Featured Chef Charles Arena Jr.
As a 1998 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, Executive Chef Charles Arena brings sixteen years of experience in the food and beverage industry to The Boathouse. Jean Jacques Rachou at La Cote Basque in New York is just one of the highly rated chefs Arena studied under before coming to Charleston. Once in Charleston, Arena became the Sous Chef of Tides at the Beach Club, a Tom Colicchio Consultant Project where he quickly formed strong relationships with local farmers and fisherman and began to participate in the Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Today he continues this tradition and supports local initiatives in his diverse menu. Since 2007, Arena has been sharing his talents as an Adjunct Professor at The Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College. Those who have dined at The Boathouse have said he has stepped up with some very daring and flavorful combinations. Thatalone is worth the attention.
EAT THIS! Have you always known that you wanted to be a chef?
CHEF CHARLES ARENA: Always? No. At first I wanted to be a farmer. It was probably around 14 that I realized I wanted to be a chef.
ET! If you weren’t a chef, or in food and beverage, what would you be doing now?
CA: Something with numbers like accountant or stock broker.
ET! What is the best compliment you have ever received in regard to your cooking?
CA: “That’s the best thing I’ve put in my mouth!”
ET! How does the kitchen at The Boathouse compare to other kitchens you have lead?
CA: The menu is diverse and incorporates many local ingredients.
ET! How have the tastes of diners changed throughout your career? Do you see this change as a positive one?
CA: The whole sustainability, local first change has been great. Especially for us chefs who strive to source so many products that are local and environmentally friendly.
ET! Is there an ingredient you have never worked with that you would like to?
CA: Geoduck, lionfish, and horsemeat (it’s huge in France, but I just couldn’t bring myself to try it).
ET! What is your best cooking tip for a novice?
CA: Read your recipe through three times before starting. Learn and understand the
basic cooking techniques — speed will come with experience.
ET! What would you say has taught you the most about running a successful restaurant?
CA: My first two chefs, Gunther Schanker and JJ Rachou. Their work ethic was amazing. It was their advice along with my business degree that has helped me. Stay current but not all trends will succeed.
ET! What is the best advice you could give to an aspiring chef?
CA: Absorb, absorb, absorb. There are so many talented chefs at culinary schools and in the business. Pick their brains. This business isn’t for everyone, there are long hours and stress. It’s not a picture perfect reality show.