Food Tank spoke with Rodney Scruggs, the Executive Chef at Occidental Grill & Seafood, who will be speaking at the Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C.
Rodney Scruggs, Executive Chef Beginning his culinary career in Washington almost thirty years ago, you could say Rodney Scruggs has come full circle. At just 18 years old, Scruggs walked into Occidental Grill & Seafood as a line cook, and discovered his calling. Inspired by both his mother and grandmother, Scruggs established his passion for cooking when he studied the Culinary Arts at Newbury College in Massachusetts. From 1986 until 1993, he worked his way up at Occidental from line cook to Executive Sous Chef, gaining valuable knowledge and discipline from then Executive Chef Jeffrey Buben. Ready to explore, Scruggs left Occidental Grill & Seafood for new experiences before returning in 2005.
During his years away from Occidental, Chef Scruggs worked with Chef Roberto Donna at his famed restaurant, Galileo and at the Imperial Hotel on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Following the Imperial Hotel, Scruggs joined Chef Francesco Ricchi as the Chef de Cuisine at Cesco’s Trattoria. From there, he reunited with his mentor Chef Buben to open the renowned Bistro Bis on Capitol Hill. Following Bistro Bis, Scruggs served as private chef for the President of American University for four years before returning to where he first began.
Chef Scruggs walked back into the kitchen at Occidental in 2005, bringing with him a wealth of new experience. As the Executive Chef of Occidental Grill & Seafood, Scruggs creates innovative menus while balancing the demand for traditional favorites in a DC institution that is almost 110 years old.
“The Occidental continues to be an essential stop for those visiting DC. We strive to ensure that our food is real. Not fussy or pretentious. We are approachable for everyone and that’s why the Occidental is so successful,” says Scruggs. Chef Scruggs values fresh and local ingredients and spends countless hours sourcing produce and proteins, producing delicious dishes – twists on the classics. His menus list the farms he favors, as he considers this important information to share with his diners. His quest for excellence earned Scruggs recognition by the American Lamb Board for his award-winning Lamb Dagwood Sandwich in 2014. Scruggs won “crowd-favorite” at that year’s national competition for his take on the sub sandwich made of finely shaved lamb, Caromont Farms goat cheese, local strawberry preserves and Heartland Farms arugula.
Scruggs can be seen at charity fundraisers and events throughout the year, leveraging his talent and long-standing relationships with the culinary community in DC, to fundraise for organizations like the Capital Area Food Bank and Washington Humane Society. After so many years, Scruggs relishes his role at Occidental Grill & Seafood and recognizes his good fortune. Scruggs is truly at home when in the kitchen at Occidental.