Getting to Know Chef Arno

After spending time with Arno we feel we know more about the Maison Chef than most. From childhood memories to favourite international cuisine, we were delighted with his revealing answers.

Were there certain foods that you refused to eat as a child?

I avoided protein - fish and meat. For some reason I preferred pumpkin and broccoli.

Share a morning ritual that you believe contributes to a good start to the day.

Well, I've got a 45-minute drive into work so a lot happens in my head as the morning progresses. It's a time when new concepts are born and ideas begin to develop.

What are challenges you face in the kitchen on a weekly basis?

Training staff. That's probably the biggest thing and it's a challenge I believe most chefs share.

What is your first food-related memory from your childhood?

Wow... there are a few. Essentially it revolves around sourcing.
We always went hunting, fishing and diving. The memories of those days have been with me throughout my career. I think that's where I draw a lot of inspiration from as well. Sourcing is one of the most important things to look after in a restaurant. In addition to having strong relationships with all your suppliers, it allows you to know exactly where everything comes from. In the end you want to know exactly what you put on every plate.

Where do you turn to for presentation and plating inspiration?

I turn to nature while also considering the current season.
The idea is to try and keep things as natural as possible - not necessarily simple - but using what we have and altering the molecular structure to enhance the ingredients, and ultimately the dish.

Share 5 kitchen essentials you simply could not live without.

Eggs, water, onions, ginger and garlic.

What is your simplest dish that impresses and delights every single time?

At the moment my favourite is the perlemoen (abalone) dish; honestly it's not actually simple but I just love the flavour combinations. In fact, it takes three days to make!

Is there one recipe creation that you are particularly proud of?

There's one thing we did a while ago - we fermented some kale, as we had a lot of it growing on the farm. We basically salted the kale and left it. After six months I rediscovered it and we tasted it - it was delicious. We then deep-fried it and it was even better. So to answer your question: 6-month fermented deep-fried kale. I'm proud of that one.

What elements do you think contribute greatly to meal satisfaction?

I think it's the whole experience - from kitchen to table. The chef ought to know what he or she is doing. In turn, the front of house ought to know what the chef is doing, so it all translates into a memorable experience for the guests. Today's diners want to know what to expect but still be surprised and delighted upon presentation. So to answer your question in one word: synergy. Reinvention is also important, to avoid getting lost amongst everyone else out there.

Which country would you revisit in a heartbeat, purely for its cuisine?

There are so many countries I still need to visit, but so far Portugal is one of my favourites. It's very colourful, people are friendly; the whole experience was just quite amazing. The food is simple, flavourful and wholesome. They cook from the heart - it's good.

Nominate a dish you believe everyone should try, at least once.

Octopus, white anchovies and black (fermented) garlic.