Mitch Arens, most recently of New Orleans' Cochon Butcher, is returning to the Tri-State to take the helm as the executive chef of Hotel Covington, overseeing all of the hotel's culinary/coffee/cocktail outlets: Coppin's, The Walk-Up, the Coffee Bar and the Courtyard.
"I’m looking forward to bringing back everything I’ve learned about Southern food and culture and sharing that with the people that I know and love up here," Arens says.
Arens, who trained locally under chef David Falk at Nada, has a strong background in farm-to-table, Southern-inspired cuisine. In 2013, he became the executive chef of Calcasieu, a NOLA-based private dining concept from James Beard Award-winning chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski (also of hip Cajun eateries Herbsaint, Cochon and Peche). And in 2016, he took over Cochon Butcher, which specializes in housemade meats, terrines and sausages.
We asked Arens what he's most excited about returning to the city after his time down South and what menu changes diners can expect at Hotel Covington.
CityBeat: How has your time in Louisiana influenced your cooking style?
Mitch Arens: I think one of the things that I’ve learned the most about is sourcing product. During my time with Link Restaurant Group, I was fortunate enough to have a full-time forager. She was absolutely amazing — working with meat purveyors, farmers and always finding the best product. I learned a lot about the importance of sourcing by working with her. The relationship I created with seafood purveyors down South really opened up opportunities for getting the best possible product in house at Coppin’s
CB: What sort of Cajun qualities or Southern inspiration are you bringing to Hotel Covington?
MA: I don’t want Coppin’s to be known as a Cajun restaurant. There are, however, some Cajun practices and things that I’ve fallen in love with. We will always have a gumbo on the menu. I’m going to do a cornmeal-crusted catfish. I also found a passion for pickling down there. Different pickle accompaniments go really well with rich and fried food. They help balance it out so the dishes aren’t so rich or over the top.
The Cajun influences will be most prevalent on Sundays during the Sunday Supper series we’re launching. We’ll have communal-eating experiences like a Crawfish boil. It’s not so much about the food — it’s more about the company. It’s communal, it’s family style, it’s about getting to know other people.
CB: What new items can diners expect to see at Coppin's or any of the other hotel's food and beverage concepts?
MA: I’m really excited about this crudo dish that we’re doing. It’s a fresh-catch crudo; (I'm) working on it with my seafood purveyors. It will always be made with the best product available.
CB: What's your vision for Coppin's? The Walk-Up Window?
MA: We want to be as connected as possible with the community. It’s important to get to know who you’re cooking for and to give back to the community — all while keeping the menu fun and interesting and always changing. We want to go all in on the Walk-Up this year. We’re going to update the atmosphere with seating and signage so the design matches the delicious food we’ll be serving up.