Executive Chef Geoff Rogers
Consistently working his way up to Sous Chef, Head Chef and beyond, Geoff Rogers has worn a lot of different hats. A formidable contestant on Season 3 of Top Chef Canada, Chef de partie at River Cafe, Executive Chef at Home Tasting Room and MARKET Eatery in his hometown of Calgary as well as Fable Kitchen and Blacktail in Vancouver; it’s tempting to assume success has always come easily.
However, the most impressive thing about Geoff isn’t his passion or even his work ethic. While constantly challenging himself, and clearly not afraid of working hard to reach his goals, Geoff’s real talent lies in the level of care he puts into what he does. Discussing his philosophy on food, and how its changed over the years, Geoff explains:
“When I was growing up in the industry my idea was to be the best and that meant to try to make the most difficult items with the most amount of technique and the fanciest ingredients. I slowly passed out of that phase when I realized I was making things that may have appealed to my own drive to make the plate but not necessarily to the diners that were eating it.”
Geoff credits Scott Pohorelic, then Executive Chef at the acclaimed River Cafe, for helping him find the voice to match his vision. Working at the 100 mile, local and sustainable restaurant, Geoff was not only given the freedom to create, he discovered an approach to cooking that addressed the very tension he had been feeling. Here it wasn’t just about the food; it was about the people. And not just those eating it.
Fostering close relationships with suppliers became central to the development of Geoff’s cooking style — one that felt sincere, inclusive and, ultimately, like family. Naturally then, his final source of inspiration came from thinking back on his own childhood, specifically his Grandmother. A Saskatchewan farm girl who spent her life making people happy with her food, it was never about being the flashiest or the best, it was about making something herself and sharing it with those she held closest. With that in mind, Geoff decided he would make everything from scratch, and with care. Pickling and preserving everything in-house in order to showcase the hard work of his suppliers as well as his own.
While his techniques may have changed over the years — improved or become more modern — his opinion on food remains the same. For Geoff, cooking as much as he can in-house and using local ingredients is about showing respect for all that has gone into bringing them to the table and, most importantly, treating every meal like a Sunday night dinner with family.
Interview with Executive Chef Geoff Rogers
Q: What is your food philosophy, in a nutshell?
A: Any experience that we are involved with must be sincere.
Q: Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?
A: Honestly, I really had no idea that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I got into it as a job during and after highschool. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had thoughts that went from being a car mechanic to architecture. I guess as I became more ingrained in the culture of the restaurant I was working at I was getting more passionate about it. I was seeing instant results with what I was doing. I enjoyed the daily challenge and grind of it. As they say, the rest is history as we are 20 years later and I am still in the food service industry and I still wake up excited to go to work.
Q: You’ve worked at many different places and could, of course, work at many more. Why Savoury Chef?
A: Savoury Chef is a good fit for me. I have complete creative freedom in what I do and everyday presents a different challenge. Whether I am working on a wedding for 250 people or a small private dinner for 10. I also get to teach and mentor new and blossoming cooks. At this point in my career it’s just as much about as getting my own satisfaction out of creating as it is about teaching others how to create and find their own voices. It’s this kind of environment that great food is created, great and sincere food. Passion and hard work can be seen in all the dishes and meals we put out.
It’s also our team culture that attracts me to Savoury Chef. We are more than just a kitchen; we have a team of dedicated sales members, drivers and logistic personale that all work together to bring a great experience to any guest who chooses to use our service.
Q: In past interviews you’ve described the style of food you make as “Canadian.” Given the multiculturalism of this city in particular, what does Canadian food mean to you?
A: My cooking style has changed since my move to Vancouver. While I would say that I still cook regional Canadian I would certainly say that I have been influenced by the multiculturalism of Vancouver. Flavours and techniques that I would not have been exposed to in Calgary I have fully embraced and adopted here in Vancouver. While my bread and butter remains the same — making everything from scratch with the best local ingredients possible — I have certainly integrated new ingredients that I have come to love.
Honestly, I think Canadian Cuisine can mean anything to anyone, whether you’re of Asian decent, Eastern European or any other ethnicity. Cooking with the ingredients available to you using your own values sums it up best in my mind.
Q: What is your biggest source of inspiration?
A: My inspiration in the kitchen comes from everywhere, from the people that I work with to the music that we listen to. Maybe it’s a conversation about a food show we’ve all seen or a dinner someone went to that we will communally dissect. I like to read about food, check out new cookbooks or just experiment with ideas I have. Inspiration can be drawn from any point in our day as long as our mindset is receptive to it and we choose to embrace it. As I sit here writing this I am listening to some music that is inspiring me to write this as best I can. Check out Miami 82 (Kygo Remix) — it’s a good one!
Q: What is your personal menu like and will we get to see some of that reflected in the offerings at Savoury Chef?
A: My own personal menu is ever-changing. Eating lots of healthy and wholesome food is important to me. I don’t eat a lot of red meat but every now and then it’s a nice treat. Really if my plate has lots of vegetables and good protein I’m a happy guy. I usually like to meal prep on Sundays so I can have lots of tasty things in my fridge for the week ahead. I think our menus for Savoury Chef are very reflective of what I choose to eat. Healthy, wholesome and well prepared meals meant to make you feel good!
Q: What is the most memorable dining experience or catered event you’ve attended, and what made it so great?
A: I’ve had the pleasure of eating in some really great places in my life whether it be a hole in the wall taco shop in Los Angeles or three michelin star Eleven Madison Park in New York. It’s not just the food that makes the experience memorable, it’s the sum of the parts that does. From the ambience and aesthetics of the room to the service and those providing that service. I don’t think I could find one that stands out more than another as they all have given me something great. The company you keep during those experiences matters too! Dining is not just about a plate of food!
Q: What would your ideal meal or event look like?
A: I would love something outdoors. I envision a field with some big trees. We would be fire-grilling and roasting. There would be lots of garden fresh salads, simply prepared of course. Oh, garden fresh vegetables too! Served either raw or lightly roasted in the fire. The setting wouldn’t be fancy, folding chairs or picnic tables. A table full of wine and a cooler full of beer. Hopefully all the folks that provided the meat, produce, wine and beer would be there so everyone one could enjoy together! My ideal meal would be as much about the food as it is about the people eating it.