Ahead of Thursday’s big event at First Horizon Park, we caught up with all four of our Iron Fork competitors: Lyra’s Hrant Arakelian, Butcher & Bee’s Chris DeJesus, Anzie Blue’s Star Maye and Thai Esane’s Nina Singto. They’ve got a diverse array of skill sets and backgrounds, but they all have a couple of things in common — they’re all talented chefs, and they’re all in it to win it. Check out our profiles below.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, if you’ve been dining out in Nashville, you’ve likely eaten chef Hrant Arakelian’s food. His résumé reads like a who’s-who of our dearly departed favorites: Sunset Grill? Check. Flyte? Check. Deb Paquette’s Zola? Check. Rumors East? Check. Holland House Bar & Refuge? Check.
In 2018 Arakelian and his wife Elizabeth Endicott (who has her own long list of Nashville culinary royalty on her résumé) opened their dream restaurant in the old Holland House space. In fact, it was Arakelian’s connection with Holland House that gave them a leg up on securing the coveted corner building at Eastland and McFerrin avenues; they were able to approach the landlord early in the process. “We were very lucky to get that space,” Arakelian says.
With Lyra (pronounced “LIE-rah”), the couple transformed the way in which East Nashville experiences Middle Eastern food. Born in Lebanon, Arakelian lived in Oman until he was 7 years old and his family immigrated to Nashville. Arakelian weaves into his food the flavors and traditions of the places he’s lived and the kitchens in which he’s worked.
“Some people come in [to Lyra] with preconceived notions of Middle Eastern food, with kabobs and hummus and rice,” says Arakelian. “We hope that when they come to Lyra that they learn about the variety of Middle Eastern cuisine and some things that they are not as familiar with.”
You can expect to see that modern approach at Iron Fork, a challenge about which he says he is both excited and nervous. Arakelian had been planning to participate in Iron Fork in 2020, which was canceled due