Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina
- 92-1001 Olani Street, Kapolei - Oahu, Hawaii, 96707, USA
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2010
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Kitchen Supervisor, Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
- Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail; Four Seasons Hotel Seattle; Crush, Seattle; Canlis, Seattle; Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado; Flagstaff House, Boulder, Colorado; North, Tucson Arizona
- University of Arizona, Tucson
- Huntington Beach, California, USA
A sixth-generation Californian with “definitely some French in my family tree,” Michael Arnot has cooked in more than a half-dozen destinations through his still-young culinary career. Now he’s right at home and inspired to be dreaming up dishes just steps from the Pacific as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.
“We’ve always tried to establish ourselves as the best food on Oahu, and a lot of people have helped us get there,” says Arnot, detailing the productive relationships he has developed with local farmers and fishers, often by word of mouth, since arriving at the Resort in 2018. “Just last night, I got a text with a photo of this amazing fish. I originally met the fisherman at a private catering event, and we kept in touch. It’s so nice to have suppliers that make you a priority, and to work with whole fish instead of filets.”
Just as goodies straight from the sea fit the “line-to-table” philosophy of James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Mina at the Resort’s signature dining experience Mina’s Fish House, so fresh and organic produce offer opportunities for Arnot to show off his team’s “farm-to-table” chops at other onsite outlets as well as actual farms. “One of the cool things we do is take guests to visit our suppliers for lunch, and then they’re right there when we purchase ingredients to cook them for dinner at the Resort.”
Quality local ingredients as well as the evolving tastes of guests find Arnot fashioning a lot of healthy dishes these days, which are particularly popular with Californians who make up a sizable portion of the Resort’s clientele. People don’t always want to sit in the sun having burgers and nachos, he explains, adding with a laugh, “though we do sell plenty of those!” Promotions such as the plant-forward menu at La Hiki by the pool and grab-and-go lunches served from food trucks on weekends further showcase his team’s proficiency with current culinary trends.
Called “Chef Zen” at a previous job, Arnot describes himself as “calm but intense, focused but level-headed.” He likes to get to know everyone in the kitchen and takes an interest in their families so days aren’t just about work. “I think being personable and approachable goes a long way for morale here. Everyone likes to see that the boss is a human, not a robot.”
Born in southern California, Arnot grew up surrounded by the red rocks of Scottsdale, Arizona, where his father is a landscaper and his mother is a physician assistant. Both parents cook, and he credits Mom’s vegetarianism with opening his palate to possibilities beyond protein.
He got his first restaurant job at 15 at a pizza shop in Scottsdale, where everything was made from scratch. This is where the restaurant life first started to appeal to him, and he continued working at high-end restaurants while pursuing a degree in political science. “The plan was I would go on to study law, but I realised it wasn’t for me.” In a similar fashion, his sister studied microbiology and went to medical school before turning 180 degrees to become an advanced sommelier.
Arnot put in a lot of miles en route to Four Seasons, which he joined after upping his game at fine dining restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and Seattle, Washington. He arrived at the company as a Kitchen Supervisor in Seattle, and went on to work in Vail, Chicago, and Vancouver before heading even further west to Hawaii. Does he miss anything? “Skiing. I spent three decades on the slopes, and now I haven’t really seen snow since I arrived here.”
No complaints, however, as Arnot ticks off hiking, surfing, diving, snorkeling, and “really anything outdoors” among his passions in Oahu. When not pursuing the above, often accompanied by his blue heeler (aka Australian cattle dog) Jerry, he likes to travel and always hits as many restaurants as he can along the way. “I find the small places where locals go and just spend my time eating,” he says, recalling a recent trip to Japan and Korea. “To see the culture and watch other chefs in action is super-exciting and inspiring.”