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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Texas-Italian chef serves up personality, healthy food on NW

NW chef Roscoe Chapman, who feeds the cattle on his family ranch in Clarksville, Texas, believes happier cattle makes for better meat.
Photo courtesy Roscoe Chapman
NW chef Roscoe Chapman, who feeds the cattle on his family ranch in Clarksville, Texas, believes happier cattle makes for better meat. Photo courtesy Roscoe Chapman

By Shirlett Warren/nw news editor

A line formed out the door of the Water’s Edge Café on NW Campus. It was lunchtime, so the crowded bustle of activity wasn’t unusual.

Chef Roscoe Chapman cooks up a pasta and vegetable mix for students and faculty in the NW Campus lunch line. The pasta bar is the newest addition to the cafeteria, a place where Chapman feels right at home.
Georgia Phillips/The Collegian

Still, people were waiting for something. Just between the personal pizza rack and the made-to-order sandwich station stood a sturdy, jocular man wearing a white chef’s coat busy sautéeing garlic and fresh vegetables in a hot, stainless steel skillet.

“Tell me what you think of that,” the smiling chef said as he handed a freshly made pasta mixture to a waiting student.

As the student headed for the cash register, Chef Roscoe Chapman was busy with the next order. It was the debut of the new hot pasta bar.

“We wanted to expand options for students and give them an option for something hot, healthy and made-to-order,” Chapman said. “This tomato sauce is my own special blend, the way I learned in Italy.”

Yes, Italy.

Chapman’s mother is Italian and owns a touring agency, and his father is a seventh-generation Texas cattle rancher. They met when his father was on a tour in Rome.

“Dad fell in love with her on one of her tours and moved to Rome for six months to woo her,” Chapman said. “Dad’s a rancher and an entrepreneur. He’s not one to hear the word no.”

Chapman spent his early years in Texas and said he spoke Italian before he spoke English.

“Kindergarten was a shocker. I thought everyone spoke Italian,” he said with a chuckle. “I live a duplicitous existence. I speak Italian and Texan.”

Chapman said he grew up feeling as comfortable in Italy as he was on his father’s Texas ranch.
Photo courtesy Roscoe Chapman

He lived in Italy for several years, but his passion for cooking came one summer in Benbrook when he was 12 years old. Restaurants were important to his family, he said. His father owned several restaurants, including a Dairy Queen, where Chapman worked as a fry cook for $3 an hour.

“I stood on a crate and flipped burgers, and I loved every moment of it,” he said.

He enjoyed the camaraderie of the kitchen and continued developing his passion while living in Italy with his mother. By the time he was in the seventh grade, he was cooking meals and had dinner ready for his family every night, he said.

“Mom had a housekeeper, Daisy, who cooked meals for us every day. So, when I got home from school, I learned from her,” he said. “I just asked lots of questions.”

Chapman spent just as much time on the family ranch in Clarksville, Texas as he did in Italy. His family hosted a round-up every year where people spent the day eating good food while ranchers roped, flanked and branded cattle, he said.

As a full-fledged cowboy, he did everything required on the ranch.

“I fixed fences, gave shots and fed cattle. I can feed a bull from my hand,” he said. “A non-stressed animal is a happier animal and makes for better meat.”

Chapman considers his style of cooking to be a fusion of Italian and Tex-Mex. Both his ranch upbringing and Italian influences are evident in his favorite meal to fix, red-wine braised oxtail.

“Oxtail is a very tough piece of meat, and the only way to cook it is slow and low. The bone adds a depth of flavor and unctuousness to the meat that would not be there without slow cooking it,” he said. “I serve it over pecorino polenta, which is like Italian grits.”

His friends call him the Cashmere Cowboy. He said he’d wear custom-made Italian dress shirts with a pair of Dickies jeans and cowboy boots.

“And I’m the world’s best dancing fat man,” he said.

He used to compete in Western Swing dance competitions and would win.

“People say they can dance,” he said, shaking his head, “but they can’t dance better than

NW chef Roscoe Chapman, who feeds the cattle on his family ranch in Clarksville, Texas, believes happier cattle makes for better meat.
Photo courtesy Roscoe Chapman

me.”

He walked through the kitchen and started putting together a drink station for a catering event in NW’s Walsh Library. Cook Terry Alexander walked by, and Chapman asked him about the staff Christmas party last year.

“For a big guy, he can move,” Alexander said with a grin.

The camaraderie continued as Chapman turned to his office administrator Jennifer Hunt and asked her if he was being cocky about his skills. She smiled professionally and said he was very confident in himself.

“Do not say that he is humble,” Hunt said. “But he is very easygoing, very bubbly, and he loves to talk.”

Chapman said his staff is invaluable to him.

“I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Without them, this operation wouldn’t run as smoothly as it does,” he said. “They work hard and have a sense of pride in what they do.”

A cowboy hat and a Texas Rangers batting helmet with attached deer antlers were on a shelf above his office desk. He briefly leaned back in his chair, scrolled through a few messages on his computer and then headed back to the pasta bar. A few people still waited to take advantage of the new bar.

NW humanities dean Christine Hubbard was in line along with several other faculty and staff members. She said Chapman was friendly and innovative.

“I’m glad he’s being responsive to campus needs for healthy alternatives. The pasta bar really adds variety,” she said. “I like the whole wheat ziti with spinach and his red sauce.”

Chapman said he wants to keep entrees inventive and affordable for NW Campus. He said the pasta bar was a start, and he’s also considering stir-fry.

“And look, if you’re not going to serve it to your mother, then don’t serve it here,” he said.

As the lunch crowd faded, the kitchen transitioned to cleanup mode. Chapman headed back to his office to check for updates and look at orders.

“This is home for me. I’m just happier in the kitchen. I’m the most confident here, and on the dance floor at Billy Bob’s,” he said with a broad smile.



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