Working for a major Cohn Group restaurant like Coasterra is the dream job for any San Diego chef. In addition to an ideal location, Cohn Group chefs have the pleasure of working with some of the freshest seafood and the finest ingredients. However, access to some of the finest food and facilities in town doesn't mean anything unless there's a skilled chef utilizing them.
Fortunately for Coasterra, it not only has a phenomenal Executive Chef in Debra Scott, but also a fantastic sous chef: Arnold V. Brown. After cooking me an outstanding meal, I was lucky enough to steal Chef Arnold away from the kitchen long enough to find out about his professional background, as well as his culinary work outside of Coasterra's kitchen. Despite the efficient, business-like demeanor he uses to command a kitchen, he immediately struck me as a kind and personable man; evidenced in the friendly smile he wore throughout my conversation with him.
Born and raised in Calexico, Arnold's experience with cooking and the kitchen began in his family's home when he was just a small boy. There, his family gave him some important mealtime tasks that would later spur his culinary ambitions. He fondly recalls how his uncle would bring home freshly caught shrimp (much like the Mexican white shrimp prevalent on Coasterra's menu), and how it was Arnold's job to clean and prepare the seafood before cooking.
He was also in charge of making the guacamole for the table; a memory that brings a warm, nostalgic smile to his face. While he was sure to pick up some skills while helping his family, I'm struck by the warmth with which he speaks about simply being in the kitchen with his loved ones. Before long, his childhood routine had turned into a passion, and Arnold began attending culinary school in the U.S. After graduating from the institute in 1993, he began working at small San Diego taco shop that has long since gone out of business.
From there, Arnold was chosen to run the kitchen at GR Catering; a well-respected catering company operating out of Point Loma. There, he honed his skills for presentation that make the dishes at Coasterra so visually stunning. His next job in the restaurant industry took him to another level of his career: Sous chef at the prestigious San Diego mainstay, Mr. A's. Arnold spent eight years at the fine dining establishment, learning much about fine dining and eventually attaining the position of Executive Sous Chef.
While Chef Arnold spoke highly of Mr. A's, it was clear he sought new opportunities and challenges, Arnold received the chance to use his Mexican food background to its fullest potential at the swanky ViVa Bar + Kitchen downtown. There he began utilizing his signature cooking style, which he refers to as “Frenchican”: Latin-inspired cuisine that utilizes essential French ingredients like butter, cream, parsley, and shallots.This affinity for blending regional cuisines made him an ideal candidate for the newly opened Coasterra, which combines traditional Mexican cuisine with modern European flair. Though Arnold has only worked for the Cohn Group several months, he expresses delight at working for the restaurateurs who place an emphasis on family in everything that they do.
From his early days cooking with his family, to working with the Cohns, to spending time with his wife and children; family has always been important to Chef Arnold. While he normally shies away from the kitchen on his days off, he does choose one day on which to craft some of his favorite Mexican dishes for his kids.When I complimented him on the flavor and warmth of the Crema de Elote soup, Arnold expressed how he's begun making albondigas soup for his son and daughter now that we're headed into the winter months. With his affinity for cream and French ingredients, he is fond of most types of soups. An avid fisherman and camper, Arnold also prepares the seafood that he catches when not at Coasterra.
He owns a house in the picturesque beach town called San Felipe, in Baja California, and frequently travels there with his family to camp and fish. There, he can escape the hustle and bustle of Coasterra's busy kitchen and work with seafood in a completely different way.
A smile spread across Arnold's face when he began talking about retiring there, spending his days fishing and sitting on the beach. If he continues his phenomenal work with seafood continues at Coasterra, he'll be soaking up the sun in no time.