01/10/2012 11:53 am ET

Rogue 24 Chef R.J. Cooper Heads Into Open-Heart Surgery, Serves Food Critic Promised Sandwich

WASHINGTON -- For someone who is scheduled to have open-heart surgery today, chef R.J. Cooper wasn't relaxing much last night at Rogue 24, the James Beard-winning toque's high-concept kitchen laboratory and dining exhibition space that's tucked away in Shaw's Blagden Alley.

Amid a crowd of party-goers honoring Gilt City DC's inaugural D.C. lifestyle "insider" Amanda McClements, Cooper was stationed front and center.

Following surgery, the chef will be in recovery for 10 weeks. Normally, such an absence would be a complete disaster for a place like Rogue 24, where Cooper's skills and showmanship are integral to the pricey experience.

But in a show of force, a roster of noted chefs from D.C. and out of town are scheduled to stand in for Cooper in a series of "Rogue Sessions."

Among those scheduled to take the helm of Rogue 24 include D.C. superchef Jose Andres, Bryan Voltaggio of Federick, Md.'s Volt, Tim Byres of Dallas' SMOKE, David Posey of Chicago's Blackbird and Spike Gjerde of Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen.

It's been a frenzied few months for Cooper and Rogue 24, which opened last summer and was quickly criticized for its customer dining contract. There have been a few key staff departures as the place was getting on its feet.

The critics haven't been entirely kind either, with Washington City Paper restaurant critic Chris Shott infamously writing how molecular gastronomy is an irritating food trend and that after a Rogue 24 experience he wanted a sandwich.

Cooper's response: He would make Shott a sandwich called "Shott in the Heart."

And Shott showed up for his sandwich last night.

Shott wrote this morning:

At his Blagden Alley restaurant on Monday night, the Rogue Toque fashioned a makeshift panini press out of a small collection of shiny pots, pans, tin foil -- and, at one point, even employed the arms of one of his underlings ("I don't have a brick," he explained) -- which he used to construct me a pretty substantial sandwich. It consisted of corned beef, sauerkraut, pork belly, and gruyere, dressed with red wine aioli and creole mustard, all crushed between what appeared to be two thinly breaded loaves of butter. "It's all heart healthy," he jokes.

Shott's verdict on Cooper's creation: It "didn't suck."



R.J. Cooper 'Builds' A Sandwich For Chris Shott