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Sandwiches and burgers are hits at The Rogue Chef

While the weather this winter has been too warm and dry for skiing, it's perfect for launching a new mobile kitchen, and that's just what Stephen Peña did.

Peña, previously a chef at Peerless Restaurant in Ashland, rolled out The Rogue Chef, a full kitchen packed into a gleaming food trailer that serves street food at several locations in Medford and caters private events. Dale Hartman, who worked with Peña at Peerless, serves as sous chef.

The Rogue Chef can be found for lunch weekdays starting at 11 a.m. at the food cart court in the parking lot of Digger's Goodyear Tavern, 101 S. Riverside Ave., Medford. On Thursday, the kitchen is open from 4 to 8 p.m. at Opposition Brewing, 545 Rossanley Drive, Medford. It sets up shop from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Southern Oregon Brewing, 1922 United Way, Medford. Check on Facebook, Twitter or www.theroguechef.kitchen for the latest location or call 541-678-2559.

On a sunny Saturday, my husband and I tracked The Rogue Chef down at The Expo, where it was drumming up catering business outside a bridal fair. From the food truck's menu of sandwiches and burgers, he ordered a Rogue Reuben for $10.50, while I opted for a Wagyu beef cheeseburger for $8.50.

After ordering, we sauntered across the fairgrounds to a picnic table to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather and a view of Mount McLoughlin along with our food.

All of The Rogue Chef's burgers feature third-of-a-pound Wagyu beef patties on an olive-oil brioche bun, baked right there in the trailer.  Each is topped with tomato, onion and a fresh leaf of lettuce. The cheeseburger comes with ale mustard and a choice of cheddar, provolone or Gruyere. I chose cheddar. The large burger was cooked to order, juicy and just barely pink inside, then draped in a melted slice of tangy white cheddar. The tender bun, toasted in butter, soaked up the burger's beefy juices to capture every bit of flavor without dissolving into a soggy mess.

The Reuben was piled high with mesquite-smoked pastrami made by the chef, crisp sauerkraut, creamy Russian dressing and melted Gruyere, all on a house-baked cocoa rye covered in sesame seeds. My husband exclaimed over the smoky goodness of the pastrami, but I also loved the deep, dark flavor of the rye without caraway seeds. 

Both the burger and sandwich were accompanied by a tasty mound of golden shoestring potatoes.

On another visit to The Rogue Chef downtown, I tried the Maine lobster macaroni and cheese for $9. Rich five-cheese sauce enrobed perfectly al dente penne pasta, savory-sweet caramelized shallots and generous amounts of claw meat. A green dusting of tarragon-buttered bread crumbs added an herbaceous kick and crunchy texture. 

The skills and passion of Peña and Hartman are apparent in everything I've tasted from this amazing complete kitchen on wheels, making these rogues a welcome addition to the valley.

Anita Burke

The Rogue Chef's burgers feature 1/3 pound Wagyu beef patties and house-made brioche buns. Mail Tribune/Anita Burke