Vale Romeo Rigo

Whitsunday Times - - WHITSUNDAY VIEWS -

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

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