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Chef Rogers Returns to Kitchen of Romaine’s and Smokestack Urban Barbecue

Chef Neil Rogers during a Mass Foodies Test Kitchen Event (Mike Hendrickson)

Chef Cornelius Rogers announced yesterday that he’ll be re-joining the team at Romaine’s and Smokestack Urban Barbecue. He’ll be moving on from his position of Kitchen Operations Manager at Worcester Regional Food Hub, a job he accepted in March of 2017.

Returning to his roots, Rogers first worked with Richard Romaine and his team nearly twenty years ago as a Sous Chef. In today’s position, Rogers will focus on creating and executing pastries, charcuterie, butchering, and supporting the rest of the team in their daily responsibilities. On Facebook, Roger added, “I really missed cooking in my time at the hub, and felt like it was time to remedy that. I did pick up a side gig for a bit making pizza with Nate from Treehouse, which in and of itself was a once in a lifetime experience. Now it’s time to get back to what I’m good at: Making people happy with food and having a blast while doing it.”

In 2015, Chef Rogers was executive chef at Niche Hospitality’s  The Test Kitchen in Worcester, where he explored the collaborative “think tank” possibilities the space offered by working with other chefs at Niche’s eight restaurants.

Mass Foodies looks forward to seeing Rogers back where he thrives and drives.

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Evan Tests the Worcester Test Kitchen

Porchetta Con Pimenton From Niche Test Kitchen in Worcester

Porchetta Con Pimenton From Niche Test Kitchen in Worcester

The 50th rendition of Foodies was always going to be an event for the ages. Thankfully, for the fervent, eating nomads of Worcester, we were not disappointed. Tucked away next to Mezcal Tequila Cantina on the ever-busy Major Taylor Blvd. is a small culinary “office,” meant to be the test lab for new dishes for all things Niche in the city and beyond: The Test Kitchen. The menu of the evening consisted of 6 different courses, one from each of the 6 Niche Hospitality Group’s restaurants. With a nose-to-tail concept, and using a locally sourced pig, Executive Chef Neil Rodgers and company created a unique and outstanding food tasting environment that was second to none. Foodies were treated to hand crafted cocktails, wines and beers that have not yet been offered in any of the existing restaurants.

Dinners were encouraged to talk to the chefs and bartenders to learn more about what went into the dishes and drinks, and maybe what the inspiration behind them were. It is widely known that certain wines pair better with certain foods, but not many people realize that beer and spirits can be used in the same way to enhance certain flavors and textures present in the dishes.

Being a cocktail party theme, Foodies also had a chance to mingle throughout the Test Kitchen and get to know some of the new faces joining us for the evening. Owner owner Mike Covino was always buzzing around, enjoying every chance he had to talk food and explain why foods were paired together, and how textures and flavors were combined in certain ways. It was refreshing to see an owner take as much time and have so much pride in what he does, while still being down to Earth and approachable.

While there were 6 total courses, each course had at least two different choices for the dinners to try. Whether it was the bloody mary inspired poutine or oaxacan chorizo tacos, Foodies were treated to sweet, savory, tart, rich, silky textures…and a lot of times, all in one, small bite. For me, the highlight of the evening had to be porchetta con pimenton. Trying to describe this dish is almost a disservice for those who didn’t have a chance to try it. It was the best pork chop you have every had, wrapped in the best, crunchiest bacon you have eaten. It was rich, and fatty (in a good way – the way marbling make a great steak), and the truest essence of pork.

With a focus on local sourced food, and a passion that exudes confidence, the Test Kitchen seems to be the jumping off point for some of the best food that the great city of Worcester has to offer. And frankly, if half of the items we tasted end up on the menu, the dining public will be extremely happy in the near future!