Ever since he was a small child, Robert Williams has loved cooking for people.
“I have literally enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember,” says Williams, owner of Roux’s Catering in downtown Augusta. “It has been very much a part of my life from early, early on. I can remember being as young as third, fourth and fifth grades and doing private parties for friends of my parents. I was in third or fourth grade and I thought that was completely normal.”
As a native Augustan, Williams grew up learning traditional Southern cuisine passed down through the generations.
“I had two working parents and, as I got a little bit older, my mother was a single mother, so we all chipped in to do what we could,” he says. “But I was usually that kid who cooked dinner for us. And I loved it. It was a huge passion of mine.”
The majority of men in the Williams family had a knack for preparing great meals for the entire family, he says.
“I think that certainly inspired me, watching my dad and my uncles in the kitchen cooking things. I guess it just felt natural to me,” Williams says. “Even my grandfather, who was retired, was always in the kitchen. He loved cooking lunch for the family and that’s how it got started with me.”
For several years, Williams worked in a variety of restaurants around town such as Davenport’s, The American Diner and Cadewallader’s Cafe until 1996, when he decided to jump feet first into the catering business and open Roux’s Catering.
About 16 years ago, Roux’s catering moved from west Augusta to its current location at 1244 Jones Street in downtown Augusta.
“When we moved down here, downtown was just really starting to build up a little bit,” says Williams. “I remember at the time being a little hesitant about moving downtown because I wasn’t sure if it was going to make that growth that everyone has anticipated. Which, it has been a slow steady growth, but it has been a good steady growth. It has been great to see so much more life downtown.”
When Williams was in high school in Augusta, he can remember people rarely coming downtown for anything.
“It is great to see life on the streets again,” he says. “When I was a small child, both of my grandparents actually owned businesses downtown. So I remember being down here, what life was like coming down to Belks and J.B. White’s downtown before the malls opened. It was great to see that kind of buzz back downtown. Everything is moving in the right direction and I’m glad we can be a part of it.”
While the traditional Southern flavors are what Roux’s catering is known for, Williams and his staff offer a wide arrange of dishes from all over the world.
“I cook my Southern foods much like my grandmother cooks Southern foods,” he says. “When it comes down to traditional things like macaroni and cheese and greens and barbecue those kinds of things are what I think we do really well. But I have been inspired by a lot of regions. I love the foods of New Orleans and I have been heavily influenced by the cajun cuisine. I have also been heavily influenced by the Pacific Northwest as well and California cuisine.”
Customers especially love the smoked chicken quesadillas with cilantro sour cream, the Tuscan spinach and artichoke dip, the California rolls and the Thai chicken sticks with peanut dipping sauce.
“We do a wide variety of flavors from traditional to contemporary to international,” Williams says. “We did a wedding years ago and the groom was from South Africa. And the bride and groom wanted us to incorporate some of the traditional flavors of South Africa for his guests that were coming and for the folks here who would not be familiar with it.
“It was something that was a great opportunity for us because we don’t get a lot of calls for that. But we pulled off these flavors he grew up with and they were very, very well received. Even the Southerners loved these traditional South African foods they weren’t accustomed to.”
1244 Jones Street