Though Chef Paul Rogalski grew up in Calgary, he spent summers in Durham, Ontario with his Ukrainian grandparents. It was there that he grew to appreciate good food. His grandmother would grow fresh herbs and vegetables and send him home on the train with a pack of tasty Ukrainian dishes like borscht. From a fairly early age, Chef Paul knew he wanted to be a chef but it wasn’t until a few years later that he realized the influence his family had on him and his passion for food.
This passion carried Chef Paul through travels across the world, including a stint in South East Asia and Grand Cayman. Of course, Calgary is home for Chef Paul and the Rocky Mountains called him back after his adventures.
During his time abroad, Chef Paul realized that many of the ingredients we valued back in Canada were actually imported, not local. But knowing how flavourful and diverse the Canadian terroir is, Chef Paul felt like it needed to be celebrated.
This celebration for local produce now takes place at Rouge Restaurant. Rouge is located in one of Calgary’s oldest houses. In fact, as Chef Paul proudly points out, the Calgary Stampede was conceived in this house!
The restaurant features its own garden of herbs, beets, lettuce, and more, that the kitchen utilizes in dishes. Chef Paul points out that growing the food in literally their own backyard has enabled to him (as well as other line cooks) to have a better understanding of where food comes from, increasingly their connection to food. The restaurant freezes or ferments produce as well to save for the winter.
Chef Paul says that his objective in opening up Rouge Restaurant was to make people happy. Owning his restaurants has also allowed Chef Paul to put forth the efforts and actions that he feels strongly about. One of these actions is shining a spotlight on Canadian cuisine. Taking part in Food Day Canada means that Chef Paul is able to not just make guests happy with delicious food, but also showcase how the importance of Canadian ingredients.
Do you have a lucky charm in the kitchen?
I used to have a small stuffed ‘Chef’ from South Park. Somebody stole him.
What’s the last thing you burned?
I always seem to burn garlic toast on the BBQ when I am cooking at home. Might be a problem directly related to how much butter is on the bread. This past week I torched some campfire bread I was making while filming an upcoming web series called ‘Wild Harvest’.
Your favourite spice?
I don’t have one in particular but I am currently geeking out on wild ingredients.
What makes you “kitchen angry”?
Making a mistake when I know better… like putting too much butter on the garlic toast.
Latest flavour combination you discovered?
A cattail, fireweed, wild mint, and lilac syrup combo. I made cattail fritters and garnished them out with the fireweed, wild mint, and lilac syrup – it was a great dessert bite.
What’s your most extravagant purchase?
For the kitchen, I would say a Rational oven.
Favourite song in the kitchen?
I don’t have one in particular but when I’m cooking at home I like to put on music from the late 60s and 70s.
What’s your comfort food?
I can’t resist a good prime rib feast, but instead of mashed potatoes I prefer perogies with lots of sour cream, tossed in butter with green onions and chives.
What’s your most essential tool?
There are a few I can’t live without but would say the combination of my 12” chef knife and my turning knife are dearest to me.
If you could change anything in the food industry, what would it be?
There are many things I would love to change about the food industry but the number one thing I’d like to change is the lack of connection between people and food. I’d like to see diners starting to really connect with the food they eat and gaining an understanding of who grows and harvests it – our food producers are rock stars.
Favourite smell in the kitchen?
That also is a tough one for me to answer; I love the smell of bread baking, garlic roasting, and fresh cut herbs – just to name a few.
What’s your bad habit?
I eat and drink way too fast.
What do you admire in other chefs?
I admire all chefs who have passion, vision, and inspire others.
What or who is your greatest inspiration?
The dish you are proudest of?
I am proud of my dishes that make other people smile, stop and take notice. The happier they are, the happier I am.
What’s your end of the world menu?
It would be a re-creation of my grandmother’s Ukrainian family dinner featuring all home-grown ingredients; brioche, borscht, cabbage rolls, perogies, kasha, pot roast, ham, turkey, head cheese, sauerkraut, lardons, salads, vegetables, and sauces to accompany all of it.
Your favourite advice or quote?
“Good things take time. So be patient and stay the course.”
What is the one ingredient that you would never buy if it is not produced locally?
Cold-pressed canola oil.
What is your favourite local drink?
Any cocktail made with local craft gin.
What is Canadian food to you?
“Canadian food” means local ingredients, specific to each region but prepared with multicultural cooking methods.
What makes you proud of the Canadian terroir?
The diversity of the Canadian terroir makes me proud; region to region there is a showcase of different geographical and growing characteristics, soil conditions, and a wide variety of cultivated and indigenous species served with local flare.
Why do you participate in Food Day Canada?
I love that I get a chance to showcase some of Alberta’s local flavor while celebrating the fine people that helped make it happen. It’s an honor to participate in Food Day Canada, it’s a very special day.