Even in an elegant restaurant like Longboat Key’s Euphemia Haye, it can get crazy behind the kitchen doors. Fortunately, Raymond Arpke, 53, who has owned the restaurant with his wife, D’Arcy, since 1980, says he feels right at home in a madhouse-he was raised in one. Arpke’s parents ran a mental hospital in Wisconsin, and the family lived there. Growing up, he played with the inmates and learned to "expect the unexpected."
In the hospital’s massive kitchen, Arpke found a role model in the Swedish chef. That early exposure worked: His restaurant has won numerous awards, including 10 Golden Spoons from Florida Trend, and he cooked Thanksgiving dinner for New York’s James Beard Foundation last year. He and D’Arcy also nourish the community and were recently honored by the Longboat Chamber of Commerce for their support of such causes as juvenile diabetes. This summer, Arpke will publish You Don’t Have To Be Crazy But It Helps, a collection of recipes from his restaurant and stories from the mental hospital. For Arpke, the connection was easy. "The restaurant business itself is crazy," he says. "But for the most part, everything’s beautiful."