic as property values in Austin and around the country soared,” Calderon explains. “I then dove deep into podcasts and books and learned about different ways to invest.”

Calderon’s tested the waters with what he calls a “house hack,” a chic way of saying he and his wife rented a room in their home in Austin.

When they moved to the Chattanooga area to experience a slower lifestyle and live closer to some of his extended family, they converted their Austin home into a full rental and purchased a residence in Wildwood, Georgia, a small community located 15 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

A positive experience with their Realtor convinced Calderon to become an agent. He’s a member of the Auburndale Group at Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown, where he serves residential buyers, sellers and investors.

“I try to put myself in the best possible position to learn,” Calderon says. “The Auburndale Group is excellent at what it does and has baked a great set of procedures into its client service model.”

Calderon says surrounding himself with good mentors is important because the real estate market has slackened since rising property values lured him to the profession.

“Real estate was easy when I first became excited about it. Everything was going up. Things are different now – and that’s OK because it gives me an opportunity to finetune my craft and learn about the Chattanooga area.”

Calderon says his professional baking days taught him there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things, as well as an easier way and a harder way, and the harder way is usually the right way. He’s now applying this lesson to real estate.

“If I take a shortcut, or hustle too fast to close a sale, it might not turn out well. But if I follow each step, it’ll turn out perfect every time.”

As Calderon settles into his new career, he’s aspiring to higher levels of investment for himself and his family. He hopes to purchase one property a year and gradually assemble a lucrative rental portfolio.

It’s a life he never imagined he’d have as he was beginning a career as a chef, he says.

“This seems like something rich people do – and I’m not rich,” he laughs. “But educating myself opened my eyes to the concept.

“It’s going to involve a lot of uprooting and resetting our lives, but my wife is with me on this journey. She sees the big picture.”

Calderon and his wife moved to Wildwood six months ago in their pursuit of less chaos and commotion. Much like the way his grandmothers’ cooking led him to the culinary profession, his fond memories of visiting his relatives in the Chattanooga area as he grew up drew him east.

“I loved the city and thought it was special,” he remembers. “It seemed like a good place to be as I transitioned from baking into real estate.”

It’s also an excellent place to enjoy life, Calderon says. He mentions hiking with his wife at Cloudland Canyon State Park this autumn as especially pleasant.

“This is the first time we’ve lived somewhere with all four seasons, so walking the trails at Cloudland as the leaves were changing colors was like being in a Hallmark Card. We teared up.”

Calderon also worked up an appetite, which is par for the course with the former baker.

“Everything I do stems from my desire to eat. I’ll think, ‘Can I eat more if I exercise? Then I need to work out today.’”

His grandmothers would be proud.