Restaurateur Michel Arnette made a name for himself with his restaurants in Brookhaven — Haven, Valenza and Vero — all located on bustling Dresden Drive and part of the Word of Mouth Restaurants group. He chose Brookhaven again to open his newest restaurant, Arnette’s Chop Shop, last year in the renovated Bagcraft Papercon building on Apple Valley Road in a complex named Apple Valley Brookhaven.
Chef Stephen Herman, Arnette’s business partner, moved from Haven to Arnette’s Chop Shop, but is also the culinary executive director for all Word of Mouth restaurants.
Arnette already has a fifth restaurant in the works, on Peachtree Road at the edge of Chamblee and Brookhaven. The concept is named The Royal, he said, and is a “blend of upscale diner meets roadhouse grill.” The site is an old gas station and the interior and exterior design “will be influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s creative style,” he said.
A longtime Brookhaven resident, he now lives in Sandy Springs.
Q: What do you like about Brookhaven?
A: I’ve always loved its diversity of neighborhoods. You have Historic Brookhaven that borders with Lynwood Park and reaches to Brittany. Then, there is gentrified Brookhaven, which comprises Ashford Park, Brookhaven Fields, Brookhaven Heights and Drew Valley, which blends into Buford Highway.
Q: What prompted you to open your restaurants on Dresden Drive?
A: My family lived in Ashford Park and I would drive Dresden Drive every day headed to Buckhead for work. Something kept telling me that this is where it begins. I had dreams of a warm and cozy little neighborhood restaurant where I could feed the soul of the community. I met the developer, Dan Woodley, and the rest is just a wonderful journey where we are still making our history.
Q: Why did you decide to open Arnette’s Chop Shop on Apple Valley?
A: I felt we had done our work to bring attention to Dresden Drive. [Apple Valley Brookhaven] thrives as a wonderful mixed-use vibrant community center in the heart of our neighborhood. It was time to branch out. Apple Valley feels like that edgy enclave in Brookhaven ripe for new development. It has that Inman Park and West Midtown vibe.
Q: What do you like and appreciate about Chef Herman?
A: Stephen has been with me since the beginning. He is first a wonderful friend and a great partner. I trust him implicitly and he is skilled and gifted with creative culinary talents that I do not possess. I learned early in my career to surround myself with humble and trustworthy people and provide an environment for them to thrive.
Q: Do you think the restaurant scene is picking up outside the Atlanta intown area?
A: The restaurant scene certainly has grown outside of the Perimeter. I believe it is due to urban sprawl and the planned home communities that have developed in the last 20 years. People also don’t want to deal with the traffic after a commute to and from work.
Q: What do you think of Brookhaven’s place in the metro Atlanta food scene?
A: My thought is Brookhaven has been a suburb of Atlanta. You could say the same of Buckhead some 25 to 30 years ago. It takes time and the efforts of many people for a neighborhood, and now a city, to become a dining destination. I like the word “destination” in dining destination. It’s derived from the word destiny. Most restaurateurs want a location that already has a built-in market; it is just safer. It is something special when you believe you have the ability to create the destination. I sure hope we are doing our part!
Q: How do you like your steak cooked? What sides and wine do you prefer with a steak dinner?
A: I am a fan of wet aging and love a prime rib eye steak served up just past medium rare. Add just about any kind of potato and anything green and I’m happy. As for beverage, I am a fan of a good pinot noir, burgundy or Brunello di Montalcino.
Q: Are you personally a good cook?
A: Let’s get real here, I am educated in the business of fine cuisine, but you do not want me cooking! I leave that to the talents of my chefs and my wife, who is an excellent cook.