Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper is no stranger to a heated competition in the kitchen. While he is the host chef for the 1st annual Eat4Life Celebrity Chef Cook Off (March 19th, 6pm at Crios Modern Mexican Grill) benefiting Chris4Life, he was once wiping sweat from his brow as he fought his way to winning Season Three of Hell’s Kitchen on FOX. Yes, the one with the very scary Gordon Ramsay. Rock is a competitive pro and veteran, but these days, his talents are found in one of most unique organizations in the country, DC Central Kitchen, where he heads up kitchen operations. He’ll take on Chef Scott Drewno of The Source by Wolfgang Puck during Eat4Life.
When Rock wasn’t creating menus, slicing and dicing, nor mentoring, we were able to catch up with him to ask him a few questions.
Pamela’s Punch: What’s your background and how would you classify your cooking-style?
Rock Harper: Professionally speaking, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great chefs and very cool food-minds throughout my career. I had a great start in home-ec and culinary arts in junior high and school, respectively. Graduating from Johnson and Wales then diving into some crazy kitchens in DC got me on my way. After spending working in one of the best kitchens I’ve ever known at BET on Jazz Restaurant I went on to become a sous chef at B. Smith’s Restaurant, where I stayed for 9 years before winning Hell’s Kitchen. Vegas, DC, VA, DC Central Kitchen and a few stoves later and here we are today!
I think I’m at the point where many chefs eventually arrive-the simpler the better. Start with love and care. Great product plus great technique minus the fluff equals a pretty good meal. Whatever the cuisine, I approach it the same.
I’ve taken a broader perspective of my cooking in recent times. The choices I make as chef impact this beautiful earth and its amazing inhabitants. I hope that doesn’t sound too Russell Simmons-ish, or maybe I do, but it’s important to me. Everyone can do something to sustain wellness for our land and our bodies. My decisions, like choosing which farmers to purchase sausage from, have an impact and it influences my approach to cooking.
PP: What drew you to the Eat4Life Event?
RH: I say this often but I truly believe its an honor and a privilege for me to be able to help raise money and awareness for the prevention of colon cancer. I’m lucky that I can help by doing what I love and enjoy most-service and cooking.
PP: What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
Tough one! So many to choose from but I dig simple, versatile plants. Animal would be an easy choice, but I grew up eating Carole Harper’s phenomenal vegetables. That woman can do wonders with potatoes! I’ve always appreciated my mother’s gift to take simple ingredients and turn them into something spectacular. Onions, tomatoes and garlic, along with the spuds, are probably my favorites.
PP: During the cook-off what will be your strategy by in producing colon-healthy dishes without sacrificing on flavor?
RH: Nature gives you all you need to live a beautiful and tasty life, I’ll just cook like I normally do! However, sabotaging Drewno’s dish with cheap truffle oil may be my only chance to win. Can that guy cook or what?!
To meet Chef Rock and taste his dishes, you can attend Eat4Life. Tickets are HERE.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.