A dozen years ago, Joe Peroney was laid off from an electronics factory in southwestern Pennsylvania. Now he’s chef de cuisine at Loudoun’s Roots 657 café and an up-and-comer on the Mid-Atlantic culinary scene. He’s also getting ready to take his skills to the international Culinary Olympics in Germany early next year.
“It’s what I gravitate toward—the fine little details and the discipline of competitions like this,” Peroney said. “For a lot of people, it brings them stress, but for me it brings ease and takes some of the pressure off me.”
Peroney is a partner in the popular Roots 657, launched by his friend and mentor Rich Rosendale in 2016. Like Rosendale, Peroney’s skills were forged in the kitchens of the prestigious Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. And like Rosendale, a past Culinary Olympics participant and Bocuse d’Or competitor, he’ll be showing off his skills on the international stage.
Started in Germany in 1900, the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung competition is held every four years, bringing more than 2,000 chefs from across the world, including several U.S. teams. Much of the focus is on culinary art and ingenious presentation, and Peroney’s team will compete in a category where judges won’t even taste the food: aesthetic appeal and creativity are key. The competition is intense, and teams prepare for years to get ready.
Peroney, 37, is a member of one of several American Culinary Federation teams at the competition, which takes place in mid-February 2020 in Stuttgart, Germany. Peroney’s regional team will spotlight the cuisine of the American East Coast and will compete in the cold food salon category, where dishes are prepared and then preserved in aspic, an old-school European technique that puts the focus on presentation and attention to detail.
Peroney’s team of eight consists of five top East Coast chefs hailing from Baltimore to Naples, FL, along with an apprentice, an assistant pastry chef and their coach, German-born but Baltimore-based master chef Raimund Hofmeister. Rosendale, also a certified master chef and past IKA competitor, is offering support.
The group meets in a different location every month to prepare for the competition. October is Peroney’s turn to host, and team members met at Rosendale’s new Rosendale Collective culinary lab in Leesburg earlier this week to do a full run-through of their menu, gearing up for the pressure of competition week. Rosendale offers classes for novices and professionals at the lab, which opened earlier this year in an industrial space near Cardinal Park Drive.
“It’s like an orchestra—we’re organizing different plates moving up and people buzzing about the kitchen,” Peroney said. “I feel like our team, we’re all very comfortable being uncomfortable, which is great because in those situations where we have master chefs from across the world watching us, we’re going to be like a well-oiled machine.”
Peroney is in charge of the starter courses for his for his team and is planning a vegetarian dish, a fish dish and a poultry dish, each representing a different region of the East Coast. It takes three days to get from raw product to the plate.
“I want to make sure that everything I’m putting on there is as close to perfect as it can be,” Peroney said.
Peroney grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania and realized at a young age that traditional academics weren’t his thing. After high school, Peroney, like many classmates, went to work at a local electronics factory. When the factory closed, he was given an education benefit as part of his severance package. Peroney, who had grown up helping his grandparents in their vegetable garden and kitchen, gravitated toward the culinary arts and enrolled in the hospitality program at Westmoreland County Community College near Pittsburgh.
He met Rosendale, a graduate of the community college and successful chef, at an alumni dinner. That led to a life-changing, three-year apprenticeship at the prestigious Greenbrier Resort, where Rosendale worked as executive chef. The precise, meticulous kitchen was a natural fit for Peroney.
“Working with the chefs there, the discipline was exactly what I needed so I fell in love with that culture,” he said.
When Rosendale opened Roots in 2016, he invited Peroney to join the team and help execute his vision of chef-driven fast casual cuisine with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. The two chefs with fine dining backgrounds are now whipping up killer burgers, house-made mac and cheese, pot pies and made-from-scratch chicken tenders at the hotspot north of Leesburg.
“We want something that’s fast, craveable, affordable and you can bring your whole family and there’s something for everybody,” Peroney said.
The move to Roots has been a positive one, Peroney said. He loves the constant access to interesting local produce, and the enthusiastic clientele that fast-growing Loudoun provides. And he’s thrilled to have a chance to show off his artistic side on the international stage.
“Working in a restaurant daily can be a grind… When I step away from that world and into the show world, it’s really about finesse and attention to detail,” Peroney said. “I always tell people I’ve been training for this since culinary school—I just didn’t know it. That first class I took where we were learning how to dice potatoes—all those little steps have led up to this.”
For more information on Joe Peroney and Roots 657, go to roots657.com. For more information on the Rosendale Collective culinary lab, go to rosendalecollective.com.