With a population of 936, the Texas town of Vega isn’t exactly the first place you’d consider for a world-class meal from a celebrity chef. Of course you wouldn’t be reading this if it wasn’t. Vega, situated on historic Route 66, is home to Rory Schepisi, a born and bred Jersey girl who came to town during the filming of Country Music Television’s Popularity Contest.
She met a cowboy and never left.
Today, Schepisi — a Culinary Institute of America grad and runner up on Season 3 of The Next Food Network Star — owns and operates the Boot Hill Saloon & Grill. With signature burgers and steaks, all made with the finest-quality Certified Angus Beef ® brand products, an appetizer list featuring a concoction of fried foods dubbed “Bucket O’Crap,” and an overall level of culinary precision not typical for the Old West, Schepisi and her establishment are well worth a trip to the Texas panhandle.
We had more questions for the Texas tornado and here’s what she had to say:
Q: Aside from Boot Hill Saloon, what’s your favorite restaurant?
A: My favorite restaurant is Waikiki Beach, on the island of St. Maarten. The atmosphere is great and the food is always local and impressive.
Q: What’s the hottest trend in food right now?
A: The biggest trends I would have to say are local and sustainable. Now where I live in the Amarillo area, the restaurants are overrun by chains and fast food joints. This area is a little behind the concept curve. I’m hoping to help teach the clientele in this area more about these trends.
Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?
A: Let the food shine on its own! A little goes a long way with good product. My style is heartier, yet without five million ingredients.
Q: If you could have any meal, what would it be?
A: I’m a huge steak tartare junkie! I should be on the raw diet, because if it’s raw I’m going to try it. Well, almost anything …
A: Are there any chefs you try to emulate?
A: There are chefs I admire, like Geoffrey Zakkarian and Marcus Samuelsson, to name a few. They may inspire me with a dish but I like to create my own work of art on a plate.
Q: When you’re not in the kitchen, what are you doing with your free time?
A: When I’m not in the kitchen, I like to travel and explore other cuisines and products to use. I’m also currently working on finishing my first cookbook, The Southern Yankee. Oh, and of course working with our horses and cattle — although cleaning stalls every day is not much fun.
Q: The world’s foremost authority on food is?
A: The customer! When you own a restaurant your customers are the ones who decide on the trends and your success. We have to listen to them or we won’t have a career.
Q: The one book every chef should have in the library is?
A: The Culinary Institute of Americas textbook, The Professional Chef. This book gives you all the basics in the kitchen, so if you forget one you can always refer back. Great for anyone at home, too.
Q: Food Network is _________ ?
A: A great staple for the at-home cook wanting to learn more about cooking and get recipe ideas.
Q: If you could have only four ingredients in your pantry, what would they be?
A: Stock, Soy Sauce, My Cajun seasoning blend, Roux.
Q: What’s the most expensive meal you’ve ever prepared?
A: Probably Kobe beef, and to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed by it. Give me a bone-in Certified Angus Beef ® ribeye any day!
Q: What is your favorite food/dish?
A: As I mentioned before, I love steak tartare but I also love to try anything different — something that surprises my taste buds
Q: What five staples should folks keep in their pantry at all times?
A: Stock, olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, Sambal