2017 Colorado Rising Star Pizzaiolo Patrick Kerzetski of Pizzeria Locale

2017 Colorado Rising Star Pizzaiolo Patrick Kerzetski of Pizzeria Locale
March 2017

Raised in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, Patrick Kerzetski grew up working in the family restaurant. He begged to wash dishes at 12 and knew from the start he wanted to become a chef. A hasty change of heart had Kerzetski denouncing any interest in the restaurant industry and moving to Colorado to become a professional skier. Skiing was a difficult career to sustain, and, in 2009, Kerzetski enrolled in the Denver outpost of Johnson & Wales University.

After graduating, Kerzetski gained his footing as a baker at the Denver Bread Company, working for mentor Greg Bortz. After a batch of boules fell flat like pancakes, Kerzetski learned the most important lesson of his career: don’t forget the salt. He commemorated the lesson with a tattoo.

In 2012, Kerzetski went on to join the team at Frasca Food and Wine as pastry chef de partie and proceeded to climb the ranks—from head baker at Frasca to sous chef at neighboring Pizzeria Locale and finally to the executive chef position of the pizzeria. With a full heart and plenty of salt, Kerzetski crafts pizza with a next-level knowledge of fermentation, an unending zeal to make the next pie even better, and the soul of artisan who has put in his 10,000 hours. 

Interview with Colorado Rising Star Patrick Kerzetski of Pizzeria

Sean Kenniff: Where are you from and how’d you get your start?
Patrick Kerzetski:
I’m from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, outside Scranton. My grandparents owned restaurants and my dad took them over. When I was 12, I begged my mom to let me  wash dishes at my dad's restaurant. I wanted to be a chef, but then I swore I would not go into food because I saw how much and how hard my dad worked.

When professional skiing turned out not to be a viable profession in the long run, I went to Johnson and Wales and graduated in 2011. I loved it a lot, and I really loved baking bread.

SK: How did you get your first formative gig?
I was working at City Bakery and was randomly perusing Dessert Professional, and saw the “Top 10 Bread Bakers,” one was The Denver Bread Company. I looked at the picture and the guy had a bandana and tattoos; he was an old, super cool biker dude. I read his bio, and he was following Led Zeppelin around on his bike, and I was enchanted by the story. I called and said I wanted to work there, dropped off my resume, and then emailed them every three days. I sent a letter a week until he called back.

SK: Who's your mentor?
PK: Greg Bortz, of course, was the primary flame of inspiration. I was so inspired and learned so much from him. With baking bread, you can't rush it, it has to wait if it’s not ready to go in the oven. I got fired from Denver Bread for forgetting salt in a batch of boules. They got giant and then they fell flat like pancakes. So, I got a salt tattoo as a reminder: “Don’t forget the salt.” I’ve also had countless mentors here at Frasca.

SK: How big is your team?
Twelve guys. There’s no divide between the Boulder and Denver locations. We like to have stages and people to do their internships with us [here at Pizzeria Locale Boulder]. My favorites are the ones that walk in the door and give you their resume. We ask for a one year to 18-month commitment; two years is the average. People transition to Frasca, and move back and forth.

SK: What’s your biggest challenge?
PK: The hardest part about being a chef is managing the people and keeping them happy, because everyone wants to make pizza, and we want to first instill the restaurant culture in them.

SK: regarding pizza making, what kind of wood do you use in your Stefano Ferrara oven?
PK: Red oak and pecan for the density and texture, and they’re aged for two seasons. They’re heavy and dense, which burns into a hot coal bed. Pecan is hot and bright and helps regulate the air temperature.

SK: What's your five-year plan?
PK: I would love nothing more than to grow and be at a restaurant in Boulder or L.A. or New York, cooking classic southern Italian food, or Italian American. Italian [cuisine] is more an approach to cooking with a set of guidelines rather than a set of ingredients.