District chef RJ Cooper dishes about his new restaurant, Rogue 24.
By Alexa McMahon
You categorize Rogue 24 as urban fine dining. How does that translate in the space and on the menu?
The “bones” of the space in Blagden Alley have a certain historic character from the era in which they were built. We wanted to stay true to that style as we developed the restaurant. Our philosophies on the dining experience are to provide unprecedented service and unique food offerings in non-traditional, out-of-the-box presentations. Dine at Rogue 24 in your favorite jeans or an Armani tux. We welcome it all.
You’ve described Rogue 24 as a “theater-in-the-round.” What can guests expect to see and experience from your team?
Every guest at Rogue 24 will be within steps of a Rogue team member so we can interact and educate guests as we cook and prepare cocktails table-side. We invite guests to ask questions and become engaged in the process of creating a fine meal. Rogue 24 is an experience. We invite guests to escape their daily routines and allow us to guide them through a culinary journey.
Why have you chosen to offer 16 and 24-course tasting menus?
Why not? While working at Vidalia I “went rogue” (as Jeff Buben liked to say) and created a 24-course tasting menu, which was the original inspiration for Rogue 24. The 16-course progression and 24-course journey menus both tell a story. Each course builds on flavors from the previous course, while driving anticipation for what’s next.
You are often spotted at Farmers’ markets. What local or interesting ingredients will we see on the menu?
On the opening menu, which we have not yet released, you’ll find peaches, corn, blue potatoes and melons. We will also do our own foraging, sourcing unusual ingredients that may only be in-season or available for a short time.
There is no traditional bar. What can guests expect from the beverage program and wine list?
We are collaborating with Derek Brown to infuse culinary techniques with his brilliant cocktail-making to create another outlet for our creativity. Small-batch spirits, garnitures, handmade mixtures and infusions will come together tableside. Matthew Carroll, our Sommelier/General Manager, will select premium wine pairings for the tasting menus, wines by the glass for the salon and an extremely eclectic and well-sourced wine list.
I understand that life-long learning is extremely important to you and is a value you hope to impart to your staff. Why do you think this is so important?
I have surrounded myself with young, extremely talented people. If I stifle their minds, my journey too will end. I have selected each artisan for his or her talent, pride and dedication to a specific craft. My commitment is education and opportunity. The artisans are here to learn more about their craft and cross over to learn new things in the kitchen and about the restaurant.
Any spicy summer time plans that we should know about?
Spicy plans, yes. Opening Rogue is all the spice I need right now.