Table Talk: Rebecca Arnold of Whole Heart Provisions
Welcome to Table Talk, a new series where we get to know your favorite local food industry professionals.
Maybe it’s the bowls of fresh greens served Seoul-style, or just the alluring bite of an exceptional vegetarian sandwich, but the meatless menu at Whole Heart Provisions has more than impressed. Unsurprisingly, those dishes have made chef and cofounder Rebecca Arnold a standout in the vegetarian community. Drawing from her experiences across the country, including local stints at Alden & Harlow and Sarma, Arnold has made her Allston storefront a beacon of veggie-filled light for the surrounding area.
Do you have a favorite ingredient to work with?
One of my favorites is mushroom powder. It’s dehydrated mushrooms that add a savory, meaty taste to a lot of the foods at Whole Heart. It’s used in some of the dressings—it makes our tahini really rich and savory. We also sprinkle it on our savory green beans.
What kitchen tool have you worn out at home?
My stock pot. Basically, the only thing I’m cooking these days is chicken soup. I constantly have homemade chicken stock in my freezer, then I make an iteration of chicken stock-based soups with that. I always have lots of dried ingredients like mushrooms, noodles, and dried tofu skin.
Why gravitate toward that, versus other dishes?
Coming from a Jewish background, my mom would always have chicken stock in the freezer; it’s Jewish penicillin. I could live off of soup, to be honest. I don’t cook at home a ton, so it’s something that’s fast and easy, and I can have it on hand. And the ingredients won’t go bad because most of them are dried.
Your experience as a chef spans a number of restaurants. What’s something that you’ve taken with you?
I did a stage at Incanto [since closed], Chris Cosentino’s restaurant, for about a week in San Francisco a couple of years back. Just seeing how they used every scrap that they could in the kitchen was really incredible. Even if they got five specials out of it, they would sell those five specials that night and that would be it. They were little scraps they couldn’t do much with, but they managed to turn them into a beautiful dish that a couple of lucky customers got.
Is there a local company, or person, you’d love to collaborate with?
I’m a huge fan of Mary Ting Hyatt of Bagelsaurus. So doing, like, a [sun-dried] veggie bagel pop-up would be a neat thing to do. Also, the guys over at Kaki Lima. I’ve experienced their cuisine when they were doing their pop-up at KO Pies; I went there a couple of times, just because it’s incredible. Even just cooking with [chef Retno Pratiwi] a day or two, and just learning some of those flavors that she’s brought back from Indonesia, would be really interesting.
What vegetable or ingredient will have its moment this year?
It might have already had its moment, but I feel like turmeric is really up-and-coming. People are starting to realize how good it is for you, and how delicious it can be. People are trying to heal themselves through food now more than ever, and seeing that food can be medicine. Turmeric can be super anti-inflammatory and used in teas, sauces, and soups.
Whole Heart Provisions, 487 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-202-5041, wholeheartprovisions.com.