Paul Rogalski

This year Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival has moved forward a couple of months to take advantage of the glorious summer weather, with celebrations taking place on July 19th and 20th.

On Saturday the 19th of July at 1.30 on the Toronto Star Culinary Stage, Chef Paul Rogalski of Calgary’s Rouge restaurant will be showcasing the much misunderstood art of Soufflé

Good Food Revolution: Stratford is a very special place for all of us here at Good Food Revolution. What makes Stratford such a special place for you?

Paul Rogalski: When I was a child my parents would take me to visit my grandparent’s farm close to the town of Durham. It was there that my love for food began.  As a break from the farm my father would drive us to Stratford to see some wonderful performing arts.

Returning to Stratford after all these years is a reminder of where it all began for me and my love of food. Add in some great performances and it should add up to something beyond special.

GFR: And what will you be doing at Savour Stratford this year?

PR: I will be on stage demystifying the infamous soufflé. I also plan on being a little impromptu on stage finishing the recipe with help of the audience.

GFR: Will you be utilising any of the bounty of local Perth County ingredients during your You presentation? Do you have a favourite local and seasonal ingredient?

PR: You know I will. Can’t wait really as I am so excited to work with fresh local ingredients and have a chance to experience the flavour of Perth County. And no favorites here as I simply love almost all food….except durian as it is horrible and smells like raw sewage. I am happy that I don’t think it grows in Perth County.

GFR: How is the dining scene in Calgary these days, and how does it compare to the rest of Canada?

PR: Right now Calgary’s dining scene is on fire. We have many amazing food visionaries, talented chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers. I believe we have come into an age of our own. I can only see it getting bigger and better as time goes on.

I am not sure it is easy to compare Calgary to the rest of the country or vice versa. We are regionally unique and represent the Foothills of Alberta like no other.

GFR: And when you speak about local in Calgary, what kind of ingredients are we speaking of?

PR: Most people assume that I would be thinking of beef and that is partially true LOL, but that isn’t the only locally produced item that is top shelf in Alberta. I also think of lamb, bison, elk, duck and pork to name of few more proteins. Then we also have amazing people working very hard to provide us with some seriously delicious produce and cheese.

GFR: If we were to speak about Canadian cuisine, what typifies that in your mind? Dishes, ingredients, or philosophies?

PR: I think Canadian cuisine is partially defined by region and influence of food indigenous to that region but not solely. I would also like to the vast cooking techniques and flavors which celebrate and respect our multiculturalism.

GFR: Did you always want to be a Chef? Never an Astronaut or a Pirate? Or a Cowboy?

PR: That is a great question and gosh darned it now that you ask I have always wanted to be a Rogue Chef, in fact it’s something that I am still working on. Sadly however I am poor at spelling and when naming our restaurant I sent the word Rouge to printers by accident. Now I am stuck with it. 😉

GFR: Who were the most important influences in your career as a chef?

PR: All the people I have cooked for and everyone I have worked beside all have influenced who I am as a chef, however it was my Ukrainian grandmother who got the ball rolling as she made food that I would dream about long after a meal was over.

GFR: And then of course there are your television appearances, on Iron Chef America amongst others… looking back at those times please tell us about the highs and lows of being part of such a show? I guessing that so many folks much recognise you from the show? Do you have groupies?

PR: No doubt about it the world of TV is an interesting one but I have personally have not had any downs to date other than it seems to be taking a while to get a project I’m involved with, Rogues Galley, off the ground. Regarding Iron Chef America,it was a great experience to film with close friends Michael Smith and Bill Pratt. We had a ton of fun and will always have fond memories of our time in NYC.

Can’t say I think to date it has had a big impact on my life being recognized on the street or created many groupies that I can think of…with the exception of my family of course.

GFR: Do you feel that Food Television gives a rather warped view of how restaurants actually work?

PR: I think it can but at least it offers a view. Before Food Television most people had little idea what hard work the food industryis and how competitive it can be. I think they have a better idea now.

GFR: Would you tell us your three desert island ingredients?

PRNot durian….for sure. I would say wine, cheese and cured meats. If I had a fourth choice it would be bread topped with mustard and pickles on it (does that count as one?).

GFR: There have been a great deal of angry column inches written about Canadian restaurants perhaps being shut out of the San Pellegrino list. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this?

PR: I understand why many would feel this way and I believe there are many places deserving of being on the S. Pellegrino list in Canada. I also believe it might be a geographical issue. Less people travel to dine in Canadian cities than say Chicago, New York or London and it seems like that includes judges. I was hopeful that we might have seen a restaurant from Vancouver make the list after the Olympics as there were a lot of visitors in that year. I was hoping a lot of judges too.

GFR: For people that haven’t had the opportunity to try your food before, can you describe a dish that you think reflects what your restaurant Rouge is all about? What characteristics and ingredients distinguish the cuisine of Paul Rogalski?

PR:  We make everything in house at both our restaurants including all the cured meats, bread and pastas. What makes Rouge special is our ability to pick ingredients from the garden very close to the time of service. A good example would be a Tomato and Nasturtium Salad with Birch Bacon Vinaigrette. There would also be a nice beverage pairing to go along with that.

GFR:  Which dish or ingredients would we NEVER find on a menu of yours? Your pet peeve(s)?

PR: LOL. I learned a long time ago to never say never. But I think it is pretty safe to say that I have no intent in serving endangered species and a peeve of mine is places that do. I will use shark’s fin as an example.

GFR: Stratford has always been one of my favourite culinary and cultural destinations. As well as presenting your session at Savour Stratford what else do you hope to do with your time there?

PR: I am planning to soak it all in starting with the food community and everything that goes along with it.

GFR: Thank you for your time Paul, we look forward to seeing you in Stratford!

Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution
… And he wonders if Chef Roglaski has tasted Sürstromming?