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Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Arjuna Bull of JONES WOOD FOUNDRY in NYC

Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef Arjuna Bull of JONES WOOD FOUNDRY in NYC

Born in Cornwall, England, Arjuna Bull spent his childhood in Miami, Florida, where he obtained a degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University. His first three years as a professional cook were spent at Miami's famed Fontainebleau Hilton Resort from 1998 to 2001. After a year of extensive traveling and food tasting, Bull moved to New York City in to take his career to the next level.

To that end, he took a job as chef de tournant to work with Gray Kunz and Nahid Ahmed at Café Gray, where he worked his way through all the stations. And generally worked another job concurrently to supplement his income. As his skills matured, Bull took on chef de cuisine roles at the likes of The Tribeca Grand Hotel, Brasserie 8 ½ and Pearl & Ash. He went on to regroup with Nahid Ahmed to open Respite and Malt n Mash as executive sous chef.

Bull first teamed with Jason Hicks as chef de cuisine at Hicks's Jones Wood Foundry and The Shakespeare, from 2014 through 2016. The following year saw him further broadening his experience by splitting his time between London, where he engaged in palate expanding, foraging-centric stages at two the city's top restaurants - Lyle's and Clove Club - and Spokane, WA, where he worked with Jeremy Hansen as chef and co-creator of two new restaurants, Inland Pacific Kitchen and Hogwash Den.

At Hicks's invitation, Bull returned to Jones Wood Foundry as executive chef charged with retooling the restaurant's food-driven pub concept by instituting a new monthly seasonally driven menu, inspired by locally available ingredients. through a new partnership with Local Bushel, which harvests from regional farms. The notion being the new monthly menu lends another dimension to the Jones Wood Foundry dining experience as it is available in addition to a classics menu of the best of the traditional British dishes that have been the hallmark of Jones Wood Foundry since opening day.

Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Arjuna Bull for our "Chef Spotlight."

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

From the age of 12, one of my "chores" was to make dinner every other night for our family of six, which really meant cooking two dinners because my mother was a vegetarian. At the time a part of me resented having to do it, but after a while I began to get into it and decided it was a lot more interesting than washing dishes which was my chore when I wasn't cooking.

Who were some of your career mentors?

Every Christmas my grandmother sent us boxes of all different kinds of cookies that she made. They were always greatly appreciated and never lasted long. While growing up, I watched cooking shows on PBS, I always liked Cooking with Ming Tsai and also Julia Child. They always gave positive energy and their food sounded tasty. Gray Kunz, when I worked with him, really expanded my mind and imagination with hospitality and flavor power, balance and combinations.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

Being raised in Miami where ingredients are the same year round, my first influences were just tropical/Mediterranean. Growing up, I really enjoyed grilling in the backyard. After culinary school, most of my focus was on French techniques. Then when I moved to New York City and tried Thai food for the first time, I really started having cravings for Asian flavors (lemongrass, ginger, chilies, lime leaves, coconut...) And I truly enjoy watching Japanese chefs work because of their precision, cleanliness and focus. I love pickling anything, love fresh ingredients, and now I am learning more about fermenting and preserving foods.

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

Being a chef, of course, is mainly about feeding people. I chose this career for the love of eating "good food" (and traveling) and because I like creating new things based on beautiful ingredients. It makes me very happy and satisfied when I can create/cook/share food with guests and see their enjoyment/happiness/gratitude. Open kitchens are better for the full experience for me, because then I can see the whole play, from anticipation when food is being delivered, the expressions when they receive their dishes, their reactions (smell, smile, oohs and ahhs, photo...), then their first bites and the expressions after last bites.

What is your favorite meal?

My go-to dish is PHO. I have been eating it kind of religiously for the last 17 years, since I moved to New York and first had it. There is something so comforting about it and there's a simplicity coupled with tremendous depth to the broth. Then there's all those cuts of beef in one bowl, including tendon... sometimes I drink the broth just to eat the tendon. Failing pho, Tom Yum soup is always an amazing mouth full.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

At Jones Wood Foundry, we now give diners a broad choice of food styles, with an underlying British bent as defined by the atmosphere of a Cottswold country pub and the large selection of beverages from the UK. For our Classics Menu we elevate traditional British dishes with extra focus on detailed techniques, sourcing great ingredients, and doing our jobs "FULL OF PASSION." That focus on technique, high quality ingredients and passion is applied to our new monthly Seasonal menu too, of course, but because it has no geographical boundaries, we take a more cosmopolitan, worldly approach to it. So there may be dishes on it that reflect my early interest in tropical and Mediterranean cuisine and / or some that incorporate the Asian influences I've adopted since.

Jones Wood Foundry is located at 401 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021. For more information and to make reservations, call 212.249.2700 and visit https://www.joneswoodfoundry.com/.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Arjuna Bull

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