On the Line: Chef James D. Roberts
All the world's a stage
Name: Chef James D. Roberts
Restaurant: Park Country Club of Buffalo, 4949 Sheridan Dr., Williamsville, 632-2121
Years behind the stove: 20
What most guests don’t realize: We enjoy making the food just as much as they enjoy eating it, and we are trying to anticipate your tastes every time.
Country club chefs are often doomed to a life of preparing prime rib and other buffet standards, but that can’t be said of New Orleans-native Chef James Roberts, whose members at Williamsville’s Park Country Club delight in deftly prepared classical cuisine and the edible results of Roberts’ passion for modern gastronomy. Despite his Johnson & Wales education and extensive formal training at the side of talented chefs, Roberts is not content to rest on his laurels. During the club’s quiet season he pursues great meals and stagés (internships lasting anywhere from one shift to several months) at the world’s finest restaurants.
What do you think is the biggest difference between a pro chef and a good home cook? Most home cooks like it when a concept comes together, pros create concepts that go together.
Favorite after work beverage: Craft beer and a shot of bourbon.
Best LP to cook by: Hot food cookery calls for Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire or Pantera’s 101 Proof. Pastry production requires classical symphony.
Restaurant I’m dying to try: elBulli in Spain (long considered the world’s best restaurant). I have been writing them for years requesting a stagiaire (culinary internship). When they close later this year, I will probably settle for a seating at Robuchon’s chef’s table.
Food no chef should love, but I do anyway: Kimchi ramen from the Asian grocery, and processed nacho cheese sauce—with pickled jalapenos, of course.
What Buffalo’s food scene really needs is: A very consistent casual dining restaurant, a super chic gastro breakfast diner, and a world-class, Michelin-worthy, progressive fine dining restaurant that is financially supported by a speakeasy/whiskey bar/Taqueria.
My go-to reference cookbook: Larousse Gastronomique for classics; Repertoire de la Cuisine for sauce and garnishes—it is my most heavily weathered cookbook. Also Alinea for modern cuisine.
I could cook anywhere, as long as I have my: Trusty spatula and a good pair of tongs. Oh, and an accurate digital probe thermometer.
If I was buried in a graveyard of chefs, my tombstone would say: “You don’t have to be better than the next guy, you just have to outthink him, outwork him, and outhumble him.”
Where do you go out to eat? Usually any place that is still serving food when I get out at night. My favorites are SeaBar, Bistro Europa, McPartlan’s, and Fast Food 99.