Interview with Colorado Rising Star Patrick Kerzetski of Pizzeria

by Sean Kenniff
April 2017

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?
PK:
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?
PK:
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.