Doug Rodrigues appears like the fiery stereotype of a chef--heavily tattooed, ambitious, swears like a sailor, hits on the waitresses, and even stabbed a guy once. And it appears that all that class translates to schooling in the kitchen.
As the new executive chef of The Tip Tap Room, Rodrigues has boosted food sales over drink sales by 2%--a significant ratio for this steaks and beer establishment. He's ahead of schedule, just three months on the job and with four more percentage points to go. It's a goal he's very likely to meet, a real game changer for this Beacon Hill restaurant.
"He's not a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy," claims general manager Jerry Ullman. "We needed elevation, he's our lift."
While Rodrigues brings his style to the Wilcox Hospitality Group, he's hoping to go full-time fine dining with his own restaurant. You can bet he'll be pushing 90 hours per week to reach this height. Last year, he opened a kitchen in just two weeks. Fittingly, Rodrigues left that kitchen over menu disputes.
He insisted he not be photographed putting ketchup on a burger. "That's not how I want to be known," he said, pushing plates of beautifully stacked beef burgers aside to reach for his more passionate work.
A broken ankle couldn't keep this wildfire chef out of the kitchen for even a day--although, it did get him off the skateboard permanently. Rodrigues is a veteran team member of Technical Skate Shop here in Massachusetts.
The injury has kept him from the title of world class skater, but he's trying to keep any hurtles out of his way of being a world class chef. That isn't to say he hasn't had to jump over a few to get here. Most infamously is a hurtle he may have created himself. Incidentally, there are consequences to stabbing someone.
"I was just teaching him how to use it," he says, but the demonstration of his knife skills ended in a very real stab wound. The incident was accidental, according to both Rodrigues and the victim--a friend who is not pressing charges. Rodrigues will still have to face a judge by the end of the summer, to address (and contest) assault charges from the state. While he certainly wishes the assault charge matched the toughness of his appearance, he's not actually that dangerous. Although, nearly every chef has a story of a poor patron choking--and often perishing--on something they've cooked. "It was a rogue chicken bone," he claims.
The stabbing incident occurred
toward the end of Rodrigues's first executive chef title at Clio on Mass Ave--an upscale establishment with a cuisine more closely matching his sophisticated style. While it happened off site, the accident and subsequent legal battle still impacted their decision to ultimately let the chef go. In an interview with Boston Magazine, Rodrigues claims another factor was his anxiety attacks.
While he remains to be quite an energetic guy, his shaky hands are less a symptom of caffeine and more a somatic symptom of stress. Either way, it's not something a chef likes to see manifested this way when his work requires steady hands.
When he's not running around the kitchen, he's on the phone with purveyors securing fresh and unique ingredients. The Tip Tap Room features an ever-changing wild game menu, with the meats of kangaroo, ostrich, and whatever else Rodrigues is able to scrounge up for a limited time.
"The benefits of growing up in a small fishing village," he claims, as he makes yet another call to a fishing pal in his hometown of Scituate. He's currently on the search for out-of-season stripers for the annual "Chefs in Shorts" event. He is a proud South Shore native, and it shows in the ingredients he manages to bring to the Tip Tap. His latest addition to the menu is a miso marinated striped bass with grilled yu chow and a coconut puree.
"I try to set a trend, rather than follow a trend."
Since his days of being thrown on the line at Atlantica as a teenager, Rodrigues has proved he can handle the heat. His name is on his chef coat for a reason: he knows what he's doing. He's not waiting for his big break, he's working for it. It's likely we'll be seeing Doug Rodrigues representing Boston on the Food Network soon enough, as he hopes he'll be one day "kicking Bobby Flay's ass."