RJ Cooper is the Chef/Owner of Rogue 24, a 52-seat urban fine dining restaurant that opened in Washington, DC in Summer 2011. Rogue 24 is the stage for Cooper and his team of culinary artisans to perform and deliver a 24-course tasting menu experience to an audience of captive diners. The open kitchen, situated in the center of the dining room, invites surrounding guests to interact with Cooper and his chefs as they craft each course and beverage pairing.
Cooperʼs Modern American philosophy shines through in dishes like Truffled Heirloom Potatoes with Garlic Cream, Crispy Pork Belly and Juniper-Infused Sea Salt, Smoked La Belle Farm Foie Gras with Toigo Orchard Cherry Puree and Minus 8 Vinegar, where Cooper uses a delicate hand to transform ordinary products into composed and elegant dishes. While keeping things fresh and modern with a flavored salt, itʼs clear from the juniper-scented salt, reminiscent of a classic French cure, and the smooth-as-silk garlic cream, that Cooperʼs schooling is grounded in the fundamentals of classic French cooking.
As a teen growing up in suburban Detroit, Michigan, RJ Cooper imagined himself a rock star chef playing in the kitchen with his mother and Sicilian grandmother who made everything from scratch. His first stint in the professional kitchen was as a high school student when he took an apprenticeship at a local bakery. Knowing right away that the culinary world was his calling, Cooper decided to further his education by attending The Culinary School at Kendall College in Chicago, Illinois where he had the opportunity to work with chefs including Jean Joho, Tony Mantuano and Jean Banchet.
After graduation Cooper moved to Atlanta to work with Daniel Schaffhauser at The Ritz Carlton, Atlanta, Guenter Seeger at The Buckhead Ritz Carlton, and Gilbert LeCoze at Brasserie LeCoze. From here, Cooper went on to work with Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. The time was invaluable for Cooper, teaching him how to get down and dirty with his staff in true Ripert style. During a three year move to Anchorage, Alaska, Cooper continued on his culinary development by taking the helm of the Crowʼs Nest Restaurant in The Captain Cook Hotel. With the intent to bring the restaurant back to its former four star-four diamond quality, Cooper headed up the kitchen and revamped the menu, boosting staff morale and impressing locals.
In the late 1990ʼs, Cooper moved to Washington D.C., working at Oval Room and New Heights before joining Vidalia in 2004 as chef de cuisine. Jeffrey Buben took on the role as mentor for Cooper, teaching him the fundamentals of running a business and keeping systems in place. With Cooper at the helm of the kitchen, Vidalia received accolades including a three-star rating by Tom Sietsema, Food Critic for The Washington Post, inclusion amongst the top 10 restaurants in Washingtonian magazineʼs 100 Very Best Restaurant issue.
In 2006 he was awarded rising star chef by starchefs.com. Followed that in 2007 Chef Cooper won the prestigious Best Chef Mid Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation, a four time nominee for Best Chef by the RAMW and nominations for Best Restaurant RAMW.
Chef Cooper believes in philanthropy with appearances with charities; the chair of the inaugural culinary council for Taste of the Nation, Share our Strengthʼs 2008 Chef of the Year, 2008-2009 National Spokesperson Chef for Share Our Strengthʼs Taste of the Nation, co-creator the Chefʼs On Bikes in Washington DC.
Cooper resides in McLean, VA with his wife, Judy, and twin daughters, Bridgette and Ava.