Palette at the
Madison, a Loews Hotel | Washington DC
Chef Arnel Esposo grew up helping out in his mother's kitchen
near Baltimore, Maryland where he enjoyed cooking dinner for his
Filipino family. But it wasn’t until 1989 when Esposo represented
the United States in the Culinary Team Europe competition that he
realized his true calling was in the culinary world. After returning
home from the competition, Esposo enrolled in the Baltimore International
College and earned a degree in Culinary Arts before returning to
Europe to hone his craft. Following two years as Chef Tournant at
Kilkea Castle Hotel in County Kildare, Ireland, Esposo decided to
establish a reputation in his native Washington, D.C under DC greats
Michel Richard and Morou Ouattara. Esposo gained valuable fine dining
experience as Chef de Partie at Citronelle and Sous Chef
at Red Sage before assisting the opening team at Palette
at the Madison, a Loews Hotel and coming on board as Sous Chef in
2003. As Executive Chef at Palette, Esposo continues to
delight DC diners with elegant and hearty dishes like Crispy Diver
Scallops with Curry Mango Oil, Red Lentil Soup with Coriander Pesto
and Pernod, and Braised Oxtail Ravioli inspired by his childhood
TR: Where have you worked professionally
as a chef?
AE: I spent 2 years working
at the Kilkaerny castle just outside of Dublin, living in a stable
turned into a dorm for the cooks. George Smith mentored me when
I first started out there. Then when I came back to DC I helped
open Citronelle with Michel Richard. He helped to refine my taste.
I also worked at Red Sage with Morou whose enthusiasm and energy
is limitless—the man gets excited talking about peas!
TR: Would you recommend culinary
school to aspiring chefs?
AE: Culinary school is very
important because you learn the basics of cooking: stocks, sauces
etc. But I think apprenticeships can be even more valuable if you
pick a great place. Finding someone who will really mentor you makes
all the difference.
TR: What advice
would you offer young chefs just getting started?
AE: Have an open mind, lots
of patience and respect for chefs that have been around for longer
than you—there’s always something to learn from them.
Look deeper than the surface and appreciate everyone with experience.
The more you ask, the more they’ll teach you.
TR: What question
gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing
them for a position in your kitchen?
AE: I watch their demeanor
and always look for a bit of a sense of humor. Humor is a must in
the kitchen. I also want to know if they know the basics; so many
kids come out of school but they don’t know how to cut a brunoise!
I ask them the basics: how to make certain cuts, how to make the
classic sauces, how to make a demi-glace. They have to know this
TR: Are there
any ingredients that you’re particularly drawn to lately?
AE: I really love citrus zest.
And in the Winter I love using dried spices and warm fruit together.
your most indispensable kitchen tool?
AE: It’s between my Kerschl
sushi knife, my 12 year old Swiss peeler and my Microplane. I use
the Microplane for everything, flavoring oils, grating gingers and
dried spices, zesting citrus. I find it really brings out the flavors
and textures of ingredients.
TR: What are
some of your favorite cookbooks?
AE: Marco Pierre White’s
White Heat. I always go back to Charlie Trotter’s first two
books and Gordon Ramsay’s first book.
do like to go for culinary travel?
AE: I love going to Ireland.
My wife’s Irish; we love the oysters, fish and chips, black
pudding, bacon and Guiness!
TR: What are
your favorite restaurants –off the beaten path –in DC?
AE: I love Pho 57
in Wheaton and I love my local sushi place, it’s called Sushiko.
TR: If you
weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
AE: I’d be a cooking
do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
AE: I’d like to open
a place with my wife where we come up with a changing daily menu.
It’ll be something small with soups, sandwiches, pastries,
and home baked bread.
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