Everyone knows Hot Springs for Horse racing, hot water springs and beautiful scenery. But Hot Springs also has over 300 restaurants, most of which are national chains and franchises. While there are a few privately owned restaurants and eateries, only a handful offer locally grown products. The farm to table movement has been slow to spread across Hot Springs, but there are some signs that the local food movement has begun taking root in the Spa City. At the forefront of that movement is chef Angela Nix, Executive Chef of Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery. Chef Nix was one of our featured chefs in the recent Arkansas Food and Farm food issue, and it is her talent with fresh ingredients that have made Superior Bathhouse more than just a destination for great beer—it’s also a place to go for incredible food.
I had the pleasure of meeting Angela Nix via a mutual friend, who told me that she had a passion for creating great food. That friend was right.
A graduate of El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, Chef Nix has worked in kitchens of the Arlington Hotel and Oaklawn Racing. Given the amount of food prepared by both those popular tourist attractions, it takes a special sort of dedication to survive in thrive in what is often a very hectic environment.
So what makes a little girl want to grow up to become a chef? Well, for little Angela Nardi it was watching her grandmother take fresh vegetables from the garden and turn them into delicious meals. Angela also spent time at the household of Alex Hampo, another great chef. Being surrounded by so much talent and inspiration, it seemed fitting that Angela become a third generation chef. When I asked if there was any pressure coming from a family of chef, her answer was yes. ” I have a little pressure to live up to the Nardi name and being from a family of chefs.” I believe she is handling it quite well.
Here are a few questions from our conversation.
Louis Williams: Describe your menu at Superior Bathhouse.
Chef Angela Nix: It is eclectic pub fare. Nothing is deep fried.
LW: How do you come up with your recipes?
Chef Nix: I use as many local ingredients as possible to create fresh flavors. I want to show what Arkansas has to offer. I want to hit all areas of the palate.
LW: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to food and cooking?
Chef Nix: Inconsistency. From preparation, to service, there has to be consistency.
LW: Being married to a chef [Central Park Fusion’s Zach Nix], is their any friendly competition at home in the kitchen?
Chef Nix: There isn’t competition. We learn from each other. We both have techniques that we both excel at.
LW: What is the best advice you have been given as a chef?
Chef Nix: I was told by Chef Alex Hampo to never overcomplicate a dish. When its done, it’s done. Know what you want to accomplish with the ingredients and don’t over think it.
LW: What do you feel is a common mistake young chefs make?
Chef Nix: Not learning basics like knife skills and plating. Young chefs need to be sponges and absorb all they can. Don’t think that you know everything.
LW: What advice would you give a young chef trying to make their mark in the culinary world?
Chef Nix: Never serve a dish that you wouldn’t serve to your own mother. Give your customers the same respect.
That advice has been passed on to Chef Nix’s sous chef Lindsey Bennett. Lindsey has been with Superior since its kitchen opened, and is a great young chef herself. I asked Lindsey to describe Chef Nix with one word. “Organized” was her answer. “She is all about sticking to the recipe, and being organized.” When you visit Superior, I suggest you try the gumbo served over cheese grits, it’s Lindsey’s recipe.
I asked Chef Nix to describe Lindsey with one word, her choice was “Focused,” and she added, “No matter how busy we are, or what is thrown at her, Lindsey always stays focused and calm.”
The only way a busy chef gets time off is to have a great crew that can be trusted to stay focused and function when the executive chef isn’t there. Chef Angela Nix definitely has that crew at Superior Bathhouse.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into the life of one of this state’s great young chefs. I want to thank Chef Angela Nix for sitting down with me and being an open book. I also want to thank Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery for opening its doors and giving me this. opportunity. The Superior crew has really elevated dining in historic downtown. Be sure to catch chef Nix’s recipe for succotash in the spring Food and Farm!