Chances are you know Arnold Myint, but how do you know him? You may have eaten at one of the three restaurants he owns in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee: PM Nashville, BLVD Bistro, and Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. You may know him from reality television, where he made his mark on two separate shows: the seventh season of Bravo’s Top Chef (2010) and the eleventh season of Food Network’s Food Network Star (2015). You may also know him as Miss Gay America 2017. Yes, you read right: The talented restaurateur and mixologist has turned Suzy Wong, his alter ego and marketing tool, into a bonafide “pageant queen”, reigning as one of the current “Big 4” drag pageant system titleholders.
I recently had the chance to speak to Arnold Myint about his love of food, his career, and of course Miss Gay America, in this exclusive interview for Hotspots Central.
Tell us about your childhood, growing up in your parents’ market.
My dad bought me my first pair of roller-skates. They were Star Wars roller-skates, and it was just after Christmas so I got all these scraps, like tinsel and garland, and stapled them to a vest, and I would skate around and do shows for the customers. When I was in school, some kids would get dropped off after school and they’d stay there until their parents would pick them up, and we’d just climb all over big mountains of 100-pound rice bags. It was my place to play and also to perform and pretend I was a “big star.”
Was there an exact moment when you knew being a chef and a restaurateur would be your career choice?
I never wanted to be a chef or restaurateur, because I was raised in the industry. I wanted to pursue figure skating. I was in New York after a couple of tours, and at that time I thought about pursuing musical theatre. When I was there, I took a job in a restaurant because I needed to make money. I didn’t enjoy being in the front of the house, so I worked back of the house. I decided to go to culinary school, and at first I thought, “Hey, maybe then my dad can pay my rent for a year and a half.” But I ended up loving to cook. I love it as much as I loved skating.
You’re the chef and owner at a number of restaurants in Nashville. Tell us a little bit about them and the kind of dining experience customers can have at each one.
PM is the oldest restaurant; it opened in 2003. My mother owned the property, next to Belmont University, she cleaned it up and said to me, “Now you have a restaurant.” [laughs] The food is all Thai fusion bar snacks. We have a sushi bar, and of course our claim to fame is the PM Burger. There’s a great craft beer list. Music students, William Morris agents, celebrities, they all come in. It’s a real hip place.
BLVD is two doors down and it has recently been revamped to have an Americana taste and feel. We have great wings and burgers. Then of course across the street from there is my parents’ Thai restaurant and market. You can go in there and meet them and see where I roller-skated for customers!
Then there’s Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, which is partnered with Tribe and Play, the largest drag theater and dance club complex in Nashville. At Suzy Wong’s I serve Asian-inspired small plates. Then of course Suzy Wong is the “Ronald McDonald” of the restaurant and she makes lots of appearances.
Tell us the story behind Suzy Wong. How did you decide to use her as a marketing tool for your business brand?
She came about after the restaurant opened. I was starting to work with the partners at Play, and I realized I missed performing on stage. Halloween is when many budding queens debut, and I performed that night at Play, and the rest is history. I didn’t even know there was going to be a full-time “Suzy Wong”, much less one that would be a performer who represents a brand, so I am very happy with how “Suzy’s story” has transpired.
What’s coming up ahead for you in 2017?
I’m the 46th Miss Gay America, so I have a very busy year ahead of me. There is a legacy to uphold, and it’s my job to reign with that in mind, and to make sure the next Miss Gay America truly represents that illustrious legacy. It’s my duty and I take that very seriously.
In February I will be visiting Las Vegas as a guest of Coco Montrese, who recently bought a preliminary for All American Goddess. I will also be going to Jacksonville to take a photograph with 15 other national titleholders as a symbol of unity. After that, I will be taking part in a show there called “Royalty Stands United.” Then I go to Telluride Ski Week…oh, and I was asked to judge the U.S. Open Professional Figure Skating Championship in May as Suzy Wong! Now that’s an honor!
For more information about Arnold Myint, visit arnoldmyint.com.