Interview with Executive Chef Kenneth Arneson of Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Kenneth Arneson, Executive Chef of Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak, as the menu for Hole-in-the-Wall has recently been revamped to feature classic smokehouse BBQ grub.
Chef Ken joined Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak less than a year ago (October 2010, to be exact) and got to work quickly. Since his arrival, he’s given a completely new vibe to Hole-in-the-Wall, changing what once was the resort’s pool-side restaurant, a Cowboy steakhouse, into a smokehouse BBQ. (I’ve tried the pulled pork since the switch and it was fantastic!) Chef Ken has also made another big change in his short time there – he’s created a new green initiative for another one of the resort’s restaurants, Rico’s American Grill. Now, Rico’s contributes green waste to the compost at local grower Singh Farms, where Chef gathers fresh vegetables for the restaurant. Rico’s will then add that compost back into its garden at the resort.
With more than 10 years of culinary experience under his belt, it’s fair to say some of his influence came from his family background as he was “born to cook” with four generations of chefs in his family preceding him. He began his career in an apprenticeship under CMC David Callaway and Chef Bruce Fry. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and has travelled the world as Corporate Chef for Cruise West, and later, successfully opened four kitchens: the House of Blues in Anaheim, Shady Canyon Golf Club, Seattle’s Circa Restaurant and Matisse Restaurant inside the Ayres Hotel. Most recently, he worked as the Executive Chef at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort and Casino. Chef Ken also strives to give back to the community and is involved with many local charities including SOS Taste of the Nation, St. Mary’s Food Bank and Gourmet for Good.
PhoenixBites Interview with Chef Kenneth Arneson
Amy Martin: When creating dishes for the new menu, where did you find your inspiration? Is Hole-in-the-Wall your first experience cooking up barbecue fare?
Chef Ken Arneson: I pulled some of it from my days as the Chef for the House of Blues. I spent two months training in New Orleans and grew a very strong appreciation for Southern-inspired cooking and their very distinct methods. How they fuse the flavors of spice with low and slow smoke cooking is pure genius.
Amy Martin: If a BBQ aficionado walked in to the restaurant, which dish would you recommend as a ‘must-order’?
Chef Ken Arneson: Definitely the brisket. We use a tried and true method of ensuring that it is cooking properly, “The Smoke Ring.” It’s the only way to truly see that your meat is accepting the proper smoke flavor and heat it needs to be the perfect combination. This is the signature of true smokehouse BBQ.
Amy Martin: Can you tell us about the sauce you use for your BBQ dishes?
Chef Ken Arneson: We use more of a southern approach to our sauce. Rich, bold flavors with just a little kick.
Amy Martin: What is your personal favorite meat/protein for smoking?
Chef Ken Arneson: Pork Shoulder – it has just enough fat to keep it moist and if seasoned and prepared just right, it makes for great BBQ Pork sandwiches when trying to figure out what to do with the leftovers.
Amy Martin: Assuming you actually have a night off, where can you be found when you’re not cooking?
Chef Ken Arneson: In my garden at home (which, I am sure, is the early signs of old age) or eating sushi with my wife and two daughters.
Amy Martin: Do you have any strict kitchen rules or guidelines known throughout your kitchens?
Chef Ken Arneson: “When it’s time to work, we work hard…When it’s time to play, we play even harder.”
Amy Martin: What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Chef Ken Arneson: Bouchon in Las Vegas. It was truly awesome from the first bite to the last. I believe that meal to be the idea of perfection on a plate. Good food and great flavors cooked perfectly.
For more information about Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak or any of its restaurants, visit squawpeakhilton.com.