The talented chef may have a top-end restaurant creating a stir in Canada but he honed some of his skills right here in the Cayman Islands.
These days, Paul Rogalski is usually found in his restaurant, Rouge, back in his home town of Calgary, Alberta. The co-owner has worked all round the world including Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and has appeared on Iron Chef America, battling against Bobby Flay on that smash-hit show.
He returns to Cayman to take part in the Cookout 2012 and promises to bring a taste of Canada down to the Caribbean.
“It all came from a chance to visit with Eric Ripert last February,” said Rogalski of his imminent reappearance. “I knew of the Cookout and happened to be at Susur Lee’s restaurant after he’d just returned [from the 2011 event.] I saw the advertising and thought to myself, ‘holy cow, what a cool event that is.’
“I love Cayman and thought, how much fun would it be to be there as a guest? I then had dinner with Eric and was asking him about Cayman as it is now, developments, as I hadn’t been there for a long time. Next thing I knew, I had an invitation to participate,” he said, happily.
The chef’s history with Cayman goes back a long way, he said.
“I was in Cayman around 1993, 1994, 1995 for a year. I am ecstatic that I am having a chance to come back. I worked for the Hyatt and was at Hemingways then the main kitchen. I lived at Treasure Island and what I remember the most out of a lot of things is the amazing water, the amazing sand, the amazing climate. It was just the sheer pleasures that go along with being in the Caribbean.”
Following his Cayman experiences, he said, he returned to Canada to take up a job offer he could not refuse, in management in Delta hotels.
“That led to me being the executive chef at the restaurant I was at before Cayman. When I returned they had expanded and it was a much bigger operation so I came full circle. I then worked for Cannery Row and opened up my own place with my business partner, which is where we are now.” Rouge restaurant is a fine dining restaurant which at its foundation has the best ingredients prepared with respect and expertise. The restaurant partners with local food growers and its own onsite garden in sourcing ingredients.
“We are really focused on regional ingredients and supporting local producers. We make everything from scratch – smoked products, bacon even – if it is on the menu somebody in the kitchen has created it. We are fine dining but we are not pretentious; we are very approachable and very real.
“We are not looking to put out that image where everyone is a cookie cutter version of the vision but rather that everyone is the best that they individually can be. That really brings a lot of fulfilment to me as an owner as well as people want to better themselves every single day and at the end of the day it is the customer that wins,” he said.
Geographically, the restaurant is in the Rockies so what’s often said about Rouge is that it produces a form of Rocky Mountain Cuisine.
“We are right on the eastern side of the mountains, in the foothills. From my house to the mountains is about a half hour drive. So we are influenced, especially with our proteins, with what is available in our high altitude environment. So you will find buffalo, you will find elk, a lot of game. I think that’s where the Rocky Mountain Cuisine applies.”
The chef said that his appearances at the Cayman Cookout 2012 will include a lot of surprises. His first demonstration, at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Beach Pavilion on Friday, 13 January at 10am, is billed as showing how his love for island living has stoked his passion for sustainable seafood even in a city best known for cold and cowboys.
Rogalski also hooks up with old friend Ron Jacobson at the Old Friends Reunite event during the Ultimate Dinner Party at Camana Bay event on Saturday, 14 January, at an Abacus wine dinner also involving Ray Isle.
He then will contribute to the showpiece Gala Dinner on Sunday, 15 January – a sumptuous seven-course feast that is cooked by the likes of Eric Ripert, Jose Andres, Richard Blaise and more.
“I am not sure how much I should reveal – I want people to find out for themselves. But I will say I am planning on having a lot of fun; we like under-writing the menu because I like providing surprises at the table.
“Our mission is to have a great time with the guests, make sure they have incredible dining experience as well as to make sure we have a real good connection with all the support with all the people who are helping us to get to Cayman and whilst we are here too.”