Like a true food enthusiast, Roc Mason never orders straight from the menu. He’s all about creating new combinations and playing with different ingredients.
"One of the reasons I like working with Roc is because he's always cooking something different, or something weird, or something special," says Room 38 line cook, Troy Shneider.
The kitchen manager’s job is to run the kitchen. For Mason, this means making sure cleanliness is the first priority for everyone. Most of his day consists of “keeping guys on their toes” and “making sure the food comes out properly,” he says. Once Mason’s sanitization steps are met, he can focus on the creative side of his job. He’s constantly whipping up new creations, such as the current soup of the day, Pollo Tomatillo Soup, or working on menu changes. Right now he’s adding menu items that accommodate various dietary restrictions.
Before he joined the team, Room 38 didn’t feature any weekly specials or soups. Now, to our tastebuds' pleasure, Mason has free range to get creative in the kitchen, showing off his culinary concoctions on his food instagram, @theeraofgrub. Specials like the grilled garlic pepper salmon may only be available for a few days, but followers can see Mason’s newest creations on the account.
What sparked your interest in food?
It would definitely be my mom because we always baked together. Then, when it came to feeding myself, I would make a couple things that I liked. It started off with making ramen noodles and adding stuff to it. I would show my mom, and she would love it. Then she would want me to make the same thing every time for her. She would say, "Make your famous burger; make you famous noodles." That's where I found the love for being creative with food.
Did you have any major turning points in your cooking career?
I think the largest turning point for me had to have been my final class at Le Cordon Bleu. We got to do whatever we wanted to do — whatever dishes we wanted to make, whatever recipes we wanted to dive into. I went all out on that class, and I think that class alone opened my eyes to what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. It showed me the potential, the skill and the passion behind what I do.
What brought you to Room 38?
So everybody has a COVID story. I was working at CC’s City Boiler and Flat Branch at the time, and once COVID hit, people started getting laid off. Since I was working part time at Flat Branch, I got laid off there first. Then CC’s had to let us go for a little bit, so obviously there wasn't a lot of opportunity for work for myself. I took some time to be creative at home and spent a lot more time with the kids and the wife, but I wanted to get back in the field. Room 38 sat me down for an interview on the spot. I was totally unprepared — all I wanted to do was come in and get an application. But he liked what I had to say, so I sent in my information, and he hired me on the spot.
What do you like about working at Room 38?
I just love the environment. It feels like home for me. I think this place has by far been the happiest place that I've worked. I'm working, cooking and having a good time listening to music. To top it off, I'm getting to be as creative as I want to be and getting to contribute to the menu and the business.
What have you brought to Room 38?
I'm always making sure that guys are paying attention to cleanliness because most of the guys that work here are college students with not a lot of kitchen experience. So it's up to me to make sure that everybody pays attention to those little details, because those little details mean everything. Then, just adding on to the business here, using my creative juices to come up with different soups and other dishes that I post on my page. I'm currently working on adding more vegan options to the menu because I want to accommodate all of our customers.
What pushed you to start your food Instagram, @theeraofgrub?
I've always taken photos of my food. Culinary school is where I found a love for showing off what I could do. But something about 2020, man, I just felt like I needed to do a little bit more. I decided that I wanted to make a separate page only focused on the food. I'm using that opportunity to show off what I can do while also following other pages, connecting with people, seeing different ideas and just getting creative from there.