Roger Pigozzi studied at the Culinary Institute of America and works at UCLA as the corporate chef and assistant director of dining. In addition to feeding hungry Bruins, Pigozzi also developed and incorporated delicious vegan offerings on the menu.
What hooked you on cooking?I think it was growing up in a home where my grandparents lived upstairs. My grandmother and mother were both very good cooks, but I really believe my grandmother was a better cook. She made everything from scratch including pasta, soup, baked bread, and always one special loaf for me baked in a coffee can. My mother was a better baker. She baked a chewy hazelnut meringue and whipped cream cake that was unforgettable. When I was still very young my parents owned a tavern known for its home-style cooking. Food was always a very important part of our family, and for as long as my parents could remember, I said I wanted to be a chef.The coolest example of science in your food?At Christmas time when we make gingerbread cookies and add the baking soda to the hot corn syrup I still get a kick out of watching it blow up.The food you find most fascinating?It’s the tomato; when you cut it open you see mother nature’s natural gelatin which is more stable and tastier than any gelatin we make. We can eat them raw, roasted, or even oven dried, which transforms even a mediocre tomato into an amazing full flavored tomato.What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?The essence of food…the process of dehydration and caramelization whether it’s the part of the roast that sticks to the bottom of the pan; a wine reduction; the oven dried tomatoes that I just mentioned; or oven dried ketchup, “ketchup leather”, to be served in warm sandwiches.Your best example of a food that is better because of science?Beta-carotene enriched rice.How do you think science will impact your world of food in the next 5 years?I think we will see hydroponic gardens attached to restaurants allowing us to serve more locally produced fruits and vegetables.One kitchen tool you could not live without?The French/chef’s knife.Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?Flourless bread, soy milk, nuts and grains including steel cut oatmeal (it keeps them from going rancid), extra virgin olive oil.Your all-time favorite ingredient?Farmers market garlic and shallots.Favorite cookbook?The French Laundry by Thomas Keller.Your standard breakfast?Steel cut oatmeal eaten cold with frozen organic blueberries, bananas, flaxseed meal, roasted slivered almonds and soy milk followed by a soy latte or espresso. This is my breakfast 95% of the time.