What was your first industry job?
In high school when I was about 17 years old I got a job at Waterloo Ice house, a Texas-style restaurant and bar in Austin. I was pouring beers and taking orders, calling out food orders when they were ready. I loved the environment, and was fascinated by what the cooks were doing in the back. I moved to Seattle after high school and became a dishwasher, prep cook and then a pasta cook. I had my first job at 15 working in retail at a drugstore, and I absolutely hated it. The restaurant industry was so much more exciting, and the people were fun and interesting.
If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I would be an illustrator or animator, it was a lifelong dream to have my illustrations published in my cookbook Pizza Czar. And I still work as a t-shirt designer doing hand drawn illustrations.
What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Hard to pick just one, but the first that comes to mind is Jefferson Rueda, owner of fine dining restaurant A Casa Do Porco and the fast casual Hot Pork in São Paulo, Brazil. He is committed to making everything in house, including raising his own pigs. Hot pork is a perfect scratch made hot dog, and at A Casa Do Porco the tasting menu was one of the most delicious, memorable meals I’ve had anywhere in the world. Jefferson cooks simultaneously with extreme seriousness but serves food with a wry sense of humor.
Pet hate in the kitchen?
I have to work with all kinds of interesting conditions around the world, different container types, equipment, kitchens too small, too big, but it’s important to just try and make it work. The only thing I hate is a dirty kitchen. Cleanliness and organization above everything, always and forever.
What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
I had someone ask me if they could have a ball of uncooked pizza dough, because they enjoyed eating raw dough. This was in Tennessee, I was completely shocked.
Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Chasing food memories, following the seasons.
What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
People are incredibly emboldened by anonymous food review apps and social media, but if they are outliers amongst many happy, satisfied guests and clients, why even pay attention or remember the bad reviews.
Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
With my work it all seems to start with a good scale.
What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Lunch at Nong’s Khao Man Gai, in Portland, Oregon.
Favourite fast food joint?
I’m not sure it’s 'fast food' but it is a chain of food trucks, and it’s fast. Veracruz All Natural in Austin, Texas. The 'Migas Poblano' breakfast taco is pure joy.
Most overrated food?
Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
What’s your earliest food memory?
My great grandma’s bread dipped in sugo (Sunday sauce) before Sunday dinner.
Twitter or Instagram?
Tipple of choice?
Natural rosé wine.
What do you consider your signature dish?
Sicilian American pizza - the upside down pan pizza.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Always follow your passions and your dreams, don’t ever try to follow trends, or please investors or critics, it’s you against the food, there’s nothing else, nothing but the compulsion to create and develop your own skills.