Vale Romeo Rigo
OLD time locals will know what I mean when I say, “the wog has passed away”.
Way back in 2001 I put an ad in the paper which said, quite simply, “The wog’s in the kitchen, one night only”, and as a consequence packed my then restaurant as Airlie Beach locals came in their droves to experience the food and the larger than life personality of Romeo Rigo.
He was, not only “the wog”, but he was Airlie Beach’s first great restaurateur.
A chef of great talent, a larrikin, raconteur, shameless selfpromotor and a man who single handily gave us a food culture, even before we knew what a food culture was.
The best chef I ever had the pleasure of cooking with, a man who made the islands come to us, just for the food, and a man who never took a short cut when it came to quality.
I have so many fond memories of this man and this amazing flamboyant personality.
He was the ultimate chef, front man and personality, while behind the scenes his wife Linda made sure every gesture, every “let me cook something special for you” and every “champagne for my friends” made it onto the bill.
I am proud to say I got to cook with Romeo, I learnt how to make Porcini and truffle risotto, how to make a great veal saltim- bocca, but far more importantly I was proud to call him my mate.
A man who single handily put Airlie Beach on the foody map.
Today Airlie is a very “white bread”, stable, safe and professional tourism product.
Back in Romeo’s day it was anything but. It was a time of personalities, seat of their pants operators, wheelers and dealers, and few if any rules.
He was and should remain one of the guys who made us what we are today and I for one mourn his passing at the not so old age of 70 years young.
He is my nomination for a posthumous award for “Outstanding Contribution by an individual” at this year’s Whitsunday Tourism Awards. Good bye old mate.
So many food styles today are about the glorification of the skill of the chef.
Your food is about the glorification of the raw ingredients. You showed me that, and for that I am forever grateful. A passion for good food, good service and even better times. From KC and the Teacher Airlie Beach