Raymond Arpke is a renowned chef known for his high culinary standards and his joyful approach to food and life. As owner and executive chef of Euphemia Haye in Longboat Key, Florida, Chef Ray creates sophisticated cuisine and an unparalleled dining experience that has been pleasing palettes for over 30 years.
Chef Ray’s love of food and his lighthearted-approach in the kitchen comes from his unique upbringing. Ray was raised in mental institution, not as a patient, but rather as a resident – the Sheboygan County Hospital in central Wisconsin was the place he called home. When Ray was growing up, his father was the institution’s superintendent and his whole family resided in an apartment that was located in the middle of the hospital. Ray was inspired by his surroundings – the patients were his playmates and the kitchen was his favorite hangout. He learned from the German and Swedish chefs who ran the kitchen and was excited by the gourmet fare they created. Their creations, such as Seafood Newburg and Lobster Thermidor, were significantly different than the typical dinners that were being served on other Midwestern tables.
The hospital had its own farm, dairy, garden and orchards. Ray sat on the kitchen counter and watched as everything was made from scratch; as strawberries from the garden were turned into strawberry shortcake topped with fresh cream from their cows, as pigs from the farm became pork chops topped with apple sauce made from apples that Ray had picked from the orchard. Yes, Ray experienced “from farm to table” before it was trendy. It was in the kitchen of the county hospital that food became Ray’s obsession and his sanity. When Ray’s mom was asked about the difficulties of running a mental institution she would say, “Well, you don’t have to be crazy, but it helps!”
While still living at the County Hospital, Ray began working as a salad chef at the local country club. Within three months, he became the head chef. After graduating from high school and moving out of the County Hospital at age 18, Ray started his formal training at the Milwaukee Area Technical College where he received an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts. Ray soon became the chef at Wisconsin’s classic German restaurant, Stemmelers White Coach Inn. Guests were lured in by the live accordion polka music but they kept coming back for Chef Ray’s delicious Sauerbraten.
In I974, Ray relocated to Florida where he was the chef at Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key and then at the distinguished Café L’Europe at Sarasota’s St. Armands Circle. In 1980, Chef Ray and his wife D’Arcy purchased the Euphemia Haye restaurant on Longboat Key where they have maintained the restaurant’s exacting standards and intimate atmosphere while enhancing it with unique touches and culinary creativity. Under Chef Ray’s guidance and expertise, Euphemia Haye has won numerous awards including Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Excellence, Zagat’s Top 1%, Fodor Travel’s Fodor Choice Award and Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Hall of Fame Awards.
In 2005, Chef Ray was an Honored Guest Chef at the James Beard House in New York City for Thanksgiving dinner. 2010 brought excitement as Chef Ray was a finalist in ABC Nightline’s “People’s Platelist” Contest where the public voted for their favorite chef in the nation. With his sharp wit and easy-going teaching style, Chef Ray is a popular guest chef on local news and television shows, including multiple appearances on the “Chef on a Shoestring” segment on CBS Saturday Morning show and the “Tailgate Chef” on two seasons of FOX 13’s “Tailgate Sunday.” He has conducted many live cooking demonstrations for “Forks and Corks Food and Wine Fest,” Bloomingdales, William-Sonoma, Kohlers, Wisconsin Cheese Board and the Culinary Loft in New York City. In 2010 and 2011, Chef Ray was the featured chef at the Festival of Flavors in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
In 2000, Chef Ray launched his own line of bottled sauces including Chef Raymond’s Famous Euphemia Haye Steak Sauce. Chef Ray published a cookbook and autobiography 2006 aptly named, “You Don’t Have to be Crazy, But it Helps: Recipes and Rantings of a Mad Man.”
Chef Ray’s love and longtime passion includes teaching others some of the cooking secrets he’s learned during his adventures in the kitchen. In 1996, Chef Ray started teaching “Lesson Luncheons” at Euphemia Haye which continue to be sold-out events. In the classes, he teaches participants a three-course menu including recipes for classic Euphemia favorites along with some new “Mad Man Chef” inventions.
Whether he’s in the Euphemia kitchen during dinner rush or in front of a TV camera, Chef Ray still quotes his mom saying, “You don’t have to be crazy, but it helps.” Euphemia Haye diners and Chef Ray’s students are looking forward to whatever the Mad Man Chef will create next.