Calgary owes a debt of gratitude to Paul Rogalski’s grandparents. The first seeds of his love and passion for food were planted when, as a child, his paternal grandmother would prepare family meals with ingredients from her huge kitchen garden. On the other side of the family, his maternal grandfather was a butcher and co-owner of Bon Ton Meat Market, who would bring home the tastiest cuts of meat for the family to enjoy.
“I remember sitting on the back stairs of the Bon Ton as a kid watching the butcher shop in full swing,” Rogalski says. “It was an amazing experience for me.”
Those seeds germinated into a career that has seen Rogalski working in some of the most prominent fine dining restaurants in Calgary, not to mention California, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Grand Cayman. In 2001, he opened Rouge (page 58), then called The Cross House, with
partner Olivier Reynaud.
Rouge, which is located in the historic former home of prominent businessman A.E. Cross, is well known for elegant and innovative Canadian cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients—much of the produce is plucked directly from the large on-site garden behind the restaurant. “I believe that food should be sourced from growers that are as geographically close to the restaurant as possible so the flavour of the terroir of our region stays intact,” Rogalski says.
“My food philosophy is simple, but it took a while to come to the place I am currently in. As a young cook I wanted to manipulate food in as many ways as possible, but over time I developed a philosophy to showcase food naturally, when it is at its peak quality.”
Over the past 16 years at Rouge, Rogalski has seen numerous changes in the restaurant industry, but there are some demands that he has embraced with open arms. “I am happy to say that there is more of a push for ‘farm to table’ and ‘cooked from scratch’ in restaurants these days, which is a trend that I hope is here to stay.”
“Sometimes cooking and manipulation is not necessary— celebrate a perfect tomato as a perfect tomato.”