Right on the heels of Chef/Owner Ron Eyester is his second-in-command Christian Rodriguez. He got his start at 5 & 10 in Athens, before moving to start at Rosebud as a sous chef. The shift was a step up, but since then he was promoted to chef de cuisine. He has collaborated with Eyester on many dishes, including the popular jalepeno mac n cheese. Here he shares how his cooking is strongly influenced by his Puerto Rican roots.
On Starting to Cook
It grew in college for me, because I was broke so I didn’t have a lot of money to go out. I learned to get good at cheap dishes like barbecue chicken, chili and mashed potatoes. When I had my first apartment and I had my own kitchen, it was exciting.
On Family Life
Growing up in a Hispanic family, cooking and daily meals was a big part of my upbringing. Both of my parents cook. If my dad got home from work early he would start prepping and my mom would come home and help him finish. During the holidays, we roasted whole pigs (lechon.) In Puerto Rico there is literally a whole highway dedicated to them.
His Last Dish
Arroz con gandules: smoked pork sausage, pimento olives, and pigeon peas.
Favorite Part of Puerto Rican Dishes
There is a certain type of wood found in the mountains of Puerto Rico that puts a distinct smoky flavor on morcilla (Puerto Rican blood sausage). The flavors are invigorating and nostalgic, much how I felt when I dined at Pura Vida before it closed.
On Working at Rosebud
I try to put a Spanish twist on what I can without bringing in those ingredients. Rosebud is not going to serve yucca or plantains, but I do a lot of chimichurris and salsa verdes.
The Hardest Part
The hours. I’m around 12 hour days now that Rosebud is closed for lunch. I used to be one of those guys that slept in until noon, but once you get accustomed to waking up early, now on my days off I can’t even sleep in. It’s ruined it for me.
On His Days Off
My girlfriend and I go out to eat, but I can’t just go to a restaurant and just enjoy myself anymore. I try, but I am constantly looking around and seeing tables that have been dirty for a while or seeing drinks that are empty. From being on the other side I notice these little things Dinner has become an OCD experience.
On Working with Ron Eyester
He is my mentor and helped me to grow to the cook I am. He is one of the most creative people I know, but he is a neat freak. No matter what we are doing, whether prepping food or just messing around in the kitchen, he is OCD clean. I would definitely not want him to be my health inspector. He’d be tough.