If there is one daunting fact about James Roache and his restaurant Ro'Chez (204 W. Jackson St., Ridgeland, 601-503-8244), it's that in seven years of operation, Chef Roache has never repeated a menu. Armed with little more than his 120-item pantry and local produce, for three nights a week, two seatings a night and more than 300 menus, Chef Roache has never repeated himself. Just what sort of person would take on such a challenge? I met Chef Roache at his Ridgeland restaurant in December in hopes of getting a better grasp on his ideals and why he is planning to move Ro'Chez this March.
How did Ro'Chez start?
I just had a dream; I saw the building and fell in love with it. I've always wanted to do what I ended up creating here. I was a gypsy for 20-30 years. I've been from New York City to Corpus Christi cooking under the best chefs I could find. I just got real fortunate, and I found the passion for what I wanted to do.
What's your cooking style?
If I had to label it, I would call it Creole eclectic. I'll take you around the world and back home again. I might do Thai, I might do Russian, French, but my food does have that Creole or southern root to give you something familiar.
What do you think sets you apart from other restaurants in Jackson?
The food is my life experience filtered through my mind's eye. The other thing that sets me apart is that I cook on a 100-year-old wooden stove with a mix of oak, pecan and cherry wood. There is no gas, no microwave, nothing.
Is there anything unique about your supplies?
I buy all local, from the little mom-and-pop grocery stores to the farmers markets to individual farmers. That is my 100-percent passion. Every farmer I deal with, I spend a day at their farm, doing some odds and ends, cooking them dinner. I want to see how they're treating things, seeing their whole practice or else it could be off a truck, and then I just defeated what I went for.
Tell me about your plans to move
In March, I am making a move to either Belize or New Orleans. I think NOLA will be more receptive to my ideas, and I'll be doing the exact same concept down there.
Where does Belize fit?
I wouldn't mind being a beach bum down there, but the city has seemed very receptive to me. After New Year's, I'll be down there cooking at a dinner for the investors, movers, shakers and anyone who will be an important contact while I'm down there.
Do you have a big party planned for the final meals at this location?
We might, but I always go out for Valentine's Day anyway. Either way, get in before March; the gypsy is calling. This has been really awesome and good to me, and I feel that if I keep staying my interest will die. I'm just not doing the volume I need.
Hell, there's still more for me to learn, and moving will help me broaden my horizons. Who knows: After Belize I might end up in France or Spain. I just need a place to work, something to drink and a
place to sleep.
Warmth and Balance
by Victoria Sherwood
As the chilly, damp weather continues, we crave warm and hearty recipes to warm our bones. Potato "risotto" fits the bill perfectly. Christopher Freeman, executive chef at Pan Asia, learned this recipe while attending the Culinary School of America. He says this dish is the first to help him realize balance and simplicity within cooking.
1 large baked potato, finely diced
Whites of 2 leeks, rinsed and finely diced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped (adjust more or less to taste)
chives/parsley, finely chopped, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan add olive oil, onions and leeks. Let them sweat until they become translucent. Add potatoes and stir; keep potatoes in water until needed. Coat potatoes and onions with oil and cream. Keep stove on medium/low heat until they become tinder. Add salt and pepper as well as your chopped herbs. Add half a lemon and precooked bacon. Plate with scallops or salmon.