Northside SF  

October '09

Dishing with Chef...
Tom Pizzica
By Susan Dyer Reynolds

Daisy Martinez
When the two-hour sixth season premiere of the popular series The Next Food Network Star hits the airwaves Sunday, June 6 (9 p.m.), 32-year-old Tom Pizzica will be representing San Francisco. After watching a screener for the first show, it’s obvious Tom is the class clown, but he also has the talent to back it up. Being class clown may give him an edge – the last Bay Area chef who played that role won the competition and recently graced the cover of Northside San Francisco when he cruised through town on his sold-out rock-star-meets-chef tour: Guy Fieri.

Fun fact?
I talk a lot in my sleep. People have had entire conversations
with me.

How would you describe your food? 
Pretty much big, bold and gutsy. When I get in the kitchen I have no fear. I like to get dusty and throw caution to the wind.

What inspired you to audition for The Next Food Network Star?
My fiancée found out there was going to be an open audition. I said, “OK, let’s go.” We go to the hotel, I did really well, and things just steamrolled from there. I’d seen the show a couple times – I thought it would be fun. I’ve been in bands as a singer, in plays in high school, so I’m not scared being in front of people. I had just gotten engaged, [and] I drove across country in a $700 van. I had good stories and they said they liked my personality.

Do you think your stage experience will be helpful with improvising when things go wrong?
I wouldn’t consider myself a witty comedian, but I always have something to say.

What is the last thing you cooked for yourself?
I have a pot roast going in the All-Clad slow cooker as we speak. It’s the maiden voyage – it was a wedding gift. I got married on May 29. Someone couldn’t come to the wedding so they went to the online registry. Point and click, and next thing you know we have an All-Clad slow cooker.

What’s your favorite childhood food?
Mac ’n’ cheese and fish sticks, with ketchup; it’s the best meal ever. The fish sticks have to be Gorton’s, not Mrs. Paul’s. And chicken cutlets, rice and broccoli. I still make it to this day. I was a latchkey kid – my mom was a CPA – she taught me to make a few key things. It really helped me with my palate and being able to come up with crazy combos; no one was there to tell me I was wrong. I’d try all sorts of things and cook for my brothers.

Something in your fridge or freezer that would surprise people?
A leftover bag of French-cut green beans for my green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.

A dish you’d never make again?
I tried to make cucumber chutney. The one thing I found out is that you can’t cook a cucumber. It just tastes like a hot cucumber; it’s really kind of gross.

What’s your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant in San Francisco?
Underground Sushi Time, right on Market Street. You have to walk through Gold’s Gym in the Castro and there’s this really cool little sushi joint under there with some of the best and freshest sushi I’ve ever had.

What’s the secret to a perfect omelet?
Lots of butter and a nonstick pan. Here’s the trick: turn it on low. What happens with too-high heat is that you get brown crust on the eggs. I cook it on low until the eggs set, then I flip it, then I put the cheese in.


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