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Chef Tara Arnaud

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2015

Favorite class to teach: Since I am new to The Chopping Block, I have not had the opportunity to try all the classes, but I have really enjoyed our Julia Child classes. She has always been an inspiration to me.

Training/education: Opryland Hotel Culinary Apprenticeship Program

Cooking since: My mother was a great cook, and there was always a party to get ready for, so I was drafted into the kitchen at an early age.

Favorite childhood food experience: Although my mom was a great cook, she always managed to overcook the turkey for Thanksgiving. So when I was about 12 or 13 we had a family vote and decided that from then on we would have lobster for dinner. Every Thanksgiving morning, we would get to pick our lobster and we would race them on the kitchen floor before dinner. It was great fun and something I will always remember.

What made you want to become a chef? Simply put, I love to feed people. It makes me happy.

What is your signature dish? If you were to ask my daughter, it would definitely be my Spaghetti and Meatballs.

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Butter, Garlic, Olive oil, Bread and Bacon 

What do you love about cooking? I love to feed people and the idea of community dining. Eating should be a social event!

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? For me, it is all about creating something for someone else to enjoy. I love the idea of community dining. No one should have to eat alone, it is all about being together and sharing the experience.

What advice would you give a new cook? Be creative, let the food speak and don't over complicate it. And always, always, always taste as you go and season!

What are you doing when you're not cooking? Sew, teach art, garden and spend time with my daughter.

Describe your perfect evening. Having a casual dinner party at home with lots of friends and food! 

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? We would have breakfast at Stan's Donuts, lunch at Bun City including the Giddy Up Fries drenched in BBQ Brisket. Then, for dinner we'd head to Umai for amazing sushi.

Where are you from? I grew up in Connecticut.

What was your favorite vacation? Anywhere there is a beach! I spent some time in Nevis, and it was amazing.

What are your hobbies? Sewing, watercolors, rehabbing vintage furniture

What is your favorite band? I listen to jazz and country. I love Michael Buble.

What is your favorite sports team? New Orleans Saints

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? The Dali Lama

What are your guilty pleasures? Bread and butter

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Mario Batali, I just love his food!

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?

  • Good, sharp Chef's knife. I prefer Global Chef's knives.
  • Microplane grater. This tool is good for everything from grating nutmeg to zesting citrus.
  • KitchenAid mixer
  • Lemon juicer
  • Bench scraper

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block students? These days you can just about anything on the web, from specialty ingredients to recipes and videos on how to make anything. The Chopping Block's video library is a great resource for home cooks.

List your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen. 

  • Whenever a recipe calls for citrus juice, I almost always add some zest as well. There is so much more flavor in the citrus oil in the skin than the juice.
  • Always taste as you go, and season every component in your dish. Be sure to check for salt and pepper before serving.
  • Clean as you go. It helps to keep you organized.
Tara's Favorite Tool

Microplane-1My favorite kitchen tool is the Microplane Grater. I love it because it makes zesting citrus so easy and if you read my profile, you know I like to add citrus zest to any recipe that calls for citrus juice. It adds so much flavor to your dishes!

The Microplane can also be used for grating whole spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. It's great for finely shredding hard cheeses such as Parmesan as well.

The instrument is very easy to clean and relatively inexpensive.