Catering with the bandPublished on May 12, 2017

Rene Rodriguez Dish Catering Chef

Erin Clatney, founder and director of Ottawa’s DISH Catering and Events, announced this week that renowned chef Rene Rodriguez had joined her team. Ottawa eagerly embraced Rene’s Basque-inspired Spanish cuisine at Navarra, his acclaimed ByWard Market restaurant; national fame followed when he won Top Chef Canada in 2014. The Ottawa native, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu, says that in this, his 19th year as a chef, he’s excited to become a part of the DISH team. “I was going to work with Erin about 11 years ago but another opportunity beckoned. We’ve always kept in touch and I’ve always admired what she does, her approach to food and her emphasis on using local, boutique sourced-products.”

He adds that with similar culinary philosophies and a shared commitment to creating exceptional food, he feels that working with Erin will be very satisfying. “I am looking forward to bringing a little bit of new creativity to the kitchen and collaborating with the team to incorporate some of the things I love to cook, like pigs’ cheeks, fois gras and more. People can expect to see some of my signature flavours, but on a smaller scale. It will be particularly nice to focus on the food and not have to run the entire business like I was doing at Navarra.”

Erin confirms that Rene brings a great new vibe to her operation. “At DISH, we are like a band, where everybody plays a key part and Rene’s skill will balance things beautifully. Here, it’s not like traditional restaurant kitchens which are sometimes very hierarchical.  For fifteen years, we’ve practiced and made great product, then we pile into a big vehicle, go on the road and perform. With Rene, it’s like having another vocalist or guitar player and he just strengthens the whole band. He may have a little bit of celebrity status but he’s really a very humble guy who just wants to make great food. And he still has to take out the garbage like everyone else. I think he’ll enjoy the constant variety – every day is different. He’s really great under pressure.”

One of the things Rene says he particularly enjoys about the events he has already worked on since joining the DISH team two weeks ago is the intense adrenaline rush. “We do all of our preparation and assembly in our kitchen, then we go to the job sites and these can be extremely variable so you have to adapt and make the most of whatever environment you are in. This helps you become better as a chef because you learn to be resourceful and then when you’re back in the comfort of the kitchen you have new tools and skills to do really extraordinary things.”

As a chef with a young family, Rene admits that he appreciates that working at DISH offer better hours and a little more flexibility than running a restaurant. Thus far, he’s already started influencing the food through some unique garnishes and sauces, and he confirms it’s only going to get better. “I’ve received such a pleasant response from DISH’s customers and I love the energy here. DISH was already doing some edgy things and offering up some very cool plating; it’s going to be a lot of fun to be a part of this.”

Paula Roy

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