One of Israel’s Native Sons Spreads the Joy of Cooking

by Josh Williams

photography by Amanda Shelley Ledbetter

Israel has been the center of religious turmoil and social conflict for eons. The battle between the Palestinians and the Israelis has caused a great divide between many, many people, not only in the Middle East, but all over the world. Even the population in this country is divided over which side is right and which side is wrong. We might not be able to agree on whose deity is “better,” but we can agree on one thing: Prime rib cooked in an Alto Shaam Oven for six hours to a perfect rare in the middle that melts in your mouth is delicious. And that prime rib  just  happens  to be one of the signature dishes at Hot Springs Village’s newest eatery, Elan’s, where Israel native Elan Grenman is the executive chef.

Chef Elan Grenman came to the United States in 1990 with dreams of becoming a chef. He lets out a hearty chuckle as he remembers being in the kitchen with his mother when he was a young boy. “I remember when I was a kid, I had siblings who were always playing— doing regular kid stuff—and I was in the kitchen with my mom, learning how to make her jumbo lump crab cakes, which people drove an hour just to eat,” he said. The crab cakes were the first recipe Elan learned from his mother, but the most important idea he learned was how to truly love and care for his food and his future customers. Elan said, “In her 34 years of executive chef experience, her mantra was ‘a fresh, clean kitchen is a happy kitchen.’ I live through her with every dish I prepare. I can still hear her voice today.”

Elan’s initial restaurant job in Hot Springs was at Waterscape Restaurant

on Lake Hamilton, where Fisherman’s Wharf resides today. Waterscape was a higher-end restaurant that focused on American cuisine, which was important in helping Elan become familiar with the local taste buds. Next, he landed a job at Hamilton House, where he met his long time friend and business peer, Charles Jennings. Hamilton House has a reputation of being one of the finer dining establishments in the Hot Springs area, so it was a great opportunity for the young Israeli transplant to prove his worth. Jennings was a server and Elan, a mere bus boy at the upscale eatery, hit it off immediately, undoubtedly since they came from the same humble background. They became great friends and soon realized they shared a deep, passionate love of food and hospitality, which led them to the next phases in their culinary adventures.

Grenman and Jennings both took positions at Back Porch Grill, a steakhouse located on the south end of town in the spa city. Back Porch Grill is known for its great steaks and beautiful views of Lake Hamilton, and Elan took advantage of the opportunity. Showing his ability and work ethic, the young chef-in-training earned an offer to become the restaurant’s general manager and he seized the day. He accepted the GM position and brought his best friend on as the manager for the front of house operations. Things were going swimmingly: business started to increase, Elan and Charles were becoming a well-oiled, dinner- producing machine and the public began to recognize their efforts. Eventually, Charles Jennings decided to purchase Back Porch Grill.

Elan was proud of his friends accomplishments, but he wanted more. Jennings and Grenman remain “brothers” to this very day, but Elan knew that his dream was to own his own establishment, and prepare things the way he wanted to prepare them, the way his mother did, with love and respect. He didn’t quite reach owner status with his next opportunity, however, around the turn of the millennium, he was offered the executive chef position at Diamanté Golf Club in Hot Springs Village (the only private golf club in the community). Elan said,  “Being  the executive chef at Diamanté for more than a decade showed me that the people really do want what I can provide—a truly upscale restaurant experience, but one without the snooty disposition. Everyone deserves a light,

That is exactly why Chef Grenman has been successful all these years. He brings a loving, passionate, humble attitude to his dishes—which is pretty rare considering most chefs around the globe—and it shows. Elan’s is only the second restaurant in Arkansas to butcher its own beef. A must try is the Gregg Burger—100 percent beef steak patty topped with a 100 percent beef sausage, grilled onions, American cheese and a fried egg. Elan said, “It was about four years ago on a rainy day when a maintenance man by the name of Gregg approached me and said ‘Make me something that will make me full—I don’t care what it is.’ I plopped my creation down in front of him and said ‘If you finish that burger, I’ll name it after you.’ He ate it all right, even the pickle.”

The competition is fierce in Hot Springs for chefs— there are close to 300 restaurants in the Hot Springs area— but that’s what drives Elan even more. He finished our conversation with, “There is so much competition here that you have to stand out to really make something of yourself. I want to provide dishes you can’t get anywhere in town. I want to be readily available to the people of my community. I want to be THE competition.”

Elan’s is located at 250 Maderas Drive on the Grenada Golf Course in Hot Springs Village. Call (501) 922- 1372 or visit http://elanshsv.weebly. com, or check out Elan’s on Facebook for more.