Interview with Portland Rising Star Hotel Chef Andy Arndt of Aquariva at Avalon Hotel & Spa - Portland, OR

November 2011

Francoise Villeneuve: When did you start your culinary career?
Andy Arndt: I started with the whole dishwashing thing. My parents forced me to get a job at country club by my house, and I got the regular kitchen mentality. I got pushed around, but camaraderie and love for food, including baking during the holidays, was something that started then, too.

FV: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs?
AA: For each student I'm on the fence, it depends on the person. Realize that it takes you 20 years to do move up from dishwasher to chef, and to get to that level, it takes drive.

FV: Who are some of your mentors?
AA: I think the big thing with Nancy Oakes was seasonality, making it taste good, and having no restrictions.

FV: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
AA: It’s a cliché thing but think like a sponge; if you find a good chef to work for, just absorb and suck it up. With the television shows out there, everyone thinks you can be a chef right away, but it's a long-term process. Be a sponge, work a year or two years, then go to the next spot.

FV: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
AA: So for me, this is something we just started doing. Being new, I’ve been trying to embrace everything. We just joined the Cordon Blue Culinary School program and will be getting externs here. And farmers’ markets are a driving source on our menu. I have to physically be there to pick the food and to meet the vendor.

FV: What does success mean for you?
AA: I like it in Portland; eventually I want to get my own place here. From what I’ve seen, I have the experience, and it'd be great to do a small boutique hotel with a restaurant that's dinner only.