The authors of a guide that selects the top chefs in America must believe Texas A&M University’s Gary Arthur can truly cut the mustard: they have named him as one of the nation’s best chefs in the just-released book Chefs to Know.
Arthur, Texas A&M’s first senior executive chef, joins the list of the top 500 chefs in the United States, according to starchefs.com, the group that compiles the list that includes renowned chefs Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and Stephan Pyle. It’s no doubt the cream of the crop of the best culinary experts in the country.
Making the list is hardly as easy as pie. As the book notes, selectees were chosen “for their approach to cooking and their lack of boundaries rather than being tied to strict cultural traditions in the kitchen, and they are free to interpret cuisine from every country in the world.”
“I was selected for work I’ve done in the industry over the past 20 years or so, and this is a very nice honor,” Arthur says.
“What makes it especially nice is that I am the only university chef included in the book, which says something about the competition. The list contains the most well-known people in the culinary arts, and it calls itself a ‘guide to chefs for chefs.’ So I feel very honored to be mentioned alongside some of these great names.”
Arthur came to Texas A&M last year when the university’s food services division was in the midst of a total makeover. The unit changed its name to Dining Services, and Arthur was hired for the newly created position of senior executive chef by Nadeem Siddiqui, executive director of dining services.
“Gary is a visionary and so highly accomplished that I knew he would bring the same distinction to us,” Siddiqui said. “The improvements he has made in his short time at Texas A&M have been wonderful.”
Arthur has spent much of the past year creating new menu items, listening to customers’ suggestions and helping to run the division that serves 30,000 meals a day at 41 on-campus locations and employs more than 1,000.
He grew up on the island of Trinidad and eventually earned a chef’s apprenticeship at the United Nations in New York. With 33 years of cooking skills, he has worked for several renowned hotel chains, including Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, the Larkspur hotel chain on the West Coast and also at Stanford University. At one time, he was the owner of two restaurants.
“Many people don’t have a high opinion of institutional food, such as the meals served at colleges or hospitals,” Arthur explains. “But there is no reason why it can’t be very good. Texas A&M is making the commitment to upgrade its dining operations, and we have the opportunity to be creative in the types of meals we now serve.”
The preparation of food has changed over the years, he adds.
“Now we look at things like the nutritional quality of the food we serve, the science it takes to prepare good meals and research on how to make it all better,” he says.
When asked what his favorite dish is, Arthur has a quick answer. Any chef worth his salt will not name just one dish, he believes.
“I want and like to prepare them all – meals, desserts, everything,” he adds.
“All of the chefs I know say the same thing – they don’t have a signature dish. They want to be known as someone who can prepare just about anything and do it well. We have the chance to do that here at Texas A&M, to be real trendsetters in this type of dining experience.”