Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — these are just a few of the notable people that Roger Lademann has served. The award-winning chef left behind the fast-paced life in New York and now educates students in healthier eating habits at UNC-Charlotte. As executive chef, he oversees several dining halls, a small restaurant and the fast food locations on campus. For the last five years, Lademann has brought smaller portions and family-friendly options to the university, and doesn't plan on leaving any time soon.
Creative Loafing: If you were to open a restaurant here in Charlotte, what would be the concept?
Roger Lademann: Probably Italian just because there's not much real authentic Italian in Charlotte. [But] not right now. It's seven days a week, you can't take a day off, [and] you can't take a vacation. When you own your own restaurant, you're kind of on your own island. I had one when I was in New York. Actually had two. One was called Huckleberry's and basically we did breakfast, lunch and dinner. We took an old coffee shop and turned it into a restaurant of about 45 seats. It had a little bit of everything. The other one was more continental.
How do you like working at the UNC-Charlotte compared to working at a restaurant?
It's a unique setting. A lot of chefs go out and want to be part of a restaurant. At a restaurant, you do the same menu until you basically change that recipe or change that menu. Here, there's so much more. You could be making a sandwich downstairs in the deli and then come do the lunch up here at the Bistro. It uses your expertise, and your knowledge, and it's fun. Here, you have such good teamwork and the family environment is great. You can send people back and forth, have people to help you — you have the expertise, so that's the good part about it.
How did the opportunity occur that you were able to cook for some past presidents? Which has been more stressful, cooking for past presidents or cooking for thousands of college students?
When I was in culinary school, we did a lot. They would come give speeches and we always did lunches for them ahead of time. My philosophy is it doesn't matter if they are a president or a student; you still want to give your best effort every time. So it's really both equal if you put it that way. Because if a college student isn't going to enjoy it, then the president's not going to enjoy it. It's not going to boost your career cooking for a president, and it's not going to boost your career cooking for a student ... your personal career is the one that matters.