Chef Roelof de Groot
Where are you from?
I'm from Curacao in the caribbean. My father was Dutch. I lived in Curacao and Holland. Then I moved to Miami when I was eleven. And five years ago I moved to Jersey. I'm in Stratford NJ which is about ten minutes from Redz Restaurant.
Do you miss Miami?
I miss it so much. I call Miami home because I've lived there most of my life. I may have lived in Curacao and Holland, but I lived in Miami for twenty plus years. I lived in Vegas two years.
Did you like living in Vegas?
No, I didn't like it. If you go on the strip, there's always people who came there for a vacation. But outside of Vegas, I thought it could be very shady. I don't like to gamble either.
Tells me about your culinary background before you came to Redz.
Well I was actually an airline pilot before becoming a chef. I went back to school when I was 34yrs old. I went to Le Cordon Bleu. I also worked at Loews in South Beach and Loews in Vegas. Then I worked at the Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia. And then I came to Redz.
What do you enjoy most about working at Redz?
I love the people here. We buy fresh food at Redz. I go to the market every morning and I get fresh produce.
Is there a favorite item of yours on the menu?
I like my short ribs. I make those every days. They're wine braised. I love making pork sliders. We braise the pork. I love cooking steaks. If it was up to me, I'd have a steakhouse. That's what I would love to do. I'd have everything steak here. (laughs) I have a little leeway here. After the other chef left, we were trying to rebuild the menu.
Do you ever feature seasonal menu items?
We'll have steak with asparagus and change the side to something seasonal like Brussels. We try to go with the seasons just a little. But we try to keep the vegetables seasonal.
What are your strengths or weaknesses in the kitchen?
I'm too nice! I try to be fair. I try not to be too hard on people. Everyone has issues, so I try to understand that. I love to cook and I love working the line.
What are you favorite seasonings or ingredients to cook with?
Garlic, I want to cook everything with garlic (laughs). I try not to season things too much, especially when it comes to cooking steaks. You don't want to take away the natural flavors of food. I try to use salt, pepper and onions. But I try not to cover the natural flavors of food. Every other day we also have fresh seafood. If not every day, it's at least ever other day. We purchase our seafood locally.
What’s your least favorite seasoning or ingredient to cook with?
Nothing really, I love to eat everything. I'm not allergic to anything. I can eat everything, I'll try anything.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
It was at a place called Touch in South Beach. They had the most amazing steak. Food is important when it comes to a dining experience, but the service is also just as important. It doesn't matter how good the food may be. If the service is bad, then it ruins everything.
What’s the one thing you enjoy most about being a chef?
The cooking and comradery. Everyone has a role, working twelve or fourteen hours. I may be tired, but overall I love what I do. I flew cargo before, but flying was boring. If you think about it, back in the day it was more glorifying. The pilot could walk out and talk to people. Nowadays, you can't leave the cockpit because of the terrorism we experience today. The planes kind of fly themselves today. It was boring to me. Being a chef keeps me busy. Twelve hours can easily fly by because I love what I do.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I don't drink. I just love to eat. Burgers are my favorite. I can eat a burger everyday. I'm a simple guy. I'm a meat and potato man.
What are your thoughts on the food scene in Mt. Laurel and surrounding Jersey areas?
This area is still new to me. We try to have fresh ingredients and keep it local. This area to me feels more like a corporate environment. Jersey itself doesn't seem as upbeat. Maybe around the shore, it's more lively. Places like Philly and New York have more of a lively scene. We're trying to create one here.
What advice would you give to any novice chef?
Watch your temper and try not to be too cocky. You're always learning. Even Gordon Ramsey doesn't know everything. Nobody knows everything. Come with a positive attitude and always learn. Know how to take criticism. A customer might love something, but another might hate it. Take criticism with a grain of salt and don't take it too personal.
Photo by photographer Bruce Loatman, www.roninzero.com/