Chef Voltaggio makes himself at home in the Rogue kitchen. Photographs by Kyle Gustafson.
While Rogue 24 chef R.J. Cooper recovers from open-heart surgery, ten of his chef buddies are stepping up to do guest stints in his Shaw kitchen—each contributing 12 dishes to the restaurant’s 24-course tasting menu (the remaining 12 are part of the Rogue repertoire).
In a way, Volt’s Bryan Voltaggio is responsible for the program, dubbed Rogue Sessions. When the Top Chef alum heard Cooper was facing surgery, he volunteered to come cook during Cooper’s convalescence, and thus was the idea born. Voltaggio says he couldn’t imagine the stress that Cooper endured leading up to his very serious operation, but it reminded him of how hard it was to leave his own restaurant during the six-week taping of Top Chef. “But I had a choice,” says the chef. “R.J. didn’t have a choice. I wanted to help minimize his anxiety.”
Voltaggio is the first toque to take on the series; Rogue 24 sous chef Ryan Moore says that the staff is treating each session differently. Since Voltaggio is accustomed to tasting menus, not much adaptation was necessary in his case—all 12 of his courses are currently on the menu at his restaurant. José Andrés, meanwhile, is planning to use his time at Rogue to revive classic dishes from the Minibar menu. The real challenge for the restaurant staff will be working with chefs like Tim Byres from Smoke in Dallas—who comes to town next week—since imagination will be required to showcase what the slow-and-low chef does best while still keeping the menu Rogue-esque.
Voltaggio’s menu begins with a duo of macarons (celeriac and beet with foie gras), a fried rice mix (diners are asked to hold out their left hand; a server then places small bowl of the mix in their open palms), and a wee “pizza paper.” Highlights among the many dishes that follow include a deconstructed oyster chowder; a cube of foie gras with a coffee and cocoa soil; celery root with tiny dollops of grainy mustard and bright, bitter grapefruit; turbot accompanied by a nage flavored with its bones; and a trio of desserts that includes a play on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and an aerated chocolate mousse served alongside chocolate chip cookie ice cream.
A pairing menu by Derek Brown and sommelier JP Fetherston includes a pear shrub spiked with wild ginger; a manzanilla sherry; a refreshing vodka cocktail featuring grapefruit, blood orange, and Peychaud’s bitters; three old-world red wines; and a “banana malt” cocktail with Aztec chocolate and Madeira.