We mentioned in August that a change of kitchen-leading faces was happening over at beloved East Nashville restaurant and cocktails spot Holland House, with chef Hrant Arakelian — most recently of celeb chef Jonathan Waxman’s Adele’s — taking over for departing chef Kristin Beringson.
As an executive chef swap tends to bring new twists to any restaurant’s menu, we’ve been excited to see how things at Holland House might be shaping up as Chef Hrant got his feet under him.
A few things to know about Hrant Arakelian: He’s been an East Nashvillian for about a decade, and yes, he’s “very excited” to be back at work on his home turf. Another yes, he did just spend time on staff under uber-famous restaurateur/Top Chef: Masters fourth-place finisher Waxman, but Arakelian’s not getting all fancy-pants about it. “Working for chef Waxman was a great experience,” he says. “His approach to food and cuisine was refreshing, simple and well prepared.”
As for Arakelian’s own approach to food, he came of age traveling all around Europe and the Middle East, and he gave us a little insight into how that — and other new twists — might bring about some new flavors at Holland House.
The East Nashvillian: How do you see your particular approach to food changing or affecting Holland House’s culinary personality?
Chef Hrant Arakelian: “I love Mediterranean cuisine, the spices and complex flavors, but presenting them in an uncomplicated way. I want to make the food at Holland House straightforward, something that you can eat every day, but with enough surprises in flavors to keep people excited.”
One big change we saw that came with your arrival: a new custom wood smoker. What kind of menu additions can we expect as it gets up and running?
“The smoker was a bonus for me, it was something that [owner Terrell Raley] had in the works before my arrival. I plan on making full use of it. Currently we have a half or whole smoked chicken which we glaze with a spiced tamarind sauce. It’s quite tasty. In the future you can expect to see more smoked sausages, meats and vegetables, even some house-made cheeses.”
As a longtime Nashvillian — and a longtime fixture in the Nashville food scene — what’s your perception of how that scene has changed and grown in recent years?
“I love the way the food scene is changing in Nashville. I remember when my family first moved to Nashville, you couldn’t find half the spices and ingredients that are so common in restaurants now. It’s exciting to me that Nashville is embracing and supporting new restaurants, and especially in East Nashville, where I think some of the best ones are.”
Drop by Holland House Bar & Refuge at 935 W Eastland Ave. to try out chef Arakelian’s influence on the menu. The restaurant is open Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11. To keep up with regular happenings, drop by the Holland House Facebook page.