An interview with Chef Joe Rodger about Joejoebob’s, and how his journey with food has influenced his life

Chef Joe Rodger at his new sandwich shop JoeJoeBob’s

Clear Sky Professionals, David Swain, speaks with Chef Joe Rodger about Joejoebob’s, his new sandwich shop in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Joe, what’s the inspiration behind Joejoebob’s?

It’s a culmination of being in and out of Flagstaff since 2002, and seeing what the town wants and needs. It’s something that I trusted myself doing start-to-finish and I thought this type of thing could be playful, without killing myself to do it. 

What makes a great sandwich?

For me, bread is 50% of the battle, followed by sauce and textures. Then I think about acid, fat, and salt.

Do you have a favorite sandwich?

I think people understand that food has a sense of nostalgia. I remember two sandwiches growing up… The first was peanut butter, bacon, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. And when my grandparents came to town, they would bring salami, cheddar, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, on white bread. To this day, those are two of the best sandwiches I have ever had. 

With your fine-dining background, do you plan to push the envelope?

Yeah, I’d like to. I really want to pay attention to my customers and roll with it. I am making a pork cheek Reuben, and I might bring back a beef tongue Philly cheesesteak that I used to make.

Joe, how did you get involved in the Flagstaff Food Scene?

I went to NAU for college for about 6 months and that didn’t work out, but I met Chef Scott Heinonen, and I started working for Scott at Cuvee. That flourished into a friendship and mentorship and sparked my interest in cooking.

Then when I was 23, Jeremy Fox, was opening his very first restaurant (Ubuntu) in Napa Valley. I went out there and “staged” and that was pretty much it… I was hooked after that! Ubuntu offered me a job, but it was right around the time that Scott was opening Tinderbox here in Flagstaff, so I came back to be the Sous Chef at Tinderbox instead.

If I had stayed in Napa, it would have taken me in a totally different trajectory, but I am happy with where I am at.

At Tinderbox, what kind of growth did you have as a person?

Scott taught me to come to terms with…this is it, this is what I am choosing to do with my life. And how to bite that off and chew on it. I fully submerged myself in the restaurant, which was great!

I see a quote of Scott Heinonen’s on your website: “To make a good sandwich, you have to crawl into the sandwich!”  What’s that about?

That goes all the way back to Cuvee days when Scott was frustrated with some of the cooks, and he told them very seriously, “to make a good sandwich, you have to crawl into the sandwich. You have to be the sandwich.”

It’s the contrast between a seasoned Chef and a green Cook. Someone that knows food understands how it looks, smells, tastes, sounds, feels, all that.

How do you think Covid changed the restaurant industry?

It shifted the mentality of the whole industry. We start thinking things like… If something like COVID happens, how are we going to sustain ourselves? How are we going to adapt so that we aren’t so vulnerable? If the whole world is shut down, why are we still slaving away trying to make this work?

Covid gave people a legitimate reason to look at their lives and decide what they wanted to accomplish, and if that was in a restaurant.

If your business had a soundtrack, what 3 songs would be on it?

2000 Light Years Away - Greenday
Pressure Drop – Toots and the Maytals
Humans Beings - Van Halen

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Keep pushing.”


Joejoebob’s is located at 1000 N Humphreys St #128 in Flagstaff, AZ., and is currently serving Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00-3:00. Check them out at joejoebobs.com.

Discussion

#1 By Peter Jason at 6/3/2024 0:33 PM

Joe is a fantastic chef and Joejoebob’s is off to a great start. But I dare him to offer the public his personal favorite peanut butter, bacon, tomato and mayonnaise sandwich!

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