Chef Ryan Arensdorf has had much written about him and what he’s going to do as the new Executive Chef at Salamander. And deservedly so. Being chef myself, I wanting talk to him as a chef. I wasn’t sure what I could add to what has already been said.  My father always said, “Cooks talk to Cooks.” It is just easier that way, and a good way to see the inner workings of the mind of a professional.

Local newspapers and online sites repeat his resume and background, which is fine, but the proof is in the pudding Right?  I sat down with Chef and asked a few questions that usually get thrown out at a bar over a few beers.   

Ryan schooled and honed his skills in Chicago. That should tell you a lot right there. He knows beef. He stresses the quality of his suppliers, which will dictate the quality of his food, so he agonizes over getting it right.

What’s the oldest knife you still use?

It’s an old Wusthof chefs knife his Aunt gave 17 years ago, a 8” chef knife he uses till this day with a well-worn handle from the enormous amount of time he’s held tight using it.  I would have cringed if he brought out a plastic handled, thin steel thing from Sysco food service. Knives are a Chefs right hand. The good ones have emotional attachments to them

Nenox knives
Nenox knives

Best Knife you own?

This floored me as I never used Nenox knives before but after examining his little 4” paring knife, I can honestly say I have seen scalpels duller. The thing was amazingly sharp.

What are you excited for people to try? 

Suddenly placed before me was the double cut bone–in Pork chop from Willie Tree farms that was brined, aged and plated with cippolini onion agrodolce. (Agrodolce is a traditional sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine. Its name comes from “agro” (sour) and “Dolce” (sweet). )

Chef Arensdorf ‘s a professional and assures us that once he gets his house in order, many new programs will be available to the local patrons.  Detailed entertaining cooking classes as well as a sushi class and classes on How to Cure, Brine and Smoke. Which I’m sure will be filled with many locals who actively practice these techniques. I think one of the best things he mentions he’d like to know what people would like to learn.

Food for mind, body, and soul…

Any equipment in your kitchen sold on late night TV?

I was surprised Chef Arensdorf has no what we call “As seen on TV” items in his kitchen. I, for example, have a really dopey egg separator that had a 30 minutes infomercial behind it that I won’t part with.  Chef Ryan has no fads, no toys, no a professional purist to the core even in his own domicile.  I think people around here would be surprised to find out a local Michelin rated chef has a Ronco Rotisserie Chicken roaster in his home.

Next question: Give me your favorite 3-ingredient recipe?

“ An aged Delmonico, Salt, and Pepper.”  Spectacular. You can take the boy out of Chicago, but… The confidence of this statement tells me that the chops and meat part of Harriman’s is in exquisite hands and diners are in for a treat.

Last question, spoken with a mouth full of his glorious Burrata Cheese in my mouth.

Name something fun your going do with Kale?

“Not a dam thing.”

Your place in Middelburg food-lore has just been solidified Chef.