Round two with Patxi Azpiroz, exec chef of Patxi's Pizza
This is part two of my interview with Patxi Azpiroz, exec chef/owner of Patxi's Pizza; part one of our conversation ran yesterday.
Favorite Denver restaurant(s) other than your own: I'm still exploring and trying all of the great places in this city, and so far I've really enjoyed Euclid Hall and what Jorel Pierce is doing with the menu there. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, and the food is delicious. I love that they're trying new things, and you can tell that the staff is super-excited and proud to work there. It's truly great hospitality.
- Patxi Azpiroz, chef of Patxi's Pizza, on eating fried worms and pesto pizza proposals
- First look: Patxi's Pizza will start flipping pies in Cherry Creek on Monday
- Our ten best pizzas in Denver (and Boulder)
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: Tacos Rapidos is cheap and always open. Being from California, I'm really digging the Mexican community and food here in Denver.
Most memorable meal you've ever had: Bar Txepetxa in Donosti, Spain. It was there that I had my first true tapas experience. The weather was beautiful; the people -- both the staff and customers -- were awesome, too; and the food was fantastic. I was young and don't speak Basque, so I don't remember any of the exact dishes, but it was exciting to see, feel and taste the culture and be immersed in the place my father came from. The pintxos were predominantly seafood, with bacalao, anchovy, squid and calamari, and they all were amazing.
Favorite childhood food memory: I spent a few weeks on a dairy farm in Chino, California, when I was about fourteen years old. One weekend, all of the local people got together for a large meal outdoors, and everyone who attended brought or prepared foods that they specialized in on their own farm. I still remember the fresh bread, lamb, salads and the festive aspect of the whole experience. It was a great meal, and since the family I was staying with at the time had their own dairy farm, we brought some cheese that we had made to the gathering. My dad was also a sheepherder -- he was born in the Basque Country -- and whenever we'd go to visit family in Nevada, he'd dig a hole in the ground in my uncle's back yard, make a fire with sagebrush, and then he'd take a Dutch oven, put risen bread dough in there, put the oven back inside the hole, and cover it with dirt. It was very pastoral.
Favorite junk food: I can eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups all day long. I can't keep them in the house, though, because I don't stop until the bag is empty. It's a problem.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? The response I get from people who truly enjoy my pizza. There's nothing better than someone telling you that your pizza has changed their life, right? I think -- and would hope -- that most chefs get into this business for that reason: feeding people and making them happy with your food.
If you could change one thing about the Denver dining scene, what would it be? I'd like to see a more diverse selection of ethnic restaurants, but since I'm new to the Denver food scene, I'm open to suggestions of hidden gems I haven't found yet.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? My business partner and friend, Bill Freeman, bought me a Blue Star gas range and oven when we first started developing our product. This thing is awesome, and I still have it. It holds heat like no other oven and even accommodates a full-size sheet pan.
What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? Rytek Kutas's Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing. I've recently started making sausage, and my ultimate goal is to perfect a true, fresh Basque-style chorizo...but it's easy to get sidetracked making bratwurst, kielbasa and all the others.