BY JENNIFER VELEZ – The Coronado Times – February 9, 2022
The culinary journey of Clyde Van Arsdall IV began out of necessity, when he had to follow his mom’s rule that if he had a special food request, he had to cook it with her. If he didn’t want to participate, then she chose the menu. He credits her as an outstanding cook who left him six volumes of handwritten cookbooks, which she also illustrated. One of his favorite dishes growing up was bangers and mash, due to the anglophile influence of his royal-obsessed mother.
All his life and work experiences led him to his preferred culinary genre ~ elevated comfort food, but we are talking way beyond macaroni and cheese. He studies all ethnicities of food and develops his own version of their comfort food to add to his repertoire. His latest passion is Asian offerings, in particular his take on Momofuku’s Bo Ssäm. He has a special affinity for pho, and I learned that it is a breakfast staple in Vietnam, and you can tell authentic pho restaurants if they are open in the morning, not just for lunch and dinner.
Born in Newport, RI, Clyde moved to Coronado in first grade and is a Christ Church Day School alum. His family relocated every two years, as his Navy father was transferred to different duty stations, but always returned here, and he graduated from CHS in 1987. His Coronado roots run three generations deep, with a storied Naval family history, and he has lived in 10 homes here through the years and he is currently on the Coronado Historical Association Board. Years ago, in his backyard, he built a brick Tuscan oven, alongside a 200-year old cauldron, which he learned how to do from reading blogs. He calls it a Frankenstein design, but notes that he has created amazing barbeques, cioppino, chili, and oyster roasts, among other things on it. When the Cooking Channel heard about it and called to feature him on the Man Fire Food show’s outdoor fiery kitchens, he thought at first he was being pranked, but felt validated when it aired.
Being a chef wasn’t on his radar when he graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in history, and an unexpected minor in African American Studies. After college, he stayed in the area, dabbled in sales, and then attended an International Cooking School in Baltimore. He had the opportunity to live and cook in Ireland at Deerpark Lodge, where he was immersed in European style cooking and epicurean baking. He then went on to work in Washington DC, under the tutelage of acclaimed chef Mark Miller. Next stop was Atlanta, where he became the face of one of the first farm to table restaurants, Indigo Coastal Grill. This helped him get in tune with his family’s Southern roots.
Moving back to Coronado, Clyde was the Manager at Pacifica Del Mar, then veered off into food sales. He struck out on his own, opening Three Squares Gourmet in Del Cerro, which he ran for 10 years. He created the Chingón Hot Sauce Company, made with the freshest ingredients, which he went on to sell as the official hot sauce of the Padres and at Sur la Table, until he closed the company.
Although he has done corporate cooking, it isn’t his true passion. He was the head chef at Neiman Marcus, until he had to shutter the café on St. Patrick’s Day, two years ago, due to the pandemic.
“The true gift for me during the pandemic has been quality time spent with my kids. I enjoy being involved like my dad was for me.” His kids are starting to pick up his love of cooking, with his oldest Charlie preparing food for his college friends’ Lunar New Year’s party. His daughter Josie made multiple batches of chocolate chip cookies, until she perfected her unique recipe, and recently went with him birria tasting for research. His youngest daughter Sasha is still developing her palette. Another revelation from the pandemic came when he stopped spending so much money going out to eat and focused on creating amazing dishes at home. He did acquiesce and share a few of his favorite restaurants, which include Fort Oak, Phở Vân, Phở Hòa, Birria El Rey, and Lola 55, to name just a few.
At first, he wondered how he would survive the pandemic, but he was blessed as a new business organically grew from being asked to do private cooking lessons, market field trips, outdoor pizza parties, seafood boils, oyster roasts, and whatever else was requested. He found that getting people involved in the culinary story and process, and then having them taste it made all the difference in creating a truly memorable experience. “I discovered that when everyone gets dirty in the food preparation, magic happens,” he shares.
A culinary creator and storyteller, Clyde loves to connect people to food. For example, when he was hired for a backyard event, he told the story about how Caesar salad came to be by accident, with humble beginnings as finger food. Offering no forks to guests, he watched as they became like children, savoring the experience of eating salad with their hands. People are hiring him for paella parties, where he shares how he procured the pan and all the unique ingredients, and asks for help to create an interactive experience for guests, who often become friends.
With his background in history and diverse culinary skills, he naturally loves delving into the origin of the foods he is creating. “Food can be a powerful connector,” he says, and he has now created a community of like-minded people who enjoy experiencing food called the Olive Avenue Supper Club.
“I love helping people eat a good story.”
For an amazing food experience, whether it be to teach cooking or cook for an event, reach out to Clyde to coordinate food related events at 619-884-7928. Details, stories, and recipes can be found at oliveavenuesupperclub.com or check out @oliveavenuesupper on Instagram and Facebook.