R.J. Cooper Is Happy to Make New Yorkers His Guinea Pigs for His 24-Course D.C. ‘Dance Party’
On Tuesday, former Vidalia chef de cuisine R.J. Cooper announced that he would be offering a preview of the fare at his forthcoming D.C. eatery in an alleyway, Rogue 24, later this month at a pop-up shop in Manhattan called Limited Time Only.
Young & Hungry wanted to know why New Yorkers would be getting a sneak peak at Cooper's hugely anticipated 16- and 24-course tasting menus in advance of the fine diners here in the chef's own backyard.
Contacted at home, where he was busy plotting out the various courses, the Rogue Toque was more than happy to assuage our New York envy.
"So, yeah, New York gets a preview," says Cooper, "but New York also gets the flops and blunders from the kitchen for two weeks. When we come back, we're solid. So it's actually a good tool and lesson for the kitchen. I'm bringing up the whole kitchen."
According to the formal announcement, the Big Apple-bound team will include pastry chef Chris Ford and mixologist Gina Chersevani.
The idea to go to New York arrived—how else?—via Facebook. "At first, I thought it was bullshit," the chef says. "It's Facebook, you know what I mean? I thought it was a big scam. Then I got into it and talked to the guy and I thought it would be fun. It's a great tool for what we're doing....It gives a chance to all the young folks that are working for me, and all the sous chefs, gives 'em two weeks in New York to go balls-out and see what it's like to work in a kitchen of this caliber."
The pop-up shop holds 60 seats, eight more than Cooper's planned restaurant. "The kitchen's totally different than what we're doing, but it kind of lets us hone-in on the first menu and get all the kinks out of it," the chef says. "It's kind of a challenge for us, too," he adds, excited at the opportunity to upstage a New York food scene that's traditionally looked down on D.C. cooking.
As for the specific dishes, Team Rogue mentioned several possibilities in its press release: "langoustine with chawan mushi, ginger and chorizo; hog jowl with southern textures and bourbon; pain perdu, bacon, onion and caramel; turbot with radishes, green garlic and roe; and wagyu brisket with potato pave and morels—to name just a few."
The chef himself further divulged a few details about the accompanying beverage program. That includes four wine pairings, two cocktail pairings, one beer pairing and one "obscure spirit or beverage," he says. "Something that you've never even dreamed of, something from Prague or a small third-world country. That's the beauty of being outside the box."
Considering the size and scope of the menu, Y&H wanted to know exactly how much green tea and marijuana might be required to make it through all 24 courses. The good-humored chef didn't miss a beat, responding with a chuckle, "How much do you want to bring?"
"It's not overwhelming," Cooper says of the planned progression of courses, comparing the experience of the diner to that of a concert-goer, rocking out to the popular jam band Widespread Panic.
"It’s a progression. It’s like a dance party. It’s like a really good Widespread set, like I saw last Wednesday. It’s like, 'Oh, what are they going to play next?' You know, they slow it down a little bit, then they noodle a bit, then they just come out rockin’ again. That’s how I like to eat when I go out to dinner. I don’t want a menu. I don’t want to make decisions. I make decisions all day long. Just bring it to me, show me what you got, show me the best, and let me be happy. And that’s what's fun about this level of food."
Logo courtesy of Rogue 24