Jared Rogers, Chef of Restaurant Picco in Larkspur
Larkspur, in more ways than one, is a long way from the Blue Ridge mountain town of Floyd, Virginia. But it was in Floyd that Chef Jared Rogers of Restaurant Picco, recently named a 2014 Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle, caught the cooking bug.
“My mom is from Texas and she was obsessed with health food,” Rogers tells me. Meats direct from ranchers, fish direct from a seafood company and all organic vegetables were the norm in the Rogers house.
A series of on-the-job training programs when he was 15 years old taught Rogers about his local foodshed and further indoctrinated Rogers in the importance of sourcing the highest-quality ingredients.
A lifetime later, these ideas are keystones to Rogers’ work at Picco.
There is a continuity to Rogers’ cooking, a thread that he pulls through from the past to the present. Rogers learned how to make grits properly when he was a teenager from the famed Low Country chef Richard Perry. Some preparation of grits is always on the menu at Picco. Southern fried chicken, Rogers’ favorite dish as a child, is on the specials menu every Wednesday. Smoked foods, too.
“Smoked trout is a backwoods Southern thing,” Rogers says. At Picco, the backwoods of Rogers’ childhood are woven together with talent and experience in the kitchen, and the freshest local, seasonal ingredients, to create a beautiful quilt on the plate.
Rogers credits his mentor, Bar Area superstar chef Bruce Hill, co-owner of Picco (as well as adjoining Pizzeria Picco and San Francisco restaurants Fog City, Bix and Zero Zero) with teaching him much of what he knows about cooking. Hill gave Rogers his first job, at Bix, where Hill was then the executive chef, while he was still a student at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy. They have been cooking together ever since.
Rogers has traveled a great distance from Virginia to California, and from dishwasher to executive chef, yet the psychic distance—from a culinary perspective—appears to be a short one. According to Connie Green, the owner of Wine Forest Wild Foods, a regular purveyor to Picco (and also profiled in this issue of Edible Marin & Wine Country), Rogers never fails to call her “Ma’am.” Perhaps Larkspur is closer to Floyd than anyone thought.
Where are you from?
At what age did you begin cooking?
From whom did you learn to cook?
Richard Perry and Bruce Hill
Are there certain dishes or ingredients that define the place you grew up?
Grits, bacon and farm-fresh produce
What is your first food memory?
What is the first dish that you remember cooking by yourself, or mostly by yourself ?
Zucchini on a plancha
When did you first leave the South, and what/who was it that brought you out?
I left the South when I was 17 to attend the California Culinary Academy.
Southern ingredient you can’t live without?
Southern food you miss the most?
Setting in which you most enjoyed that food?
Any patio of any Carolina barbecue joint that smells good
Favorite Southern dish?
How often do you have that food now?
Do you cook it for yourself, or just have it when you dine out?
Southern food you wish would never be served again?
Don’t have one; love them all.
Do you incorporate Northern California and/or international ingredients into Southern dishes?
All the time, daily
Do you think your Southern heritage influenced your love and appreciation of food?
Yes! Definitely things move slower where I am from, so we tended to take our time when we ate together.
Whiskey, specifically Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Favorite Southern-based band and/or song?
Pie or cake?
Pie—you get to taste the fruit with pie, and you can add ice cream.