What do Luke Bryan, Michael Bublé, Mötley Crüe, the Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Blink 182, Tori Amos, the Dave Matthews Band, and Linkin Park have in common? They all tapped Chef Gray Rollin, owner of BELLY: Left Coast Kitchen and Taproom, as their personal executive touring chef—a gig that’s taken him to more countries than the average person could even name.
Chester Bennington, Lead Singer of Linkin Park
Yet even before his life on tour, Gray’s career trajectory has taken him far and wide from his northern California roots. After graduating from San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy with an A.O.S. degree in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts, Chef Gray became Sous Chef at I'O Restaurant in Lahaina, Maui, where he was mentored by Chef James McDonald and learned the art of Pacific-fusion cooking.
After three years in Maui, Chef Gray moved to Washington D.C. to open Nage, an "East Coast" style eatery. There he created seasonal menus often with a strong Pacific-fusion influence. The reviews in D.C. were remarkable, including "The chef from Hawaii is magical" and The Washington Post said, "Get into the swim before the swells do." And The Georgetowner called his food "Shamefully delicious, edible concoctions." A good thing about Chef Gray’s cooking is his dedication to spicy heat and rich flavors. High-quality ingredients carry lots of flavors, his cooking methods intensify them, and he uses a lot of sriracha sauce.
Chef Gray also attended the Chaing Mai Thai Cookery School in Thailand. He is the winner of five local iron chef competitions, including two at the California Culinary Academy and two at the Maui Iron Chef competition. His food has been featured on the cover of Maui’s Menu magazine and he participated in a nine-episode TV show in Hawaii. He has volunteered with the D.C. Food Fight Fundraiser in D.C. and with Loaves and Fishes in Richmond, CA. Chef Gray Rollin was also a contestant on the Food Network’s highly rated program, Chopped.
Gray’s last tour with Linkin Park included concert stops at over 40 countries including Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. Between tours, when he’s not cooking for A-list rock and roll headliners, the Bay Area native always looks forward to returning his Northern California roots. Chef Gray’s dream was to own and operate his own restaurant where he could showcase a hearty menu of locally inspired comfort foods from throughout the Pacific. That dream was realized when BELLY: Left Coast Kitchen and Taproom opened in downtown Santa Rosa in the spring of 2013.
BELLY has been described as West Coast-influenced new American eats featuring wine and craft brews served in rustic-cool digs with a bar and patio. By including “Left Coast” in the name of his restaurant, Chef Gray emphasizes his dedication of focusing the menu towards the five Pacific states: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. He utilizes seasonal products to continually rotate specials in addition to enhancing some of his popular regular staples. He sources his product from local Sonoma County purveyors and additional from sources all along the West Coast.
Funny and engaging, an expert in the kitchen with great culinary stories to tell, and an affable on-camera presence, Chef Gray Rollin is the man behind the business at BELLY: Left Coast Kitchen and Taproom.
BELLY: Left Coast Kitchen and Taproom
523 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa
*This article originally appeared in the 2022 edition of the Santa Rosa Metro Magazine